Directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian.
Starring Barbara Crampton, Ludovic Hughes, Sophie Stevens, Dag Sorlie, Erik Iundin, Jack Kristiansen, Johanna Adde Dahl, and Lukas Loughran.
In this Lovecraftian horror, Isaac (Ludovic Hughes) returns to the small Norwegian island where he grew up. He is staying for a few weeks with his pregnant wife Emma (Sophie Stevens) in order to sell his mother’s old house, but the pair soon discover that the villagers are hiding a deadly secret. Emma begins experiencing harrowing nightmares and Isaac starts acting strangely as they become entangled in the plans of a cult that worships a mysterious water-dwelling entity.
Sacrifice is a slow burn of a film, where the strange affect that the cult has on the couple slowly seeps into their everyday life. It sometimes feels slower-paced than necessary. However, the film attempts to entertain even during these scenes by leaving visual references to the entity the villagers worship. Tentacled toys and artwork appear in shops and Isaac’s childhood bedroom. This might be a heavy-handed way of hinting at its existence, but it also serves as a constant reminder of the overbearing power the entity has over the island. It is always present and lurking in the background. However, despite the films’ constant references to the creature, there is a noticeable lack of its actual presence. It, or rather it’s tentacles, appear only a handful of times. This is mostly during the nightmares that plague Emma. These are hands down Sacrifice‘s most frightening moments. Her dreams become incredibly disturbing and involve her being the victim of horribly violent acts, often perpetrated by the entity’s tentacles. The rest of the film focuses more on the villagers and cult itself instead of the creature, and as a result there are few moments outside of Emma’s nightmares that are particularly scary.
One thing that is frightening is the performance of Ludovic Hughes. He and Emma start off as a seemingly ordinary, happily married couple, but as the film progresses Isaac becomes increasingly affected by the cult and their deity. Hughes escalates his character’s disturbing behaviour incrementally, building to a frightening, powerful crescendo. However, there is never an explanation as to why Isaac is so affected by the entity. His disposition changes in a way that is much more drastic compared to the cultists, and the lack of explanation is bothersome. Despite this, Hughes’ performance is the best of the film by far (especially considering Barbara Crampton’s questionable Norwegian accent) and his increasingly harsh treatment of Emma makes us feel truly sorry for her.
Often it seems that the main focus of Sacrifice is not the cult and its influence over Isaac, but the psychological torment of Emma. For all intents and purposes she is the real main character of the film. Between her terrifying dreams and Isaac’s increasingly strange behaviour, it is easy to sympathise with her and her desperation for freedom.
Empathising with Emma is made even easier by the fact that Isaac isn’t particularly likable to begin with. At the very start of the film he comes across as entitled; he moves to Norway and expects to be accommodated by the locals, despite making no effect to adapt himself. As a result Emma is the only person who is easy to root for, and it’s hard to care about what happens to Isaac.Sacrifice tries to set itself apart from other cult horror films with its Lovecraftian influences, but there isn’t enough Lovecraft, or originality, for it to really stand out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Lauren Miles is a freelance film and television journalist who loves all things gothic, fantasy and film noir. She has an MA in Multimedia Journalism and is also a Halloween enthusiast and cat lady. You can find her on Twitter @Lauren_M1les.