Eye For Film >> Movies >> Sacrilege (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Is there somebody in the British Film Council with a personal grudge against someone in VisitEngland? It keeps on supporting independent folk horror films like this one and they all send the same message: don't go to England. At least not to the rural bits. Especially the bits with lots of trees. And if you do go then do not, under any circumstances, accept friendly invitations to party from among the otherwise surly locals.
Kayla (Tamaryn Payne), Trish (Emily Wyatt), Blake (Sian Abrahams) and Stacey (Naomi Willow) are four friends looking to get away from it all in a quiet rural house (described as ‘remote’, though in England it’s pretty much impossible for an able-bodied person to be more than two days’ walk from a town). They don’t all get along – until recently the former two were a couple, and they didn’t exactly part on amicable terms. None of them has the least idea how to deal with conflict, however, so they manage by keeping communication strictly superficial, and consuming drugs and alcohol as often as possible.
For the middle of nowhere, it’s pretty busy. there’s a surly, silent groundskeeper (Rory Wilton) skulking about and a Pagan priest (Ian Champion) conducting ceremonies in a nearby glade. Before long, they’ve been invited to the party, sitting through some boring waffle about sacrifices in the hope of getting free drugs. They giggle at the skull-faced idol and don’t take in any of the important stuff that horror fans will see coming a mile away. Then comes the daring bit, where everybody starts shedding clothing and leaping around, except there’s no actual sex and underwear stays on because this isn’t that sort of film. You know, the type to actually commit to an idea.
The same coy attitude persists in subsequent scenes. During the hours that it takes them to realise they’re in serious trouble, the women lounge around the house like lingerie models in a variety of unlikely poses. There’s an extremely circumspect nude swimming scene and sex scene. The horror, when it comes, veers in the other direction. Special effects are something this creative team knows it can do competently, so it throws in a couple of gory death scenes which, partly due to the contrast, still look extremely silly. The acting, for the most part, is of the low budget soap opera variety, the characters are underdeveloped, and the flat lighting does nothing to bring out character. This is, in a way, the film’s saving grace, because it helps it score some points as an unwitting comedy where it fails on other levels.
It’s all a bit of a disappointment after a strong opening which makes good use of music and a nice slow aerial shot before delivering an effective bit of stunt work. If the film stopped five minutes in, it would make a much better impression. Credit should go to Payne, however, who soldiers on bravely trying to add some substance to derivative lines. The editing and sound recording are also decent despite the challenges of low budget work. As far as scares go, however, it will horrify you for all the wrong reasons. This is folk horror by numbers and it still paints a dismal picture.Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2021