SACRIFICE *** Canada 2020 Dir: Andy Collier, Toor Mian. 87 mins
Nordic Noir is a popular sub-genre of crime fiction. Most people know it from the Stieg Larson books and the film adaptions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Nordic mythology has been a source for folk tales crafted into horror films such as The Ritual (2017). Joining or attempting to become part of this is Andy Collier and Tor Mian’s 2020 release SACRIFICE. The film boasts the presence of Barbara Crampton in a minor role and a host of new performers with some lovely location photography of a remote Norwegian village. The picture is actually shot on location and in London, UK, according to info I was able to find.
The film is said to be inspired by a short story by UK horror author Paul Kane and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The original story was by Andy Collier and Tor Mian. Tor Mian crafted the eventual screenplay.
The picture’s prologue consists of nocturnal moments from Isaac’s past as he is taken away from what appears to be a bloody death by his mother. Then we segue nicely to today and the grown American family of Issac Pickman (Ludovic Hughes) and his pregnant wife Emma Pickman (Sophie Hughes), arriving at a remote village in Norway to claim an unexpected inheritance of Isaac’s family home after his mother passes away. Issac and Emma are a good natured, loving couple. They set up house and end up almost in an anti-American fight in a local pub when their ignorance of Norse history is questioned by bar keep Hainstein (Erik Lundin) and Gunner (Lukas Loughran). The confrontation threatens to be violent till Emma reveals Isaac’s real last Norwegian name. Suddenly Issac is treated with respect – even honor – and he is welcomed home. The next morning the Pickmans are paid a visit by local police woman Renata Nygard (Barbara Crampton), who wants information about the murder of Isaacs’s father. Issac had no idea this had happened. Nygard reveals more of his family history to him over dinner. This sets off a chain of events as the past collides with the dark depths of something lurking in the waters and a cult.
During their visit, the couple discover dark secrets from Isaac’s past. Their pleasant trip quickly turns into a nightmare when Isaac and his wife encounter a sinister cult that worships a sea-dwelling deity.
There is potential for interesting things to happen, coupled with a good cast of locals and the added screen power of Barbara Crampton. It fizzles in an under developed final cut. It would seem that SACRIFICE (2020) is not sure what film it wants to be: a Horror film in the folk tradition of The Wicker Man (1973) or the more recent Midsommer (2019), or a crime film. The Lovecraft influence is apparent in the nice opening credit sequence, the constant if not overplayed references to water. The characters of Isaac and Emma even sport the last names of Pickman after the Lovecraft story Pickmans Model.
The atmosphere is ripe for events to happen, unfortunately the film is slowed by a pace that makes the eventual payoff seem trivial. It is almost as if the script was part of a larger film and someone just tore parts out in order to have a sequel. There are some genuinely harrowing moments, such as the nightmare sequences concerning the birth of Emma’s baby. A bath moment with Emma, who is weeks away from giving birth, is also woefully under developed. And you can see the costume pregnant stomach quite clearly. What woman that large put herself in danger of a fall by going into a claw foot tub alone without assistance is another question for going places you shouldn’t in a horror film.
The script suffers from some inane dialogue that one can get around by speaking convincingly. The names like Gunner are stereotypical. The argument between Issac and the locals at the beginning is filled with needless posturing by Issac and totally ridiculous statements by the locals that look like a setup when Isaac suddenly is treated with honor. Isaacs’s chivalry of saying ‘there is a lady present’ when Gunner makes a sexual reference is another setup when his character changes to brutal self-obsessed worshipper of his heritage.
Barbara Crampton, in her role of police woman Renate Nygard, offers the majority of the family history and presides over the indoctrination to come of Issac. The camera still loves her with reckless abandon. She seems to be having genuine fun with some of the phrases in her pseudo accent (that occasionally slips). The name Nygard is an unfortunate choice considering there is a horrible real life investigation going on of a person with that name.
SACRIFICE (2020) has a lovely setup, and great use of locations. A good attempt, but it ends up looking like a setup for a sequel. Good opening atmosphere that never is exploited to a full story.
Review by Terry Sherwood