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Magnolia Pictures

2.5 out of 4 stars

The Sacrament
Written by
Ti West
Directed by
Ti West
AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones

There's a Simpsons episode wherein Homer, reading a first-person survival story in a Reader's Digest knock-off, frets about the narrator's fate. "Homer," Marge gently reassures him, "he obviously got out alive if he wrote the article."

Found-footage movies like The Sacrament suffer from a similar built-in structural setback. If indeed this footage was "found" (and edited, and fitted with a musical score), it generally stands to reason that its makers survived whatever ordeal is being captured. Here, three New York documentarians (working for youth-culture megabrand Vice) infiltrate a backwater religious commune lorded over by the gregarious Father (Gene Jones, who feasts on the scenery like a starving man at a buffet). Writer/director/editor Ti West (House of the Devil) yet again exhibits his knack for slow-burn plotting. But the tension fizzles as The Sacrament narrows into predictability, indulging every cliché of found-footage filmmaking and Jonestown-styled cult apocalypticism.

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