I usually don't write reviews of movies, mostly because I hate feeding into the negativity culture that surrounds pop culture these days. But this one is one that I expected to really enjoy and I found it very disappointing. I am a big fan of the current crop of young filmmakers, and I have loved everything from Ti West that I have seen up until this one.
The problem for me is that the premise is so strongly rooted in the real tragedy of Jonestown that the film comes off as a historical fictionalization. Names are changed, a few new fictional characters are added to the real event, and off it goes. When it's done well, this format can be amazing - I'm looking at you, Saving Private Ryan - but when it fails to add any compelling insights or introduce viewers to something unknown, obscured, or forgotten about the historical event, it feels empty. And "Sacrament" felt empty to me.
The thing that probably bothered me the most about was that it literally minimized and therefore trivialized the enormity of the actual event. Likely for budgetary reasons and casting, the story here involves a commune of 167 people - Jonestown's toll was over 900. In this story, the protagonists are the catalyst for the meltdown of the commune, but they are a single reporter, a cameraman, and a family member of one of the cult members. In real life, a US Senator, his entourage, and representatives from major news outlets and networks were under attack. Again - minimizing the actual story. Then, there is no insight into the tragedy beyond what is known and familiar to anyone who has seen a History Channel program or the Powers Boothe TV movie on Jonestown.
So - smaller commune, lower stakes (a pair of reality TV makers vs a US Senate delegation) and use of a well known and well documented tragedy with no furtherance of understanding or insight on the event itself. Disappointing.