Emma and Isaac (Sophie Stevens and Ludovic Hughes) are an average American couple awaiting the arrival of their first child. When Isaac’s mother dies he heads to her distant homeland, a remote Norwegian island, to settle affairs and sell his long forgotten family home.
After a racist run in with the rough locals who treat the couple like crap until they discover Isaac’s origins the pair have an even stranger encounter with local Sherif Renate (played by horror royalty Barbara Crampton) the next day.
Aggressively questioning Isaac on the events 25 years ago when his mother fled the island with him the cop and community leader reveals that not only was his father murdered but his mother was responsible.
Faced with the pain of the past the parents to be attempt to move forward however they quickly discover they are on very different paths. While Emma wants to hurry through the house sale and leave to start her new life, Isaac is fascinated by the old traditions of the town and the sense of comforted and camaraderie it instills in him.
Seduced in more ways than one by the townsfolk Isaac starts to heavily embrace his heritage and the legends of The Slumbering One an ancient deity the people of the island worship. As they drift further apart Emma is troubled by disturbing nightmares but are these just bad dreams or something far more frightening?
Directed by duo Andy Collier and Toor Mian who also wrote the story Sacrifice is based not only on Paul Kane’s short story ‘Men of Cloth’ but also the works of H.P Lovecraft. The Lovecraftian element is evident throughout with statues, models and images of Cthulhu everywhere in the tiny town however wisely the mammoth being they all believe in is kept hidden with the occasional tentacle or deep booming voice the only evidence of its existence.
Featuring some stunning landscapes the environment is as much a character as the people who live on it and the giant mountains and huge bodies of water excellently evoke images of timeless monsters and the bygone dark magic practices used to tame them.
Obsessing over images of liquid Sacrifice takes the everyday and makes it malevolent as boiling water, baths and even the water surrounding them froths and bubbles with an unknown force. Likewise reality drips away due to some supernatural desire as Emma is troubled by more and more disturbing visions making the local saying “dream well” seem like a mocking taunt towards her.
As much about the breakdown of a relationship as it is anything else the tragic trajectory of Emma and Isaac’s romance is as inevitable as it is relatable. As her pregnancy physically changes her it psychologically changes him as he becomes more misogynistic impassionedly echoing the example of the men on the island and calling Emma a bigot for rallying against the old ways however creepy or sexist they are.
Ironically as Isaac exerts his patriarchal rule over his wife, Sherif Renate sits centre place in the running and ruling of the locals not only as law maker but also as their spiritual leader, something we clearly see in the baptism like ritual she presides over and Isaac takes part in midway through the movie pledging his body and soul to the Slumbering One. Huge credit must go to Barbara Crampton who is brilliant in the role and brings just the right amount of gravitas and believability all while managing a decent Norwegian accent.
Where Sacrifice suffers is in the obvious outcome of the events not only telegraphed by its title and poster but by the themes and story which many horror fans may have seen many times before. Thats not to say it isn’t an enjoyable film and there are a few twists and scares along the way to keep the audience engaged it just feels on the whole that it could have been more creative getting there.
A decent horror featuring an outstanding performance from Barbara Crampton Sacrifice is well worth checking out especially if you are a fan of Folk Horror or Lovecraft and I look forward to whatever Andy Collier and Toor Mian have for us next.