Sacrilege (2020) – Film Review
Director: David Creed
Cast: Tamaryn Payne, Emily Wyatt, Sian Abrahams
By @Roger Crow
When four beautiful young women head to a remote lodge for a weekend of fun, you know things are going to be anything but.
Once we get past the first of many drone shots over a forest, the film opens with a terrific scene involving one poor soul catching fire and staggering towards a swimming pool, which plays an integral part later.
Now you might know the dramatic law of Chekhov’s Gun – if a weapon has a prominent scene in the first act, it has to be used in the third. In this case it’s a flare gun, which is a nice twist on the usual weapon of choice.
Naturally, when the young women aren’t deciding between tea or coffee and what to have for lunch, they love getting drunk and stoned, and at least one is obsessed with social media. Yes, she has her own online page and is keen to get loads of content by striking assorted poses while pouting. As shallow as she is, she’s perfectly harmless. Unlike the locals.
A couple of the ladies unsurprisingly have a romantic past, which creates much needed sexual tension in the early scenes. Will they get back together?
Well, like Chekhov’s Gun, such backstory also has to form some sort of explosive result by the third act. Which it does, and should keep some genre fans watching – a key factor if viewers get bored and start scrolling through the scenes. Thankfully I never did.
“Plagued by their darkest fears”
This being a remote part of the UK, naturally there are plenty of pagan folks pottering around with masks and bits of wicker. Because nothing says pagan more than wicker, as the much missed Edward Woodward would remind us if he were here today.
Having met an attractive local who suggests they come to a not-at-all-creepy ‘party’, the stoned gal pals take part in a ritual in which they have to write their fears on a bit of paper and throw them into a fire. On the one hand it seems rather cathartic, but on the other is like data mining for demons. (Like those web pages which pretend to be interested in the name of your first pet, but are really storing the information so they can hack your bank account).
Naturally, like Event Horizon or an old episode of Star Trek, the quartet are soon being plagued by their darkest fears, whether it’s dogs or bugs. Though ‘gram girl’s fear is growing old, I wish there had been a scene where we watch her social media followers dwindle to nothing. Less scary than a Poltergeist-style mirror meltdown, but it would have been a lot of fun regardless.
Despite the fact all this sort of thing has been done before, I loved most of it.
The cast are hugely likeable, and though the script could have done with more polish, it ticked over nicely.
Yes there were too many drone shots, and yes it exhausts the usual horror tropes, but the camper van alone is like a ray of sunshine every time it’s on screen. (A shame there was no tie-in merch with a model van and a sound bite of the heroines pondering tea, coffee or dope like some grown-up version of Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine).
“A company to watch”
Though there could have been more scenes of nail-biting tension, it’s one of those movies where the characters are more interested in breaking a nail than kicking the derrière of their aggressors. Until that finale, which sort of fizzles out. More Ripley-style kickassery and less ‘victims stalked by “the greater good”-style antagonists’, and it would have been more on the money.
The score is rather good, even if it does signpost dramatic scenes a little too obviously. There are also some cool indie songs, which I’d recommend dancing along to in slow motion the next time you have an outdoors celebration, with or without wicker.
Sacrilege is well lit, and there’s a great “Ouch!” death before the one-hour mark is up; perhaps all the more shocking because unlike some similar chillers which feature bloodletting every 10 minutes, this really dials down the horror. There’s also a kitchen scene which looks like a well deserved dig at people who took an orange president’s ridiculous anti-Covid advice too seriously.
As the first feature from Bristol-based Bad Blood films, they’re certainly a company to watch in future. I’m hoping if this is them in first gear, they ramp things up in the coming years. Snappier, sexier, and smarter is the key for survival for any indie movie company looking to breakthrough in these days of generic horror offerings.
I’ll happily watch it again in a few years when at least half the cast have landed that breakthrough role in a Hollywood blockbuster, and like one key protagonist facing their aged reflection, I too wonder where the years went since that first screening.
Finally, if you fancy a cool (okay lukewarm) drinking game, take a swig every time you see a drone/forest shot; another every time some asks tea or coffee; a third when the use of herbal narcotics are employed, and another every time you see that glorious yellow van. But please watch and drink responsibly. And definitely avoid the bleach cocktails.