Uneven Performances & Poor Dialogue Color The Horror Experience

Summary

  • The Sacrifice Game starts strong but falls short of its promise. Average for Shudder, but a slog for newcomers.
  • Stylish with solid production value, but performances are hit or miss. The cast tries to make campy horror work.
  • The film has the potential to be cool and eerie, but is lacking in other areas.


Jenn Wexler’s latest effort, The Sacrifice Game starts strong but never lives up to the promise of its opening scene. She co-wrote the film with Sean Redlitz, and the result is an average film for Shudder, but a slog for those unfamiliar with the streamer’s film slate. The production value is solid but doesn’t elevate the film. However, the costumes and music do a lot to make The Sacrifice Game stylish, if nothing else. Like many projects with children at the center, the performances can be hit or miss. Here, the cast is working within the confines of the script to make a campy and grotesque horror film. The Sacrifice Game is nothing special, but it might get the job done for die-hard Shudder fans.

It’s Christmas Eve at the prestigious Blackvale School for Girls, and the boarding school students are going home for the holidays — except for the two girls who have nowhere to call home. Samantha (Madison Baines) and Clara (Georgia Acken) don’t get along at first and Samantha is reluctant to share her past trauma. Eventually, the girls bond and find a way to enjoy each other’s company alongside their teacher and chaperone Rose (Chloë Levine). As the girls of Blackvale find their footing, they try their best not to think about the grizzly murders happening in town. A traveling crew of zealots has been murdering residents and painting a demonic symbol at the scene of the crime. After a shootout with the police, they come across Blackvale in hopes of mending their wounds. Though Rose is reluctant at first, she lets them in and administers first aid. But the killers have something else on their mind. It soon becomes clear they chose Blackvale for more than just the bandages.

a woman stands bathed in red light in the sacrifice game

The Sacrifice Game has all the makings of a cheesy horror flick, but has a few elements that give it a little more juice. The film is set in 1971 and the music and costumes work in tandem with the period. The music is awesome, and every rock track brings an air of authenticity to the period while also adding a flair similar films cannot achieve. There are no overindulgent references to the 70s, though, and most of the film takes place in one night. That simplicity makes all the smaller details and filmmaking choices stand out even more. The burgundy leather jacket that Aladdin star Mena Massoud dons is gorgeous and his slicked-back hair suits the era. The white top Levine wears is elegant and classy, but is also a statement piece that harkens back to classic horror films. There is a lot to critique in The Sacrifice Game, but the overall style is not on that list.

Every rock track brings an air of authenticity to the period while also adding a flair similar films cannot achieve.

The performances, however, are on the list. They’re frankly all over the place. Baines and Acken are ostensibly the leads, but as the film progresses, they share duties with their adult counterparts. As young actresses, they do a solid job but cannot carry the movie on their own. Fans of The Defenders will recognize Levine. She is certainly pulling her own weight, but the script gives her little agency considering how central she is to the plot. And then there’s Massoud. From one scene to another, he fluctuates between being the best part of the movie and the worst.

mena massoud in the sacrifice game

In his defense, there are moments where he tries to make the most out of lines that are either poorly written or do not require the gravitas he is putting forth. At the same time, he never commits to any one style of performance. He is often overacting in a way that implies he gets the assignment more than anyone else and is leaning into the camp of the project. On the other hand, some of his line deliveries imply an Oscar-worthy monologue. At the end of the day, both he and Wexler share blame for an uneven performance.

The Sacrifice Game will not wow you. The twist is not foreshadowed, but you’re able to figure it out if you’re paying close enough attention. The plot of the movie works, but the dialogue definitely does not. The style is fine, but the tone is lacking. The Sacrifice Game is a film with the potential to be something cool and eerie, but the final product doesn’t live up to that.

The Sacrifice Game is now streaming on Shudder. The film is 90 minutes long and unrated.

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