Studio: Dread Presents
Director: Andy Collier, Tor Mian
Writer: Tor Mian, Andy Collier
Producer: Ross Scaife, Sean Knopp, Andy Collier, Tor Mian
Stars: Sophie Stevens, Ludovic Hughes, Lukas Loughran, Johanna Adde Dahl, Barbara Crampton
A pregnant couple encounters a cult that worships an aquatic deity when they travel to Norway to claim an inheritance.
Barbara Crampton is horror royalty. Her popular pairing with Jeffrey Combs in a certain seminal Stuart Gordon work instantly endeared her to genre film fans. Subsequent appearances in another notable Lovecraft adaptation, cults classics like ¡°Chopping Mall,¡± and a handful of fun Full Moon features continued paving a long path to her well-earned icon status.
Crampton took a break from acting around the turn of the millennium. When she returned to regular roles roughly a decade later, fright fans and filmmakers alike couldn¡¯t have been giddier. The actress was red hot again, picking up right where she left off with profiled parts in acclaimed thrillers including Adam Wingard¡¯s ¡°You¡¯re Next¡± (review here) and Rob Zombie¡¯s ¡°The Lords of Salem¡± (review here). Crampton stayed true to her roots too, making time for macabre midnighters like ¡°We Are Still Here¡± (review here) as well as artistically intriguing indies such as ¡°Sun Choke¡± (review here).
Her pedigree already made her a fan favorite. Then Crampton piled on additional affability by proving to be a kind human in real life as well. Openly accessible via social media, positive personal interactions cement Crampton as someone who is humbly appreciative of accolades and highly supportive of hard-working people pursuing creative passions. In short, it¡¯s virtually impossible to not love her.
However, it is easy to not love the downward slide many of her DTV movies have been riding on recently. Crampton has featured in a heap of horror ranging from ho-hum to outright awful since at least 2015, and it¡¯s nowhere near time for her to be in the ¡°late-stage Lance Henriksen¡± phase of her career. Between ¡°Day of Reckoning¡± (review here), ¡°Death House¡± (review here), and ¡°Dead Night¡± (review here), I¡¯m hard pressed to pick which one is the most unwatchable. Between ¡°Blood Brothers¡± (review here), ¡°Reborn,¡± and ¡°Stay Out Stay Alive,¡± I¡¯m hard pressed to pick which one went the most unnoticed. Crampton should not be an Eric Roberts equivalent already, accepting offers to be in any autopilot B-movie as long as the pay is adequate and the hours are short. Whoever selects her projects ought to be more judicial about which scripts get a ¡°yes¡± before ¡°Crampton¡± becomes worth as much as ¡°Sizemore.¡± That person can start by turning down things like ¡°Sacrifice,¡± a waterlogged thriller that¡¯s as pedestrian as its recycled title.
Inspired by Paul Kane¡¯s short story ¡®Men of the Cloth,¡¯ ¡°Sacrifice¡± chronicles the lukewarm Cthulhu-connected chills confronted by Isaac and his wife Emma. Isaac doesn¡¯t really remember fleeing from a small Norwegian fishing village with his mother 25 years ago. But he¡¯s back to claim an inheritance, so you know family secrets are going to complicate the couple¡¯s trip. Since Emma is pregnant and the town appears populated by cultists, you also know her unborn baby will be integral to someone¡¯s sinister plan, because where else can a plain premise go other than somewhere we¡¯ve been umpteen times before?
Billed as a Lovecraft-like horror movie, ¡°Sacrifice¡± doesn¡¯t do anything as epic as actually showing a monster, or showing much of anything for that matter. Mostly, scenes consist of talking, some walking, and a lot more talking.
Desperate to keep the viewer¡¯s pulse from deadening due to the conversational dullness and dreary tone, ¡°Sacrifice¡± slips in very brief bursts of blood and tentacles. In every one of these instances, the terror turns out to be a hallucination of some sort. ¡°Sacrifice¡± probably sets an unenviable record for the most egregious abuse of the ¡°suddenly waking from a nightmare¡± trope in a single motion picture. When a supposedly scary script leans this hard on fleeting visions to falsify frights, it¡¯s a simple matter to see that the story doesn¡¯t have the substance to do the heavy lifting as horror.
In fairness to the filmmakers, they try. Smoky fog rolls in on the sides of a few shots. Trouble is, you can tell it comes from a smoke machine. Violet hues and other deep colors accent dreamy design schemes. It¡¯s just that such lighting is nearly never motivated by a practical layout, unless Norwegian villagers decorate their homes like a set from ¡°Suspiria.¡± More effort exists in ¡°Sacrifice¡± than in 1,000 peer-level DIY indies combined. Good intentions aside, there¡¯s still no escaping the audiovisual evidence outing ¡°Sacrifice¡± as a pared-back production on par with other Dread Presents releases, which is barely above lesser labels in the same VOD space.
The only name among a cast of unknowns whose average acting demonstrates why they are unknowns, Barbara Crampton plays a local sheriff with a spotty Scandinavian speech pattern. Her awkward accent is distracting if we¡¯re putting it kindly. Putting it more frankly, she probably shouldn¡¯t have attempted the accent at all.
Without Barbara Crampton¡¯s presence, there wouldn¡¯t be a reason to notice ¡°Sacrifice¡± in an endless ocean of indistinguishable ¡°filler thrillers.¡± Obviously, that¡¯s the whole point of paying someone of her stature to be in a B-movie. But the boost to an otherwise ignorable film comes at the expense of taxing the credit on Crampton¡¯s account. I want to see a movie because Crampton is in it, not to sigh heavily and slog through something out of obligation to what she once represented. We¡¯re not at ¡®DEFCON-Malcolm McDowell¡¯ yet. But ¡°Sacrifice¡± brings Crampton dangerously closer. She deserves better movies. Perhaps more importantly, we deserve to see her in movies that are more worth our while.
Review Score: 40