Sacrifice – Lovecraftian Inspired

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Sacrifice (2021) (originally titled The Colour of Madness) is the sophomore effort of directors Andy Collier and Toor Mian, adapted by Paul Kane’s folk-horror novelette, Men Of The Cloth. Inspired heavily by the monstrous mythology of HP Lovecraft and, while not without its merits, frequently struggles to break through the earth’s-mantle barrier which limits most, if not all screen translations of cosmic horror

Sacrifice cosmic horror movie poster featuring a woman with a hood and people with torches

Young couple Emma (Sophie Stevens) and Isaac (Ludovic Hughes) return to Isaac’s Norwegian family home after a twenty-five year absence. The townspeople, including their sprightly sheriff played by horror heavyweight Barbara Crampton (of such masterpieces as Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986)), become increasingly familiar with Isaac as strange and terrible secrets about his family’s history unfold. In no time at all (from the first thirty seconds of the trailer in fact) we learn that the uncanny Norwegian folk worship an entity that early-horror aficionados will recognise as none other than Cthulhu himself. 

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Having never read the source material, I was more than ready to enjoy an atmospheric horror with the A24-feel and Lovecraftian overtones the trailer hinted towards. In a sense I got what I wanted, though by the credits I had realised that in terms of ingredients I need a lot more than just those things. Sacrifice’s story unfolds through a series of meandering conversations and repetitive dream sequences that reduce its slow-burn to a dying spark of infrequent, moderately effective chills. True effort is shown by the handful of actors attempting to keep an ironically shallow script afloat as scene after scene of derivative half-scares trickle by, the surprise climaxes of which are likely to have dawned on you moments before they happen.

Conceptually this is my type of film, and there are elements here to enjoy. Isaac’s growing obsession with the cultish townsfolk and their customs is a great angle and offers some interesting visual and psychological ideas to be employed, even if he began to border on cartoonishly arrogant in the final act. Inspiration being taken heavily from Lovecraft’s work allowed some tantalising points regarding science, religion and cultism to be explored, though again not quite to the extent that might satiate true ‘intronauts’. These pondering breaks still offer enough intrigue to keep viewers guessing up until the climactic turnaround. Sacrifice’s ending is fun, though nothing too thought-provoking, and features a quietly effective final shot that would have been all the more powerful had I not seen an almost identical one in 2017’s Hagazussa.

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Sacrifice offers some sharp and vividly colourful imagery aided by striking views and focused cinematography. While the editing can be erratic in places, and some instances of coloured lighting feel less purposeful than their inspirational counterparts, the film’s overall aesthetic does warrant the majority of its artistic choices. The lake itself is vast and ominous and many lines uttered by its worshippers are devilishly thought-provoking. The finished product sadly feels underdeveloped, had it not repeatedly fallen into the same handful of formulaic choices over its brief runtime, I’m convinced Sacrifice could have been an effective psychological horror about obsession with the deep, dark and unknown. 

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