A few days ago I had the chance to see “Sacrament” an independent film from Shawn Ewert that is running on some film festivals (Not to be confused with Ti West’s film). Althought the plot might sounds like something from the tired “Turist in danger” subgenre, this film tries to bring something new to the table, without taking the easy way of the shock nor social sentimentalism, or even playing the “political correct” card, something that made me want to give this film a chance.
“Sacrament” brings us a story of a group of friends that take a road trip for a weekend of party, boze and sex. Due to a storm’s warning, the group is forced to change their plans and make a stop at Middle Springs, Texas, a little town where they are received with warm smiles, open arms, and a kindness that you only seem to find on tv commercials nowadays. In a matter of minutes after arriving to the hotel, both boys and girls in the group try to make the most of their weekend in a town where the local folk seems to not even know the Internet exist.
As you might guess, things are not what they seem on this little town, and it just happens that a religious group is in the middle of a celebration of their tent revivals, along with a barbeque feast. This fine people love to uphold good manners and old family values, but has little patience for those who like to break the mold and loose their way to temptation. What is different from this people from others we have meet on the screen before, is that the leader of the congregation, looking to kill two birds with one stone, has found a way to save the souls of the sinners and to keep the members of his church well fed all the way thru the festivities. I won’t dig more on the details, but knowing how popular (and according to some friends, tasty) the barbeques are on Texas, we might have and idea where the story is going.
I had troubles thru the film with the acting and dialogue of some members of the cast, but it wasn’t bad enough to take me out of the movie or make me to turn it off. The story was paced well enough for me and although is not a gorefest by any means, when the time came for blood to run, the especial effects were very good, so I got no complaints in the gore and guts department. There are some scenes of sex and nudity, but before anybody starts to cheer, I got to point out that the scenes are from the “Equal Opportunity” type, meaning they are for ALL the members of the audience, not only for the guys, like most of the time happens… Which brings me to one of the hightlights of the film.
The film has several points worth noting, but the most obvious one would be that the main characters are a gay couple in (as far as I could tell) a heterosexual group, and contrary to what we might think, these characters were not the tipical stereotype we see on media. Sadly I can’t say the same for some of the other members of the group that were just the slasher trope and seems to be there just for the body count, or to make the main characters the more likeable ones. Another highlight for me was to see that some members of the congregation has some doubts about how they deal with the sinners, and how that played with another character’s personal conflict at certain point of the plot. Can’t say more due possible spoilers.
At no moment I felt the film preachy, nor trying to be “politically correct” or even trying to make a social commentary (well, no other than “Run for you life” and “Murder is wrong”) and to me that was great. At the same time the group of friends arrive at Middle Spring, we get a glimpse of how big is the influence of this religious clan on the county thru the eyes of another victim that is trying to escape from them, his subplot was another thing I liked from the film. There are several moments on this movie that might make some people in the audience feel uneasy, but they are well balanced with some awkward humor that I got to admit made me laugh. If you get the chance to see this film on it’s festival run, check it out with an open mind, try to see beyond some issues with the acting and you will have a nice film worth your time.
You can check more of Shawn Ewert’s projects at rightleftturnproductions.com