In film criticism, it’s very important not to judge a film based on the first five minutes. Case in point, British pagan horror Sacrilege. Starting with a forbidding aerial drone shot of lush greenery lead to a small country house where a man erupts into flames until his face burns into mushy goo might have you thinking this is going to be a throw-back grind house style sleeve fest. This is wrong.
What David Creed’s horror wants to be is part The Decent with a dash of The Wicker Man thrown in, the only issue is that his screenplay is woefully written, bordering on unperformable. Creed sets up the four friends – Kayla (Tamaryn Payne), Trish (Emily Wyatt), Blake (Sian Abrahams) and Stacey (Naomi Willow) – with a view to some conflict. There’s an emotional rift between Kayla and Trish due in part to their long standing romantic connection that Stacey feels wary of.
The whole film has the feel of porn, the visual language of the film is flat, and at times the acting is almost entirely populated by the sort of stilted performances that come from films made solely for adult eyes. An early scene in a club with low techno music feels like something only thirteen year old boys would see if they knew the right channels.
Afterwards it falls into fairly trite melodramatic stuff, scenes of conversations look and feel like Hollyoaks, complete with not-quite connected romance. Despite the efforts of the four main actresses, none of them have chemistry which makes their friendship hard to buy into, making the horror of the second half all the more difficult to get invested in.
Nearly every other scene puts the actresses in their underwear, skin-tight lycra or swimming suits, and eventually one scene just gives up the ghost and becomes soft-core pornography for three minutes.
It’s not entirely the cast’s fault, especially when some of the deaths are ended with ropey CGI blood splatter. One death seems to call to mind Hot Fuzz but plays it dead straight making it all the funnier. Naomi Willow manages to get away with her role for the most part, holding the screen whenever she’s on it. She has the look and feel of someone who can command attention and given better material would probably shine.
By the time the true pagan horror kicks in, there’s very little to be scared of. In a time when Ben Wheatley is making low-budget pagan horror that boggles the senses, this sort of just stands at the corners of weird and opts for soap opera dialogue mixed with so-so jump moments. The ideas are there but nothing else.
Sacrilege will be available for digital download on September 27th.