From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Tue Apr 26 12:41:11 2016
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)
CAPSULE: SACRIFICE has a few tense moments and a few
ideas borrowed from better-made films, notably THE
WICKER MAN. But there is not a lot for an experienced
horror fan. An obstetrician and her husband move to
the Shetland Islands and begin to find clues that
something sinister is happening on the islands. Radha
Mitchell, veteran of several horror films, stars as
doctor acting as detective to get to the bottom of the
deaths of women and babies on the island. The middle
section of the film is a bit protracted, but overall
the film is at least polished. Instead of some real
horror, which we are told about rather than shown, the
film has the tone of "Masterpiece Mystery". Peter
A. Dowling adapted the novel by Sharon Bolton and has
now directed it on the screen. Special notice should
be given to David Grennan's photography of the islands.
Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
SACRIFICE is a medical thriller that frequently appears inspired by
THE WICKER MAN and perhaps THE STEPFORD WIVES. Borrowing from a
film as strong and as vital as THE WICKER MAN sets the bar almost
impossibly high for making a film at all similar a good experience.
SACRIFICE cannot possibly pay back enough for what it borrows.
Peter A. Dowling directs the film from his screen adaptation of a
novel by Sharon Bolton.
Obstetrician Tora Hamilton (played by Radha Mitchell) desperately
wants a baby of her own, but cannot bring a baby of her own to
term. After a miscarriage she decides to simplify her lifestyle.
She retreats with her husband Duncan (Rupert Graves) to the
Shetland Islands where her husband is from one of the first
families. Tora's father-in-law believes he can arrange for Tora to
adopt a baby right on the islands.
Tora is not on the island long when a dead body is found in a bog
that may have preserved it for just a short time or for decades or
even longer. Tora's background in medicine tells her much about
the body that the police did not see. For one thing, the body had
given birth a week or so just before the killing. And in a bizarre
touch the police did not catch, the body was carved with runic
symbols. Tora is intrigued and begins her own investigation. This
constitutes a good first act of the thriller. Sadly, the second
act is slow and mostly constitutes a surprisingly prosaic
investigation with long sequences of Tora sneaking down stairways
and around hallways.
The viewer gets little more information than is necessary to
tantalize the viewer. The killing of the dead woman fits in
surprisingly close to legends from the area. Could this be a
revival of very old and barbaric customs on the Shetland Islands or
could there be a more recent origin of the crimes? Tora is
determined to find out. Along the way she learns of the
misogynistic attitudes and practices that once were once common on
the island and still hang on by tradition. There are also hints of
demonic fairies, the Trows, that were believed in on the Shetlands.
The film builds to some medium-surprising reversals toward the end,
but not strongly enough to pay off for the viewer. This is a film
that has potential to be an effective piece of horror, but it is
kept rather prosaic in spite of what could have been intriguing
ideas. There are times the viewer might not be sure where the
story is going, but none of the places are all that interesting.
If you are going to borrow from a film as good as THE WICKER MAN,
at least make the borrowing worthwhile, fresh, and new. I rate
SACRIFICE a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. SACRIFICE will
be shown at the IFC Center in New York on April 29. It will be
released to DVD and VOD that same day.