Perhaps a coincidence, but since the rousing success of Aster’s ‘Midsommar’ I’ve seen quite a number of aptly dubbed ‘folk’ horrors crop up. In the case of ‘Sacrifice’, genre favourite Barbra Crampton leads a clan of hostile Nordic Cthulhu(esk) worshippers against an expectant American couple.
The plot opens as the young couple make their way, via a small passenger boat, towards a remote island nestled between vast Norwegian fjords and foreboding jagged mountains. Returning only to sort out the sale of an inherited property on the island, the American tourists soon find themselves embroiled in the island’s ritualistic traditions and intimidating xenophobia. That said, there’s more luring them there than just the dramatic scenery, and before long the couple find themselves at odds, one wants to leave but can’t, the other doesn’t, and, well… watch and find out.
As a horror film ‘Sacrifice’ certainly finds itself in the creepy, tension building category. Don’t misunderstand me, there is plenty to keep you engaged, from the great characters to the outstanding locations (which are something of a visual feast); but just don’t expect this one to be of the spook-a-minute variety.
It’s a slow burn, but not so much that you are waiting for something climatic to happen, just that the film chooses a pace and more or less sticks to it right up to the credits.
The acting is decent, with good performances all round, but what made it happen, for me at least, was the interesting range of characters presented throughout. It’s made apparent from the start that there is something not right on the island, from a tense stand-off in the bar between locals and the less than warm welcome, to the sinister backstory of the family home dubbed the ‘murder-house’, then of course are the visions of a squid like creature dubbed ‘the slumbering one’ who beckons those chosen as they sleep; but ultimately, the island function as normal, the folk who inhabit it are far from.
Each interaction has an off-beat edge which I loved. None of them were obviously showing their cards either, and it was difficult to see which role each had to play in the overall story as each of them had their moments of compassion in contrast to their zanier rants or quirks. Much of the films lore and backstory are told through the various conversations between characters, all of which illude to some-one or something having a hold over the island and its inhabitants, something for whom the islanders both feared and revered, but, to the films credit, there are no anti-climatic reveals or atmosphere breaking lengths of exposition.
Indeed, to be honest, whilst the ending makes an impact, the ‘twist’ style ending was, ironically, the more foreseeable part of the plot, and whilst I would be interested to give the film a second watch, I would lying if I said I 100% understood everything the story was trying to tell me upon the first watch – there are still some questions, or perhaps some real-life folk-lore to discover that the film was inspired by.
Whilst strictly, not particularly scary, save some eerie dream-sequences, ‘Sacrifice’ does have some stand-out scenes. There are some scenes which hint at the presence of a creature, others are just un-nerving due to the sporadic twists in tone and mannerism from the characters as they interact with the more relatable US couple; that said, one scene in-particular, involving the gushing birth of a child is pretty wince-worthy. That said, it’s not scary, nor is it particularly violent, so again, be prepared to invest in the characters, or perhaps not at all.
Overall ‘Sacrifice’ has modern festival horror written all over it. It’s got enough Lovecraftian influence over it to be familiar, but with a modern setting and context to make it feel fresh. It was perhaps lacking a little in the violence department, especially considering some of its contemporaries, but then perhaps that would have taken away some of the atmosphere the film does a great job of cultivating. Regardless, taken as it, I reckon ‘Sacrifice’ is well worth checking out if you fancy something a little more intriguing than visceral.