Sacrifice (2016): Slow Moving Thriller (Review)

Rafa Mitchell in Sacrifice

Based on SJ Bolton’s debut novel  of the same name Sacrifice was directed by Peter A. Dowling (who also wrote the screenplay) and stars Radha Mitchell and Rupert Graves. It is a slow moving thriller set on a small island community in Shetland, Scotland.  

Filmed, in part, in Ireland and Shetland the movie is part The Wicker Man, part The Stepford Wives and part gothic fiction.  Mitchell plays Dr. Tora Hamilton an American woman whose body has rejected three pregnancies.

After the last spontaneous miscarriage she and her husband Duncan return to his familial home on the small Shetland island of Unst.  The couple are made welcome and she starts working at a local hospital.

Burying a dead horse on their property, Tara discovers what is initially thought to be a “peat body.” The preserved corpse of a woman with runes on her body and the heart cut from her chest. The corpse shows that the woman gave birth before dying. Tara is more than a little intrigued.

She believes that the victim is not from hundreds of years ago but is a woman murdered quite recently.

The only other person on the island who believes Tara is justified in her belief is policewoman Sergeant Dana Tulloch (Joanne Crawford).  The doctor has an uphill battle as she struggles to find out who the victim really is and who killed her. 

Sacrifice is very slow paced. It has only one brief car chase and there is not a huge onscreen body count. This is a mystery thriller which relies on old fashioned detective work from the American doctor who Nancy Drew’s her way through the film.

At its core this is an armchair mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie but with a protagonist that is more learned than Miss Marple yet not as astute as Hercule Poirot. The amateur detective does follow her hunches however and finally sorts out the truth.

Sacrifice could also be seen as a cautionary tale. Do not marry foreigners who come from small islands in Scotland could be the underlying theme. It is interesting to note that all the characters have very soft Scottish accents and are quite easy to understand.

As thrillers go the film is interesting and has some tense moments. The storyline was interesting enough that one wanted to learn the truth along with Tara.  If there is any fault to be found, outside the almost excruciatingly slow pace, would be the lighting at the film’s climax. It really was too dark.

Mitchell, as usual, was on point as the American doctor trying to get past three miscarriages and solve a mystery.  Graves was also spot on as the loving husband with a secret.

The entire cast was full of performers with splendid bona fides. David Robb and  Ian McElhinney were but two of the actors with a long list of credits to their names. 

The movie  may have come unstuck with its choice of location, using a real place versus a fictional version of same, but it all looks good to those not familiar with the area.

Sacrifice is a solid 3.5 stars.  It offered enough mystery to keep things going but lacked any real fire. For those who like a little adrenaline in their thrillers, will be disappointed.  Check out the trailer and see what you think.

The film is currently streaming on Netflix.

Silent Hill Revelation 3D (2012): by Michael Smith

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I missed the 3D version of this film when it came out at the cinema. Which is a shame, as I think it would have looked even better than the 2D that I had to download via iTunes. Despite the lack of the 3D it was a surprisingly good sequel.

Written and directed by Michael J Bassett (he helmed the superb films Deathwatch and Wilderness) Silent Hill Revelation follows in the footsteps of the first Silent Hill film.

In this film, we get to see Heather and her father Harry as they come to another “new town” and new school for Heather. They’ve been on the run since the first film. Mum Rose is trapped in the netherworld of Silent Hill and we are treated to a flashback where Harry promises Rose that he’ll protect their daughter.

On Heather’s first day of school, everything goes disastrously wrong and she loses her dad, her helper, and her independence as she goes to Silent Hill to save her father.

The film has been blessed with a brilliant cast:

Adelaide Clemens
Kit Harington
Carrie-Anne Moss
Sean Bean
Radha Mitchell
Malcolm McDowell

Unfortunately all the “headliners” as it were are restricted to cameo roles, including Sean Bean who, with Carrie-Anne Moss) spend a bit more time on camera than Radha Mitchell and Malcom McDowell. *On a side note here – It was wonderful to see Ms Moss again, although admittedly I didn’t recognise her at first; starting at the screen and thinking who is that, she looks so familiar…)

Just like the first film, this edition of Silent Hill appears to have mixed several different iterations of the games together to flesh out the story. Although arguably they have really included some of the basic “sets” from each of the first three games. The fairground has been a feature of Silent Hill since the first game.

Where did this come from??
Where did this come from??

Although a tiny dream segment is spent on the “spitting” monsters (so tiny in fact it amounts to about a nano second) from the verse, more time is spent on the nurses and good old Pyramid Head (who appears to be twins in this film) with his giant killing tools and who some what amazingly appears as a Saviour at a couple of points in the film?!

Still, random character twists aside, the place looks like Silent Hill and sounds like Silent Hill. The melancholy music is present throughout (and I will unabashedly state that I love that piano riff) and the villains look like they could have stepped out of the video game. So overall, I did enjoy the film.

But.

I did have some problems with it.

Was it just me or did Adelaide Clemens look an awful lot like Arielle Kebbel? Although in one of the flashback scenes where she had brown hair, she looked more like a younger Maggie Gyllenhaal; and Kit Harington looked like David Boreanaz Junior with long hair. The fact that these two actors made me think of other people disturbed me a bit. Although nothing Clemens did convinced me that she could ever scream as good as Kebbel.

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I also don’t understand the use of Malcom McDowell. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the man. I just don’t see the reasoning behind using him in this film. Are they alluding to his recent Horror Film link in Halloween? Is this a nudge and a wink to his appearance in other horror films? I don’t know and it’s puzzling.

I was also disappointed to see that Radha Mitchell’s Rose had no more than a few seconds screen time. Not just because I adore this woman, but because I was hoping that she was going to explain how “Heather” got out of the predicament that both of them were in at the end of the previous film. Apart from the medallion device that is mentioned by Harry,Vincent and ever so briefly by Grandpa Leonard it is never satisfactorily explained. So points off for that little omission.

I do know that there will be a core of Silent Hill game fans who will detest the film just as much as they detested the first film. To them I say, plug your Silent Hill 2 in the old Playstation and enjoy that experience and stop waiting for films that are going to recreate the magic and the uniqueness that is the “old” Silent Hill verse.

Okay?

But apart from the very few things that put me off (not many really) I’d say that this gets a 4 out of 5 scary Silent Hill bunnies. Just because I’m a Silent Hill fan (of the game verse) and the fact that I love the use of the music; I’ll not take off too much for the lack of Radha Mitchell.

Scary Silent Hill Bunny!
Scary Silent Hill Bunny!

Pitch Black (2000): The Beginning of Riddick

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Pitch Black was the first film I ever “googled.” One afternoon while hunting for a new film to watch (new as in one I’d not seen before) I had a vague memory of something I’d seen on the telly. The setting was very dark and these giant “bat-like” things were flying around and killing people.

If I remember correctly, I typed the phrase ‘film with giant bats’ in the search engine and the first thing that showed up was Pitch Black with Vin Diesel. The VHS video had been out for quite a while by the time I finally got to see the entire film. When I found it, I got it from one of those Video Rental Vans that used to deliver weekly to your house.

When it came out on DVD it was one of the first films I bought. We watched it again last night. It seemed like a good idea, what with Riddick  part 3 coming out September this year. I found, to my delight, that I still enjoyed the hell out of the movie and I noticed something at the end of the film that I’d never noticed before. A nice surprise for me on top of my usual enjoyment of the story and the characters.

The Creators:

Directed by David Twohy  – who also co-wrote the screenplay with the creators of the story Jim and Ken Wheat – Pitch Black was a film that boasted a unique “anti-hero,” a cast that was equivalent to an actor’s smorgasbord of talent, and story that had a great blend of action, science fiction, and horror (or as IMDb categorises it, thriller, which I suppose it is to a huge degree).

The Story:

The spaceship Hunter-Gratzner is transporting goods and people as part of its cargo. A meteor storm causes severe damage to the ship and the pilot, Frye has to set the ship down on an uncharted planet. After jettisoning most of the cargo and passengers, the captain forces her to keep the last two sections of the ship as it crash lands. The tiny amount of survivors include a bounty hunter, two settlers, a holy man and his three sons, an antique collector/dealer, a 14 year-old-boy, Fry and the incredibly dangerous and homicidal Riddick.

The planet appears to be a barren waste. Full of desert and it features an empty mining community. With no sign of where the miners are or where they went, the group begin outfitting a smaller spaceship  to escape this alien planet with three suns. As the “law-abiding” members of the crash keep an eye out for Riddick and try to move supplies a solar eclipse cuts off all the light from all three suns.

The dark is full of death and danger and it will be the longest and last eclipse that many of them will face.

The planet before the eclipse.
The planet before the eclipse.

The Device:

The planet with three suns has an eclipse that allows carnivorous creatures access to the planet’s surface. Riddick has had his eyes “polished” by a doctor to enable him to see in the dark.

The Twist:

Riddick becomes the group’s reluctant saviour along with the pilot Frye.

The Characters:

Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David
Lewis Fitz-Gerald
Claudia Black
Rhiana Griffith
John Moore
Simon Burke
Les Chantery
Sam Sari
Firass Dirani
Ric Anderson
Vic Wilson

*Cast list courtesy of IMDb*

It has to be said that every actor in this film performs brilliantly. Whether this is down to the cachet of talent that had been cast or whether it’s down to the writing of the characters, they all shine in this film. The dialogue as written by Twohy and co is snappy, funny, and ironic. Riddick has the best lines obviously, but Frye also has her fair share of pithy remarks as well.

Out of all the characters, Riddick, Fry and Johns have the best character arcs and their interactions are a treat to behold. But one of my favourite characters was Jack, who has such a case of hero-worship for Riddick that it’s truly funny and touching. But as I said, all the actors knocked it out of the park in this intimate small cast film.

The Verdict:

For it’s time this was a kick-ass movie that entertained and kept you on the edge of your seat. The CGI on the creatures was brilliant and the whole thing was impressive in its presentation and its originality. It made  household names of Vin Diesel and Radha Mitchell and it was only Twohy’s third time at bat as a director.

A great entertaining Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror Action film that does not disappoint and one that can be watched again and again and again. I’d give it a solid 5 out of 5 stars just for having a powerful female character in Fry the pilot and for the decision to use Radha Mitchell.

Neat Fact:

Pitch Black opens with Riddick talking about cyro-stasis. Avatar opens with Jake Sully talking about cyro-stasis.

Riddick invading Frye's personal space.
Riddick invading Frye’s personal space.