Fails to be intimidating in its first half but surprisingly succeeds in the second half.
Fun Fact #1: The words “mother” and “murder” sound nearly identical in a Norwegian accent. Fun Fact #2: Both of those words are thrown back and forth so frequently in the first half of the film that I thought I was watching a Fargo-fied Lovecraft tale.
Directed by Toor Mian and Andy Collier, Sacrifice is a horror film that fails to be intimidating in its first half but surprisingly succeeds in the second half. There are some conversations and situations, like the one mentioned in the opening thoughts, that pulled me from the film, and some of the intense, shocking moments were just a tad too silly to keep me from laughing.
However, once we transition beyond the midpoint, the gravity of the situation becomes more clear as the film is more focused on who the protagonist is and why. The film’s use of Lovecraftian horror is more adhered to its aesthetics and makes use of the budget by successfully cultivating the “less is more” mantra for how little we see of the Lovecraft monster Cthuhlu.
The synopsis is this: Isaac and his pregnant wife, Emma, visit a remote Norwegian village to claim an unexpected inheritance, but find themselves caught in a nightmare when they encounter a sinister cult that worships a sea-dwelling deity.
Up until the twist at the very end, I was really on board with the plot. The plot has its hiccups with some minor scenes going on for too long or Emma’s story progressing at the speed of a tire stuck in the mud (a lot of the horror is just her numerous nightmares she wakes up to, negating the fear factor), but the change in Isaac and the growing dread within Emma felt real and sucked me into the film. However, once that twist at the end comes into play, it turns the entire story before that moment into swiss cheese.
Nothing made sense. There was no reason why anything happened the way it happened. The twist exists to surprise the viewers but negates every interesting idea that happened before it, and then the film suddenly ends with no sense of how the twist affects the characters and changes them in any way, shape, or form.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Every actor here played their role well and didn’t take me out of the experience. Ludovic Hughes fits the role of Isaac and handles the character’s transformation to make it feel organic. Sophie Stevens as Emma, the true protagonist, is the strong backbone of the film. Though neither of these two leads have a scene that gives them a chance to be exceptional, they feel like a part of the world the film inhabits and no one in the entirety of the film felt miscasted.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Sacrifice has this sort of… casual neon aesthetic. There are a lot of colors at play, but none of them really feel motivated outside of making the image look visually cool. And it works, for sure. Everything looks cool, but having a soft red light in a scene where the main light is white daylight makes the shots look cheap at times. Outside of that issue, the cinematography is pretty good, but the creators seemed to come up with two tricks and then keep repeating the two tricks until they’re driven into the ground, such as filming water from under a glass tank and changing lights from one color to another.
The hair, makeup, and wardrobe are great, matching the character’s personalities, staying consistent throughout the film, and also taking into account how certain characters would look in certain situations.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score and sound effects are the strongest aspects of the film, creating an immersive experience; but one element that kept pulling me out was the dialogue being quieter than score and sound effects. Sometimes the dialogue is just barely audible, notably when a score is playing over dialogue with a mumbling delivery.
Even though the plot may be contrived after we already have Midsommar and other stories revolving around a couple who get “adopted” by a weird cult, I wanted to like Sacrifice. And I did, mostly, until the twist at the very end created so many holes in the narrative and left me with an empty viewing experience. So if you watch it, here’s a spoiler-free tip: Once you get to the part where Emma runs to the boat, turn the film off and come up with your own ending. It’ll probably be better.