Movie Review: ‘Sacrifice’ A Beautifully Shot And Tautly Paced Thriller, That Gave Up On Itself

The only reference to a Shetland that I had been familiar with before watching this particular yarn, was of the small in stature, Shetland Ponies. It turns out that the ponies, originally hailed from the Shetland Isles of North Eastern Scotland, where our story takes place.

“Sacrifice” was originally the brainchild of Author, Sharon Bolton and was brought to the screen by a team of Irish producers, an English writer-director and a former Australian TV actress. This thriller got off to a solid start; set against the backdrop of the beautiful yet haunting Shetland Islands while utilizing a supposed Norse fairy tale the Scots use to scare their children into submission.

This fairy tale spoke of a group of monstrous superhuman beings called the “Kunal Trow,” that has been written off by most of the isles inhabitants as legend. Our heroin, Dr. Torah Hamilton played by Australian actress, Radha Mitchell(Silent Hill film series) is an OBGYN that interestingly enough has had a painful string of miscarriages. After her last one, she and her husband, Duncan played by well known British actor Rupert Graves, move out to the remote Shetland Islands where her husbands family lives. Duncan’s father is a well-respected Gynecologist on the small, tight knit island.

The plan is to live and work on the island while waiting out the archaic Scottish adoption process. On her first day, Torah is about to leave for work when she finds one of the horses on the property has died. Inexplicably she decides to use the nearby backhoe to dig a large grave on the property for the horse.

Now as a screenwriter, I understand that you need to come up with plot points to push your story along, but having a woman that is dressed nicely for work, decide to hop on a large piece of dirty construction equipment to dig a grave for a horse that hasn’t even been established is hers, on a property that she is not necessarily in full possession of, at least at this point in the story that facilitates her finding a dead body in said grave… is a pretty large narrative stretch.

Now that our heroin has discovered this body the story heats up and becomes interesting. The body of a young woman of childbearing age is found with her heart roughly carved out and ancient Rune symbols carved into her back. This is where the story really captured my attention. My wife dabbles in ancient Norse religions, so when I hear the word Rune and saw that it was an integral part of the narrative I was intrigued.

While the headstrong American doctor refuses to give up her search for the identity of the Jane Doe found on her property, the islands elite, along with the head of the constabulary, stonewall her at every turn. Not only does Dr. Hamilton find a body with ancient carvings gruesomely dug into it, but her own home has Runic symbols carved into the wood of her basement. This fuels her curiosity into a full-blown obsession.

Our tale continues to move along with suspense and intrigue as every male on the island seems to be part of this shadowy conspiracy, even her own father-in-law and husband! By midway she has uncovered an ancient myth come to life.

The story and pacing are wonderful and I can’t say enough about David Grennan’s cinematography. The north of Scotland, like much of the U.K. is filled with fog and dreary grey tones and that alone added to the mystery of the film, but the interior scenes were filled with rich wood tones and brilliantly placed shadows. Most viewers may not notice this, but they will surely notice the absence of it!

At this part of the cinematic experience, I am hooked. I want to watch our fearless heroin rip the cover off this rarely used set piece consisting of an ancient and murderous cabal, the very real pain that lack of conception brings combined with the confusion and frustration adoption can bring.

I will give the filmmakers credit, they brought me to the brink, and kept me interested and salivating all the way up until the last ten minutes of the flick, and then frustratingly just gave up and thumb tacked on a very unsatisfying and trite denouement. All in all, you will be a better and more interesting carbon based life form, if you choose to spend 91 minutes drinking in this enjoyable piece of storytelling. Then do yourself a favor and Google; Runes and the Kunal Trow. You will then enjoy the film even more with this backstory, as this film does what I believe movies should do, broaden your horizons and make you think.

Jonathan Chauser

Jonathan Chauser

Jonathan Chauser is a Writer/Director hailing from Long Beach, CA. He studied Filmmaking at Long Beach City College. Independent filmmaking has been his passion all of his life. In past lives Jonathan was a Radio Broadcaster working in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and New Hampshire. Jonathan owned and operated a long haul trucking business in the mid 2000's. Jonathan has lived or spent time in all 50 states and he believes that these many experiences have made him a better writer and storyteller. Indie, character driven black comedies and psychological thrillers are his favorite film genres. In October of 2012, Jonathan moved his family to Dallas/Ft. Worth to be closer to his 12 year old son, Bailey. Jonathan is excited to become a part of Texas' storied Independent filmmaking community. His brand of storytelling is more character driven and lends itself to the independent spirit of Texas.
Jonathan Chauser
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  1. March 4, 2017
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