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Arrow Video FrightFest 2020 Reviews: Sacrifice and The Banishing

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The October digital edition of Arrow Video FrightFest 2020 continued with the world premiere of Sacrifice, starring Queen of FrightFest Barbara Crampton, and the UK premiere of The Banishing – the latest film from Severance director Chris Smith.

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SACRIFICE

Originally titled The Colour of Madness and presumably changed to avoid confusion with Color Out of Space (we’ll get to why), Sacrifice is written and directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian (Charismata) and stars Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Sophie Stevens (The Haunted) and Ludovic Hughes (Ride).

Pregnant Emma (Stevens) and her husband Isaac (Hughes) travel to a small isolated Norwegian island to collect on Isaac’s inheritance. The island has stunning vistas and is all misty mountains surrounding a crystalline lake. The island also has a creepy cult – led by Barbara Crampton’s Renate – who worship ‘The Slumbering One’, a Cthulhu-esque god that sleeps beneath the waters.

Egged on by Crampton’s sublimely sinister Renate, Isaac gets sucked in, begins to partake in the rituals and wants to stay on the island for good, but Emma has been spooked by recurring nightmares about what lies in the deep and wants out.

Barbara Crampton brings a ton of class and production value to the film with her icy and enticing Norwegian cop cum cult leader and Sophie Stevens shines as a woman cut off who can only stand by as her husband is brainwashed and assimilated. Ludovic Hughes somehow manages to do this in a convincingly gradual natural way that feels earned and not like a sudden snap.

Collier and Mian whip up an odd and unsettling atmosphere and keep things grounded and interesting. The cult has lots of rituals and totems and rights and they all spark the imagination and fight or flight response in equal measure. 

The particularly Lovecraft-y happenings get bathed in the same pinky purple as Color Out of Space and soaked in a dread-inducing tonal score from Tom Linden, and while not having the mind-scrambling gore effects of Stanley’s film, Sacrifice features some freaky peeks into the madness and a fucked up bathtub scene.

To anyone with a vague knowledge of HP Lovecraft and The Wicker Man it is completely clear fairly early on how this is all going to shake out but Cthulhu fans will get their kicks and even knowing the destination the ride is well worth taking. Sacrifice is a predictable but ominous and gorgeous Lovecraftian folk horror with great mythology.

Sacrifice does not currently have a UK release date.

 

THE BANISHING

The Banishing is directed by Christopher Smith (Triangle), written by David Beton, Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines (The Hatton Garden Job) and stars Jessica Brown Findlay (Harlots), Sean Harris (Possum), John Lynch (The Secret Garden) and John Heffernan (the recent TV version of Dracula).

On the cusp of World War 2, following the death – or disappearance depending on who you talk to – of the previous reverend, fresh vicar Linus (Heffernan) moves to a new parish with his wife Marianne (Brown Findlay) and daughter. With the gig comes a massive old house that was built on the ruins of a monastery that once belonged to an order of pain-worshipping monks.

It isn’t long before the family are seeing terrifying visions and hearing whispers as the house gets in their heads, pushing an already pent-up Linus towards the edge and terrifying Marianne. They seek external help but Linus’s boss Malachi (Lynch) insists nothing is wrong and is keen for them to stay, so Marianne turns to Harry Price (Harris) – a strange local doomsayer with knowledge of the house and a dislike of the church.

Sean Harris frankly steals the show. His character’s mop of curly red hair, loud clothes and dancing of a mean tango make him nearly pop off the screen, and his no-nonsense attitude, smirking religious rebellion and rumble up a gravel driveway voice making him eminently likeable and welcome respite from the tightly buttoned-up world Smith creates and plonks him into.

Heffernan is good as a pitiful soul who always seems weak and about to break, tormented by what he imagines his wife could have done or may be doing right now and desperate to impress his Malachi and his new congregation, while Findlay is a fine lead – engaging and charming as ever.

Smith is no stranger to the horror genre but hasn’t done a haunted house until now. He does not put a foot wrong, using the house’s architecture and careful camerawork to create fear and jumps as well as being enjoyably playful with mirrors, time and reality in places too.

The setting and historical placement add something new and interesting to the film. The threat of war and fascism, the underlying racism and classism giving familiar elements new layers and meaning and sending the protagonists in already tired and frightened because of the world around them even before anything supernatural occurs.

The Banishing is an effective, intense and atmospheric spine-chiller with big jumps and a magnetic performance from Sean Harris.

The Banishing does not currently have a UK release date.

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