Review: ‘Sacrifice’ – Stay Away From Small Island Towns


Opening with a horrific and twisted memory of a miscarriage, “Sacrifice” is quick to dispel any thoughts in regards to having higher expectations of the Sharon Bolton-adapted novel. Writer and director Peter A. Dowling’s film, for all intents and purposes, isn’t a complete disappointment. It hits all the expected creepy factors that are par for the course in any thriller, but what “Sacrifice” ultimately lacks is any semblance of depth in dealing with the matter of fertility, sacrifice, ancient cults, and the like. It plays out like one would expect, but quickly turns into a chase that loses a bit of its luster long before the finale comes along.

Dr. Tora Hamilton (Radha Mitchell) moves to Scotland with her husband, Duncan (Rupert Graves), in hopes to start their lives anew after suffering from a few miscarriages and the disappointment of possibly never becoming parents. Back in his native hometown, the remote Shetland Islands, Duncan’s father, Richard (David Robb), sets the couple up with an adoption deal and a job at the local hospital for Tora. They first have to have been on the island for one year before being able to adopt (which is really the first heads up that something shady is going on).

After accidentally coming across the dead body of a woman buried on Tora’s land, the coroner claims that she’s been dead for hundreds of years, but has been preserved in the ground. Tora calls bullshit and, after some digging around, finds a correlation between the dead woman and the rituals of an old cult. With only Sergeant Dana Tulloch (Joanne Crawford) on her side, Tora digs deeper and deeper for the truth that the town has long kept secret.

“Sacrifice” is too on the nose with the fact that it’s an American coming into a small Scottish town and being the fishy foreigner trying to bring down a long-held institution. “I don’t have an accent,” says Tora. “Spoken like a true American,” replies Duncan. And that’s as far as the acknowledgement goes in regards to that.

Besides this little quibble,the film does have a few strong moments, mostly in that it isn’t too over-the-top in its thrills. There are just enough twists and turns to keep it entertaining enough. Radha Mitchell and Joanne Crawford are the sole characters interesting enough to warrant watching. It’s nice to see female solidarity when facing a cult who is intolerable to women, using them as mere baby vessels before tossing them away.

Having said that, about halfway through the film, the plot begins to wind down and the mystery wanes. The film peaks too early and by the time the thrills really start to take hold in the third act, there isn’t enough buildup to keep the momentum going. There also isn’t enough interaction between Mitchell and Rupert Graves who, outside of a couple of scenes, isn’t very active in the plot until the end and by that point, it’s too late for him or his actions to be redeemed.

“Sacrifice” is mediocre and has its strengths, but it’s not enough to make the finale’s impact stick. There is the usual creepy factor that involves cults and sacrifice, locked doors, and a few chases, but it’s far too tame in its execution.


Halfway through "Sacrifice," the plot begins to wind down and the mystery wanes. The film peaks too early and by the time the thrills really start to take hold in the third act, there isn't enough buildup to keep the momentum going.



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I'm a Washington, DC-based film critic and entertainment journalist. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), I'm a geek who loves talking about movies and TV. If I'm not at the movies, I'm catching up on my TV watching with a glass of wine in hand.

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