As a New Yorker, freaky inbred hillbillies, small town psychotic religious folk, and even redneck cannibals have always been the stuff of my horror movie nightmares. And if banjo-playing toothless wonders could do a number on an unlucky straight boy like Ned Beatty when he’s just out on a manly excursion with his buddies, how could I not wonder what would happen to a progressive city boy like myself if I ever dared cross state lines?
Well, backwoods horror has begun making an even more terrifying wrong turn down a different kind of back road in the past decade—thanks to an increase in gay horror filmmakers! Director Tim Sullivan threw a pretty boy’s ass to the crazies in 2001 Maniacs. Alan Rowe Kelly threw himself to the religious nuts in a segment of Gallery of Fear. And it’s homo Hostel in Into the Lion’s Den.
And now, director Shawn Ewert places a cute young couple in the hands of cannibalistic small town God abusers in his film Sacrament. But this isn’t so much a “gay” horror movie as it is a backwoods horror film that has two gay characters as part of its ensemble. These guys are traveling through Texas with their straight friends, who are just as guilty as they are of indulging in the kind of fun that religious folk just love to hate.
So this group of young kids stays in a bed & breakfast—and the moment the lady running it insists on boys in one room, girls in the other, my thought was that I’d be on the first train back to hell before I’d subject myself to an overnight Bible belting. Okay, actually, my first thought would probably be, “Boys in one room? This could work.” But then I’d divert my eyes from the temptation of the lady’s mentally deficient, beefy dirty hillbilly bellboy, order him to carry my bags right out to the trunk of my car…then kick his sweet ass into it and give him the tip once I got him to the city.
As you can imagine, the unsuspecting kids are soon divided and conquered one-by-one. But theirs isn’t the only storyline going on here. The movie begins with some innocent stoner-looking dude stopping to help an old man with car trouble…and soon finding himself chained up in a dungeon! His intense story of escape remains separate from the story of the naïve group of friends, making this like two completely separate films in one. And I have to admit, this guy who seems like a burnout ripe for first victim status ended up being my favorite character in the film. He has all the wits and determination of a final girl in a slasher movie and goes to any lengths to escape an awful fate.
Other highlights of the film include:
– Full-frontal and rear male nudity. Thanks, Shawn!
– Boobage for the straight guys.
– There are quite a few montages, including a cleanup after a party and a shopping spree. While it might feel like overkill after a while, the tracks used, from rock to techno, are fricking awesome.
– The relationship between the two gay male leads is genuine and real, and they work together to escape the horror of the homo-hating hillbillies. It’s the kind of portrayal you don’t see in mainstream horror.
– And in a perfect nod to the backwoods horror genre, the late Marilyn Burns and Ed Guinn of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre appear as a couple of the psychos!
Despite being about a crazy town that wants to make all sinners pay, Sacrament manages to avoid going into any major torture porn territory. In fact, it’s essentially a slasher film with some amazingly gruesome kills. The gore effects are phenomenal, and along with the entire look of the movie, Shawn demonstrates that you can pull off that genuine gritty and dark horror feel even on a low budget. You don’t watch Sacrament and think of it being some sort of cheap, direct-to-video hack job. There’s clear passion behind the project from all involved.
But back to the gore effects, which are mind-blowing. There’s a scene involving a very hungry group of cannibals feeding on a human with just their hands and teeth that rivals the gut munching in most zombie films. A hook in the mouth looks wickedly painful. And when a woman makes deli meat out of the flesh of one of the victims with a knife, not only did my face almost permanently get stuck in the cringe position, but I also hoped the guy playing the victim is still alive and in one piece. I have never seen a flesh-carving scene that realistic before. Wow.
As the film comes to a close, it may seem like it suddenly has a neat and tidy ending, but things are a lot grimmer than they look for the remaining characters. Stick around after the first credits flash on screen, because the tag makes it look like there may just be a sequel. And even if there isn’t, the possibility that the religious freaks will come for you even if you get away from the horrors of small town life is this city boy’s worst nightmare.