Pacing issues frequently overwhelm this take on folk horror.
Synopsis: Four lifelong friends head to a remote lodge for a weekend of fun. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly descends into a fight for their lives when a local Pagan cult offer them up to their Goddess as a sacrifice for the Solstice.
We find ourselves in folk horror territory, with our core four heading off into the remote unknown to let off some steam after a series of unfortunate events. Kayla (Tamaryn Payne) is not only battling with ongoing trauma after a serious attack, but also ex-girlfriend Trish (Emily Wyatt) is back on the scene. Friends Blake (Sian Abrahams) and Stacey (Naomi Willow) are set on protecting Kayla, while also hoping to get her back out of her comfort zone with a trip to the countryside.
Sacrilege is a curious film, in that it feels so deeply indebted to other horror, allowing it to play with some conventions, but in other ways uses this knowledge to do nothing more than wink at the audience. Possibly the most obvious moment of this is in the form of a letter, branded Carpenter and Craven solicitors, despite the fact that this bears no resemblance to any of those director’s works. Further to this, it suffers throughout with obviously ominous musical cues and increasingly relies on exceptionally bad decision making and short-term memory to make it function.
It does utilise some horror knowledge to decent effect. Folk horror often relies on the fear of people, their beliefs and practices, so Sacrilege‘s decision to subvert that to some degree is a welcome one, even if the marrying of those elements isn’t an entirely happy union that strains a little too much. The opening photography across the green landscape, accompanied by excellent music is a great tone setter. There is a balanced, even slow movement through proceedings that suddenly finds itself upended by an abrupt moment that showcases the film’s understanding of conventional horror beats and how to exploit that. Sometimes this pacing works against it, heading to a conclusion that feels rushed in contrast to the rest of the film.
The central cast are likeable and manage their performances well, even when given a lot of exposition to get over in a short time. The tropes they fall into are reasonably obvious from the get-go but allow for some interesting and occasionally heartfelt moments. There is a sense throughout that this is a film trying to do something different on limited resources, so it is difficult to judge it too harshly.
A piece that suffers from a little too much telegraphing and a bit of an identity crisis, Sacrilege is a capable if unremarkable slice of British, folk-tinged horror.
2.5 out of 5 stars