Sacrifice review – pagan fjords of misrule


Writing-directing collaborators Andy Collier and Tor Mian’s follow-up to their well-received debut, cops-and-Satanists Charismata, constructs a classic fish-out-of-water premise by sending a wholesome average American guy, Isaac (Ludovic Hughes), and his heavily pregnant wife, Emma (Sophie Stevens), to a remote Norwegian island to claim a house Isaac has inherited. There, they find that the locals are pagans, that all dreams are bad and tentacled monsters lurk not just in the sea but also down the drain.

So maybe that makes this a fish-in-the-water story. Or you could call it an invertebrate-in-the-water, if you want to be as pedantic as the Norwegian bartender who almost starts a fight with Isaac over the nature of calamari in one of the early scenes.

Either way, the quirky script, adapted from a short story by Paul Kane and, as the opening credits assert, inspired by the work of HP Lovecraft, is quite good on the cultural friction between Americans and Europeans. It draws very deep from the well of uncanny associations that come with horror stories set in northern Europe such as The Wicker Man and Midsommar. Add this one to the mix and we almost have a mini-genre: you could call it Doggerland Gothic. Sacrifice’s contribution to the canon is notable, throwing in anxieties around a Nordic tendency towards madness brought on by long nights, northern lights, aquavit and too much skinny-dipping in icy waters.

Collier and Mian have a lot of fun with nightmare fakeouts, casting doubt on what’s real and what’s a dream; together with the coloured gels used in the cinematography, this gives the whole thing a 1970s giallo vibe. Just to ice that cake of dried blood, the lovely Barbara Crampton, doyenne of classic horror films such as Re-Animator and From Beyond, is on hand as the local policewoman/high priestess, serving up menace with the pan-fried trout.

Sacrifice is released on 15 March on digital platforms.

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