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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [March 2, 2021]





[]  Four young women drive off to rural England for a holiday. They pick up a hitchhiker, who tells them about an upcoming pagan festival nearby. He suggests it will be a wild party of a time.

The women receive a warm welcome at the festival. The pagans seem to be your usual bunch of New Agey nature worshipers. They have robes, and torches, and paint colorful glyphs on people's faces. The centerpiece of the event is a wooden effigy of the goddess Mabel, complete with antlers. It's all very Wicker Man.

The pagan priest, Father Saxon (Ian Champion), tells everyone to write their fears on a piece of paper and toss it into the fire, so that the goddess Mabel will take away your fears. At that point I thought, no girls, don't do it. Don't tell this Mabel deity your fears. She'll use that against you.

I was right. A renegade pagan, Mrs. March (Emma Spurgin Hussey) later tells the women that they were the sacrificial offering to Mabel. Now Mabel will claim them, one by one, by attacking them through their fears.

That's an old horror trope. The monster who uses your fears against you. It was the conceit behind The Fear series, among others. So I suppose Sacrilege can be described as The Wicker Man meet The Fear.

Sacrilege is an okay horror film. Competent, but unexceptional. Diverting, but unoriginal. It's like so many films that came before. You have a group of horny young friends in an isolated setting. There's the usual pot smoking, drinking, and bickering. Some soft core lesbian sex. Strange local townsfolk with a secret. A creepy handyman. No cell phone signal. And some gory deaths.

These largely interchangeable women are attacked by their fears. One fears dogs. Another, bugs. The third woman fears ... I dunno, disease and old age? And the fourth is terrified of her stalker ex-boyfriend. All succumb to their fears and either die or are grievously injured. Except for the Last Girl, who overcomes her fear and survives intact.



On the plus side, the gore effects are pretty good. The death in the greenhouse is startling and well-staged. Sound and cinematography are polished. The production design (including the neo-pagan elements) is decent.

The acting is middlebrow. Not amateurish, but not outstanding. Journeyman professionals doing their jobs, some better than others,

On the down side, the body count is low. Indeed, the entire film is low on content. It's a short feature, about 74 minutes not including credits. And it feels short. The action was just revving up, events building toward a Big Confrontation ... and then the film ends. Suddenly and without resolution. Sacrilege feels empty and unfinished.


Apart from the film's abrupt ending, the pagan cult is thinly drawn. We only see the cult once at the ceremony, then a final, anti-climactic glimpse at film's end. We never learn anything about their theology. Ian Champion's Father Saxon is charismatic, but has little screen time.

For these reasons, Sacrilege is no Wicker Man. Christopher Lee was a powerful presence throughout The Wicker Man, his theology detailed and rooted in history. By contrast, Father Saxon remains a bland enigma. And who is this goddess Mabel?

Sacrilege has a theme. A trite theme, because it's so commonplace in films about fear. The lesson is: You must confront your fears and so learn not to be afraid. Once your realize that your fears are not real, that it's all in your head, the fears will disappear and you will be safe.


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