12th Mar2021

‘Sacrifice’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Barbara Crampton, Sophie Stevens, Ludovic Hughes, Lukas Loughran | Written and Directed by Andy Collier, Toor Mian

[NOTE: With the film out digitally in the UK from Monday, March 15th, here’s a reposting of our review of Sacrifice from its screening last year at Frightfest]

Inspired not only by a short story called Men of the Cloth, Sacrifice is VERY heavily influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft; a writer whose influence has always been felt on the genre (films such Re-Animator, Dagon, In the Mouth of Madness etc) but whom, it seems, looks to have a resurgence amongst independent filmmakers – with Sacrifice the second film in as many film festivals to have a direct link to the stories, and more specifically the mythos of Lovecraft’s work.

Sacrifice tells the story of New York-based Isaac who, after the death of his mother, returns, along with his pregnant wife Emma, to the Norwegian village on a remote island of his birth to deal with an unexpected inheritance. There they find themselves caught in a waking nightmare as an ancient frightening evil is awakened to claim the colour of madness in a birthright of its own.

Penned by co-director Andy Collier, apparently after reading The Call of Cthulhu one too many times, Sacrifice relocates the terror to the Norwegian Fjords – also blending together the cosmic horror of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space with the aforementioned Cthulhu mythos. It’s also very much the typical “fish out of water” terror tale – a trope that has very much made it mark on the genre since the very early days of storytelling.

As a fish out of water tale Sacrifice works incredibly well. Relocating a Cthulhu story to another country, where language is a barrier, where local customs are a barrier, where culture shock is a real thing, only adds to the creep factor – and that’s BEFORE any of this films cast of characters starts acting weird! And boy do they get weird. But that’s a given considering the fact this is inspired by Lovecraft… Moving the story to the Norwegian Fjords also surprisingly allows for an added sense of reality to Sacrifice – after all this a land where stories of trolls and other folklore has been engrained into their countries culture.

What marks Sacrifice out is the cast of characters. In particular headliner Barbara Crampton – here superbly playing a policewoman who befriends Isaac and his wife – all of whom seem specifically to have been chosen for, and suited to, playing the kind of people who, to your face, seem nice and sweet but also have a dangerous and off-kilter undercurrent to the way they act. It could be normal behaviour, it could be something more sinister. You never know. And that’s the fine line the performances and the script walks throughout the majority of Sacrifice’s run time.

Sacrifice is also marked by its visuals. Collier and Main both have a very artistic eye: you can see that in their previous film Charismata too. Here they juxtapose darkness with colour, apt given the location – close to the Aurora Borealis – but also very reminiscent of other filmmakers takes on the work of Lovecraft. There’s also a great use of water throughout the film, tying the film to the mythos of Cthulhu and the deep ones, but also giving things like the simple task of washing up a sense a danger… making watching Sacrifice as tense as sitting on a knife edge!

Unfortunately Sacrifice, for me, suffers in comparison with another Cthulhu/Lovecraft-inspired film – Chad Ferrin’s The Deep Ones – mainly due to the way this film, which tells the same story as that of Ferrins’ film, takes things far, far, too seriously. Both The Deep Ones and last years Color Out of Space, as well as a myriad of other Lovercraftian horror I’ve enjoyed over the years, had a sense of fun about them; the darkness of Lovecraft’s work balanced out with humour – dark humour and black comedy yes, but humour nonetheless. Here there is none and so Sacrifice ultimately seems more of a chore to sit through – even if it is punctuated by some rather disturbing imagery… Pregnant women should maybe avoid this one!

** 2/5

Sacrifice is out on digital from Monday March 15th, courtesy of 101 Films.

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