February 1, 2021 Sacrifice (Movie Review)
H.P. Lovecraft-inspired Horror has quickly become a bloated sub-genre in recent years, and, as it has, more pressure is on newer films to stand out. Opening in select theaters on February 5th, On Demand on February 9th, and Blu-ray on February 23rd via Dread/Epic Pictures, Sacrifice is the latest indie effort in homage to the pantheon of H.P. Lovecraft’s Old Gods.
Co-Directed and written by Andy Collier (The Seventh Kind 2014, Charismata 2017) and Toor Mian ( The Sky in Blood 2013, The Milky Way 2015), and based somewhat on the short story Men of the Cloth by Paul Kane, Sacrifice has all the familiar elements of the aforementioned tales; Stranger comes to town, isolationist natives are in turns hostile and mysterious, and hints of secrets beyond mortal understanding. But how does it all hold together?
The story focuses on a young couple, Isaac (Ludovic Hughes: Ride 2018, Man of the Hour 2018) and his pregnant wife Emma (Sophie Stevens: The Haunted 2018, Break 2020). Both are New Yorkers, soon to be wildly out of their element when Isaac learns that he has inherited his family’s ancestral home on a Norwegian island. Seeing an opportunity for a fresh start with the baby, they agree, not without some conflict, to move to Norway. Upon arrival at a local pub, they quickly learn that the folk here don’t take kindly to outsiders, but there’s more than that to their strangeness once they learn of Isaac’s ancestry.
We are then introduced to the local sheriff, Renate (Barbara Crampton: From Beyond 1986, Re-Animator 1986), and are subjected to an information dump about Isaac’s family past which doesn’t have the time to resonate the way it is meant to. In short, Issac’s family has an important history on this Island, and his arrival there was no coincidence. In case you haven’t guessed, the island is home to a mythical cult that worships a sea-creature of unclear makeup or origin, which will unfortunately stay that way.
All this in mind, Sacrifice is a mixed bag in many departments, chief among them is the script. The peaks of the story range from properly eerie, to odd, to outright nonsensical. We are not supposed to know the totality of the cult’s intentions until the end in a story such as this, but that has to be coupled with a satisfying payoff, which Sacrifice does not provide. Additionally, the hints and clues to the Lovecraftian origin feel more like winks and nods to the audience rather than things that impact the characters. The dialogue is likewise inconsistent in its effectiveness. Some of the early scenes work, while others, particularly toward the end, are unconvincing and fall a bit flat. Overall, the script is much more tangible in some places than others.
However, the best part of the film is surely the actors. Both leads are solid throughout, and their relationship and its struggles never feel artificial. Whether they are braving a new life in a new land, working together in a hostile environment, or fighting over Isaac’s downward mental state, they have good chemistry and always seem authentic.
The supporting cast is also very good; One particular early scene at the local pub is filled with tension so thick you could cut it, with the Norwegians absolutely convincing in their not-so-passive hostility toward the new arrivals. It is also good to see Lovecraft-based film veteran Barbara Crampton here. She wears a few different hats throughout the story and has fun with all of them. They all elevate the material and should be recognized for making some wonky dialogue work.
For fans of Lovecraftian Horror, Sacrifice will satisfy for a weekend rental, but it certainly has its problems. The atmosphere and actors work very well but the film struggles amidst a weak script and the utter lack of a satisfying payoff really hurt it down the stretch. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Sacrifice 2.5 out of 5 stars.