DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
There is something very, very wrong with this film and it pisses me off to an almost unimaginable level. I wash my hands off Ti West. He has made one fantastic film, the rest I have seen have been either mediocre or very bad.
But this one, well this one is simply repulsive.
Not because it is a gratuitous, gore riddled bloodbath, but because of deeper, more ethical reasons.
First something else. For someone who claims to be a genre director, Mr. West seems to know fuck all about the found footage genre. Not that this is a found footage film per se, it is an episode in a news program, but it does use all the trappings and tropes that come with it. It begins with some lines about what VICE, the news program in question, is all about and it highlights the term 'immersion'. Fair point, a well made found footage film definitely immerses its audiences with the way it is filmed. It stands to reason then, Mr. West, that if you're set out to immerse your audiences in whatever it is that you're doing, THAT YOU DON'T MAKE EXCRUCIATINGLY STUPID MISTAKES!! There are so many instances here where we either shouldn't be seeing things that are being filmed and hearing things we shouldn't be able to hear. Furthermore there are many instances where seemingly random events are framed so perfectly, suspending disbelief that what we're seeing is taped spontaneously (i.e. the immersion) is completely impossible. The way it is shot automatically leads me to what is essentially so reprehensible about this film.
I have promised myself I wouldn't swear too much, but I guarantee nothing.
Mr. West, how the fuck dare you?
You have copy/pasted an enormous tragedy, namely the Jonestown massacre, to craft your own film. You have changed a couple of names, put it on a smaller scale, but it is essentially the exact same story. What the fuck were you thinking? Nowhere does it say: 'Inspired by the real story', which would have been a lie anyway as it is basically a retelling of that tragic episode in human history. Nowhere does the Sacrament explore anything, delve into themes or pay tribute to the victims and survivors of that horrible event.
No. What Mr. West does is exploit it in the most vile and disgusting manner under the guise of a 'sensitive treatment of the subject' (his own words). IF YOU'RE SO FUCKING SENSITIVE AT LEAST HAVE THE GODDAMN COURTESY TO PAY SOME TRIBUTE TO THE REAL STORY YOU'RE RIPPING OFF!! As it follows the events of the final days of the Jonestown massacre to a t, you already know how this is going to end, but Mr. West goes the extra mile by showing us over the top and gratuitous shocking and horrific deaths that are so out of place as the only reason they're there is to be shocking and horrific and nothing else. There is no subtext, it says nothing, it just exploits something real. And in my book, that is very very wrong. Furthermore, if what we're watching is the finalized edit of the two surviving documentary makers, WHY THE FUCK DID THEY GO AND ADD SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC AND DEATH RATTLES TO THE SOUNDTRACK OF WHAT THEY RECORDED?? I actually had an image of those two idiots sitting in the editing room, picking music for the more suspenseful scenes.
No, Mr. West, you've got this one all wrong. You have abused a true horror story and by doing so insulted the victims and survivors. What you've made is a hollow, exploitative and disgusting piece of shit only to satisfy your own needs.