Sacrifice is a horror that forgets that it is trying to tell its audience a story and instead focuses on giving us beautiful shots and imagery. With an able cast who do their best, they are hindered by an underwritten script.
After his mother, dies New Yorker Isaac (Ludovic Hughes) and his pregnant wife (Sophie Stevens) journey back to the remote Norwegian village of his birth to get the family affairs in order. The frosty welcome the couple receives from locals when they arrive soon warms as villagers learn their family name and are soon taken under policewoman Renate (Barbara Crampton), but is she everything she seems? The pair soon discover dark secrets from Isaac’s past, and things become increasingly strange as Emma’s nightmares become all too real. A sinister cult that worships a sea-dwelling deity turns its followers’ attention to the couple.
H.P. Lovecraft’s fingerprints are impressed heavily on Sacrifice, but not enough to make it as sinister as it needs to be. We have some terrific moments by drawing on the water element, none that ever feel as fleshed out as it should. Hinted at but never expanded upon. This is a shame as Sacrifice works exceptionally well, harkening to other horror folk films. By bringing in a fantastical element to the Pagan activities, we open up a world of possibilities. Yet it is wasted by not giving us more of it. Whether this is a script or budget issue is unknown. But the story appears to be leaning towards more of it but fails to do so.
Where Sacrifice falters with its lacking script, it more than makes up with its compelling cast. They give the film that extra credibility, and while the island residents keep an air of sinister mystery about them. We are still lulled in by their performances. We know the other foot is going to drop; it is just a matter of when and everyone does so well at keeping the film grounded and away from the caricature. Sophie Stevens stands out here as the continually confused and terrified Emma. She takes a lot of the heavy emotional work throughout, allowing us to will her and her unborn child safety of the island. Barbara Crampton is, as expected, strong here; though her accent struggles at ties, she remains convincing albeit a tad wasted given her talents. A character that is severely underwritten, leaving Crampton with little to sink her teeth into.
Another plus to Sacrifice is its striking imagery, and art direction is on point that counteracts the glaringly slow opening half. Yet for all of the good in the cinematography and indeed direction. There needs to be something going on and for too long in the film. What is supposed to be menacing suspense is nothing more than dull exposition with some nightmares thrown in to wake us up. However, with that said, there is still an awful lot to enjoy here, thanks to its far superior second half.
Once the second half of the picture gets going, we see Isaac become far too involved with life’s traditions back in his birthplace. The film skips through a few gears that it forgot in the first half. The menace that was missing has returned as we begin to fear for Emma and her unborn child as the walls seemingly keep closing in on her as she tries to leave this secluded land. This half saves the film from becoming a chore, and you are immediately invested in it. That could be because, as a viewer. You want to cling to something to care about, but with Emma starting off as being the happy but slightly ignorant outsider, it even takes a little while to take to her.
The finale tries to surprise, but anyone who has watched a horror-thriller before will see where it is going with some of the twists not ringing as true as needed. Despite that, with such a great premise, there are things to enjoy in the film, and with some solid performances from an able cast, they can rise above the laboured script.
Released on digital now.
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