An immensely ominous air is established during the opening credits of Sacrifice as multicoloured smoke plumes dissipate against a black backdrop, evoking an eerie Argento ghost train vibe. When coupled with Tom Linden’s foreboding score, Sacrifice looked set to turn into a cracking skull-rattler from the outset and a cut above most other DTV horrors.
Sadly though, despite this atmosphere remaining for most of its duration, this second feature from the team behind decent British horror Charismata, stammers from the midpoint on due to a clunky script, stiff dialogue and mostly forgettable characters.
Inspired by short story “Men of the Cloth” by Paul Kane and the works of HP Lovecraft, the script tells the tale of thirty-somethings Isaac Pickman (Ludovic Hughes) and his pregnant wife Emma (Sophie Stevens), who travel to a remote Norwegian village from America to sell a family home which Isaac inherited after the death of his mother.
The couple are met by shady, change fearing villagers, recalling the paranoid villagers from Hammer Horror films who deny the castle’s existence, and local Sheriff Renate (Barbara Crampton) who pays the couple a visit to question them about a murder connected to Isaac’s past, before strange occurrences go on to shape the rest of the plot.
An intriguing set up and steady pace make the first half of Sacrifice a sufficiently edgy and satisfactory jaunt. The story then waddles inebriated, clunking through subplots via nightmare sequences involving insects, drowning and rape during the second half, after Isaac learns of a local sect and is invited to a sacrament.
Despite being nonchalantly brandished an “antiquated community custom”, the robe wearing, rituals, chanting and references to a local legend called The Slumbering One, suggests all is not well within the local community.
Sacrifice then becomes part pregnancy horror when family fissures form before the script sprouts into well-trodden psycho thriller terrain and suffers an identity crisis as a result. The story jarringly flits between scenes and set pieces, many of which seem inspired by classic past horrors, but despite an edgy air and unnerving score, the film fails to frighten.
The lack of linearity and sharp enough frights result in Sacrifice resounding as a juddering, ineloquent and hotchpotch melee of scare free scenes and frail family drama which, while just about managing to avoid being tedious, don’t amount to much.
Sacrifice is available on digital from 15th March.