After the death of his mother, a man and his pregnant wife travel to the remote Norwegian island from his childhood. They quickly unravel secret after secret on the island, throwing them into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.
Based on the short story by Paul Kane, co-directors Andy Collier (Charismata) and Toor Mian (Charismata, The Milky Way) took on adapting Sacrifice for the screen. At first, Sacrifice appears to be the husband’s story. The film opens by showing his mother whisk him away in the middle of the night, taking him away from the small Norwegian island to be raised in the States. He then returns to his family home and uncovers many shocking truths about his family. The longer the couple is on the island, the more temperamental the husband becomes and the more frightening dreams the wife has. Eventually, the focus seems to gravitate more towards the wife as the husband becomes more and more unhinged. Throughout all of this, the tension builds. It builds from encounters with creepy islanders, tentacle-filled nightmares, strange rituals, and a marriage that is about to explode.
There are some ups and downs throughout the plot of this film. Sacrifice does a great job of building suspense and keeping the audience guessing. There is a constant air of mystery surrounding the island and its inhabitants. Sacrifice also does a great job of inciting fear when it comes to being around water, which is especially frightening when considering the film takes place on an island surrounded by deep, dark waters. That isn’t to say the film isn’t without issue. The plot relies fairly heavily on dream sequences, which ends up being a bit repetitive and involves too many fake-outs so the viewers come to expect it. There also doesn’t seem to be enough of the why to what’s happening in Sacrifice. By the end of the film, we only really get a partial explanation for what’s going on and I wish this had been explored more.
Sacrifice has some very memorable performances. Ludovic Hughes (Ride, Murder Maps) stars as Isaac. Hughes is quite effective at making us like Isaac, then gradually making us wish for his death. While his performance is great throughout, Hughes especially shines when playing the more psychotic version of Issac. Sophie Stevens (The Haunted, Break) plays Issac’s wife, Emma. Stevens makes her character endearing so the viewers care about her well being. Her performance is especially nuanced in how she conveys Emma’s complex feelings about wanting to stand by her husband, but also realizing something on that island isn’t right. Another standout performance is horror fan-favorite Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, We Are Still Here) as Renate, the island’s police officer. There are two main reasons to love Crampton’s performance. First, she does a surprisingly good Norwegian accent, which I can imagine is difficult. Second, she makes Renate seem maternal on the surface, but there is something menacing just beneath the surface.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is the visuals. The first thing viewers will likely notice is the wonderful lighting. Many scenes, especially involving the locals, are bathed in magenta lighting. It gives the film a very supernatural feel. Sacrifice also uses the dream sequences to leave bread crumbs for the viewers. Many of these dreams involve brief glimpses of something tentacled lurking in the water. The colors and tentacles are often found in these kinds of genre-bending films inspired by Lovecraft, cosmic horror, and aquatic horror. All of these elements combine to create something that is familiar while still being unique.
Sacrifice is a genre-bending film that’s dripping with suspense and veiled in mystery. Collier and Mian create an intriguing film. Though not without some shortfalls, it shows great vision and potential for both filmmakers. There are a lot of things to love about the film, including the gorgeous lighting and the performances. My biggest wish is that the film had gone more in-depth into the mysteries of the island and why these events take place. One thing is for sure, fans of the tentacle-filled cosmic horror are sure to enjoy this film from start to finish.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10