• Review: Sacrifice (2016)

    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.

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    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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