The Sacrament

The Sacrament

Look, I’m not one to brag, but I’ve hugged A.J. Bowen. Of course tens of thousands of people could make the same claim, but how many of them managed this feat shortly after giving his latest film a C+ review grade at last year’s Fantastic Fest? Any fear I had falling into his arms melted away when I realized he bore no ill will my way and instead was a funny, smart and personable guy. It probably helped that he knew my opinion carries little to no weight, but still. I guess what I’m saying is I’m now one degree away from hugging Amy Seimetz, and that’s not too shabby. Anyway, The Sacrament. Writer/director Ti West has made several feature films now, and while his love of genre and intentionally methodical pacing has remained steady across most of them he’s made a noticeable shift with his newest one away from the supernatural and into the evils of the real world. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s an entertaining and tense-enough watch where the parts are somewhat better than the whole. The film is newly released to Blu-ray this week, and one of the disc’s special features is a fun and informative commentary track featuring West, Bowen and Seimetz. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for The Sacrament.

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TIE ME UP discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Criterion) Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was a massive cross-Atlantic hit in the early 1990s, helping to launch the global career of Antonio Banderas. Following an obsessive but charming former mental patient (Banderas)  as he captures a porn star (Victor Abril) so that she learns to fall in love with him, the dark comedy was the import of the season on summer movie screens 24 years ago, accompanyingWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the one-two punch that made Almodovar an arthouse fixture. While Almodovar has gone through various stylistic phases since, Tie Me Up remains a prime example of his unique propensity for comic chaos that plunges unabashedly into the trenches of sexual id. The film’s success can be credited in part to its massive controversy: its sexual content threatened its US release with an X rating, which began a lawsuit that resulted in the creation of the NC-17 rating. The story behind the film is thus as much a part of it as the film itself, and Criterion justly adorns this set with a collection of new special features that illustrate how the film changed the career of those in front of and behind the camera, with Almodovar thankfully present across all of them. Hopefully this first release of Almodovar’s work promises many Criterion treatments of the Spanish auteur to come. […]

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ff the sacrament

The past is no guarantee of the future, but it’s often a fairly good guide. A new film from Ti West, for example, offers the soft promise of an unhurried pace and escalating terror as evidenced by his two previous movies, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. Past films about cults offer a similar road map to where future ones will go, and while there are far more than two on the topic they seem to be split pretty evenly between two destinations. Some say the world will end with guns and Kool-Aid, others say with sacrifices to the gods. VICE is a journalism outfit known for breaking the stories that other outlets pass by out of fear or worries over ratings, but their latest story finds Sam (A.J. Bowen) and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) tagging along with a photographer friend named Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who’s concerned with his sister Caroline’s (Amy Seimetz) welfare. She’s joined a cult that recently transplanted itself outside of the U.S., and Patrick wants to confirm her safety and extricate her if necessary. The trio arrive, and while things seem calm and relatively normal at first it’s not long before the truth comes calling. The Sacrament is well made in many regards, but it’s also sadly predictable and somewhat pointless. And thanks to its format choice, that of an actual episode of VICE, it’s irritatingly distracting too.

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The Purge 2

October may be the official month of horror movies, with a pillowcase of spooky releases slated just before Halloween each year, but that doesn’t mean you are free from cinematic terror in the off-season. Especially since the summer has become an unexpected time slot for surprise horror hits like The Conjuring. This summer’s crop of horror films features a number of film festival selections as well as films from popular horror directors like Ti West, Scott Derrickson and the Dowdle Brothers. If you’d like a quick refresher on what horror films to expect for the next few months, or if you just want to watch the trailers that will haunt your late-night television commercials now and get it over with, here’s a list with their unnerving trailers attached. Keep in mind that the dates listed below are for the U.S., though if the films are successful enough, they’ll surely be available eventually wherever you are. You can’t hide:

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The Sacrament

While some horror fads like Asian remakes and torture porn burned out their popularity relatively quickly, one fad continues to dominate the genre: found footage. Part of the reason that it’s so widely used is because the movies are extremely cheap to make and can result in pretty large profits. However, with this sub-genre’s continued popularity, there are many people (like myself, for example) who don’t like it on the whole. Our biggest complaint is that, for using presumed realism to increase fear and anxiety, found footage movies are simply not realistic. But the concern got me thinking: how realistic are found footage movies?

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Gene Jones in

In recent years dramatic features like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Kill List, and even documentaries like The Source Family, have seemed to have started a movement that has brought the subject of cult to the forefront of movie thrillers. Perhaps the zombie craze and the vampire craze are finally over, and the next big thing is going to be films of all sorts that tap into the fringe groups of the late 60s and early 70s for inspiration. If we get a misguided movie aimed at tweens where a bookish young girl comes out of her shell after starting an unlikely romance with her school’s dreamy Charles Manson-type, we’ll know we’ve stumbled into a full-on trend. Before the movement can reach its mainstream peak, however, we’ve probably still got some room for a couple more artistically-driven filmmakers to make a couple more legitimately creepy movies about cults, and to that end modern horror master Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) is getting ready to release his next feature, The Sacrament. It’s a found-footage affair about a group of documentarians visiting a cult called Eden Parish, and getting more than they bargained for. Click through to get a glimpse of the carnage, but be warned, the red-band before this trailer only seems to be there because of a little bit of blood and destruction, so don’t expect anything too gruesome to be given away.

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piff37 remote area medical

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. And what better way to lead off my coverage of an international film festival than with a look at three titles from the United States? Two of the films are slightly askew suspense thrillers, and one is a documentary that takes a very specific look at the sorry state of affairs that is America’s health care reality. First up is Coherence, a Twilight Zone-like tale in the form of a tightly wound thriller tinged with sci-fi and paranoia. It’s a smartly scripted, constantly moving film guaranteed to keep viewers on their toes and possibly on edge. Ti West’s The Sacrament sends a group of journalists to visit a religious compound in search of a missing woman, but they may need more than prayer to get back out again. As scary as those two try to be though, the documentary Remote Area Medical is far more terrifying. It’s also sad, inspiring, and eye-opening. Keep reading for capsule reviews of Coherence, Remote Area Medical, and The Sacrament, and follow all of our coverage here.

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Director George Clooney

What is Casting Couch? Proof that not everyone’s tracking Hurricane Sandy’s path on Twitter. Some are still out there casting movies. The big casting news over the weekend was all of the big names that were announced for George Clooney’s next project as a director, The Monuments Men. Deadline had the scoop that this period drama about a group of art historians and museum curators trying to recover important and historical works from the clutches of the Nazis is going to star names like Bill Murray, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban. As far as I know none of these people can even speak German, but you’ve still got to look at that list and be impressed. You could cast this crew as an office full of telemarketers and everyone would still watch the movie, making them heroes during the dying days of the Nazi regime is just icing on the cake.

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Eli Roth and Ti West

Ever since Cabin Fever became a hit in 2002, its director, Eli Roth, has seen himself rocketed to the top of the movie game. Not only did he go on to direct the wildly successful Hostel series, but he also found himself in a position to become an actor, a frequent collaborator of Quentin Tarantino’s, and a producer of a whole slate of genre pictures. Through it all though, West has kept his focus largely on horror, and with his upcoming project, The Green Inferno, he’s finally set to return to the genre as a director. Ti West, comparatively, isn’t as big a name in the grand scheme of the industry. But if you talk to horror aficionados, this maker of low-key, indie horror is one of the most exciting names to come along in quite a while. By directing films like House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, West has proven that disgusting gore and shocking schlock aren’t the only ways to get attention in the scare game. Age old tactics like building tension, establishing mood, and paying things off with a big climax can be just as effective, if not more so. The big news is that Roth and West seem to be teaming up.

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