Director: Ti West
Stars: A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kentucker Audley, Kate Lyn Sheil
Release date: May 1, Video On-Demand; June 6, theatrical
The early 2014 award for "Most Subtly Creepy Movie Villain" goes to...veteran character actor Gene Jones, for his work as the seemingly friendly and welcoming but truly manipulative and sinister leader of the Eden Parish, the Jonestown-like cult at the center of The Sacrament.
Since seeing writer-director Ti West's found-footage-styled pic at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, Jones' performance has truly lingered, particularly from one extended scene of back-and-forth dialogue between he and co-star A.J. Bowen, who plays one of two journalists (the other played by Joe Swanberg) filming an investigative report as a cover-up for helping their photographer friend reconnect with his estranged, cult member sister (Amy Seimetz).
Anyone who's read up on the infamous Jim Jones and the Jonestown nightmare of 1978 will recognize The Sacrament's narrative beats, yet that familiarity doesn't hinder West's film's overall impact. Strongly acted and fully invested in its characters, The Sacrament puts human faces and relatable personalities on its brainwashed, and ultimately doomed, cultists. It's horror of the real-life variety. —Matt Barone