November 8, 2011
Sharon Reed and Jose Zambrano Cassella
Jose Zambrano Cassella
Jessica Blackmore as Miranda
Lauren Brown as Jackie
David Mackey as Pete
Ryan Marsico as Zach
Jordan Wall as Jared
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
The Sacred is a Karmic Spin on the Supernatural Slasher. This one starts out just like a slew of other slashers by stranding annoying students out in the wilderness. It’s what happens as the movie goes on, though, that makes it a little more different and interesting.
Miranda (Jessica Blackmore, star of the director’s great short film “Mina” also included on the DVD) and her friends are heading out into the Florida Everglades to do research on a Native American tribe. Completely ignoring what basically amounts to an entire bar full of Crazy Ralph archetypes (See Friday the 13th), they convince a menacing-looking local named Bill (John Kyle) to transport them into the swamp to a ancient burial ground. While the man impresses upon them the need to leave the area before sundown because of the area’s dark, bloody past, the group has plans to stay the night in a decrepit cabin and continue their research. As they examine the area and find various remnants of groups that came before them, the nerdy member named Jared (Jordan Wall) discovers strange sticks the tribe used to give power to spirits and call them forth to judge those who had sinned. Showing an INCREDIBLE lack of foresight, Jared decides to plant them in the ground in accordance to what their research says the Natives originally did. Now, the quintet had better hope they weren’t lying when they told their guide that they were pure of heart because the spirits of the land’s former inhabitants know all of the their darkest secrets and have no problem torturing and tormenting them with the memories of their greatest mistakes.
The Sacred is kind of like what would happen if the swamp-slasher antics of Hatchet were done more seriously and with somewhat less annoying characters, then combined with the supernatural elements of Poltergeist. The Hatchet elements of the movie come dangerously close to destroying it, but the Poltergeist pieces aren’t just good, they honestly save the film.
The Sacred had a pretty decent hole to dig itself out of primarily because these characters are stereotypical, annoying, and, as is revealed during the plot, mostly shockingly horrible people. For example, how do we know Jared’s the nerd? Well, he’s socially awkward, wears glasses, and talks really fast… what the Hell else would he be? Everything else is just average movie character fodder too. Of course the women both have a thing for the only likable “leading man” type. Of course he and his girlfriend can’t keep their hands off each other. But by far the most damaging example of lazy character writing is Zach, played by Ryan Marsico. I’ve seen a lot of the standard unlikeable, annoying slasher trope character who the audience BEGS to see murdered brutally in my slasher-watching time. It’s rare, though, that I’ve seen a character whine, moan, bitch, kvetch, and be a general annoying, arrogant, childish nuisance as much as this character. It’s honestly so bad that the other characters repeatedly call him out on it! Needless to say, when it’s revealed that almost all of the characters have committed abnormally horrible secret sins and crimes in their pasts (WHAT A COINCIDENCE), it’s weird but not totally beyond the realm of possibility.
All that said, The Sacred is saved by the eeriness of the plot and the execution of the “judgments” by the spirits in the movie’s second half. The swamp itself is creepy, eerie, and contains various freaky artifacts left behind by those unfortunate enough to have come before (such as a found footage home movie). It’s the perfect place to build atmosphere and tension for an afternoon and night of bloodshed. Once Jared stupidly plants the sticks in the ground, the resulting judgments are fast-paced, intense, dark, and violent, become even more so after night falls. This perfectly embodies that Hatchet/ Poltergeist combo as the judgments sought by the spirits in the ancient burial ground have a tendency to be bloody, gory, and grotesque. The flashbacks to the sins are also some of the few times that quick-cut, jittery editing has worked this well in horror. These scenes and gore effects are executed so well that, even though these characters are being made to pay for unbelievably despicable acts and annoy for so long in the early going, it’s not hard to honestly feel sorry for them and pity their plight.
The Sacred is by no means a great film but instead is that rare breed of movie that is made satisfying after being rescued from certain doom by a fantastic second half. Sure, the characters are stock stereotypes and the movie draws obvious comparisons to better films (Zack even explicitly references Friday the 13th at one point). However, the fact remains that the supernatural slasher scenes in The Sacred’s second half and the general eerie atmosphere of the swamp and burial ground are done so well that they’re a great, satisfying reward for enduring the movie’s initial miscues.