There’s nothing like a girl’s weekend among friends to help truly unwind from a busy or stressful experience. A little peace, a little quiet, a little dancing in a pagan ritual on the solstice…you know, girl stuff...
...Writer-director David Creed’s newest offering, Sacrilege, is a tense, strange tale of a group of friends who escape to a secluded house deep in the woods of Mabon Village for a weekend of bonding and relaxation. Kayla (Tamaryn Payne) has just found out—from her ex-girlfriend Trish (Emily Wyatt)—that the man who assaulted her is free from prison. In a moment of nervous spontaneity Kayla convinces Trish and the rest of her friends to run away together for a weekend and lose themselves in as many forms of mind-numbing debauchery as they used to. On the way to their destination, they pick up hitchhiker Vinnie (Jon Glasgow) who tells them of a pagan festival celebration happening that night in the village. Now, there are many things we all know never to do in horror movies, but fairly high up on the list has to be picking up hitchhikers and uttering the words “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Fortunately, even if Vinnie seems to be making a fairly harmless suggestion, Blake (Sian Abrahams) shuts down his offer to show them to the party by telling him it’s a girls-only weekend and if they want to find their way there, they will. He’s not the best at listening, though, and shows up at the house they’re staying in to escort them.
Once there, they show a frankly surprising amount of respect for the people of Mabon Village’s solstice ritual, even going so far as to participate by writing down their actual worst fears and tossing them into the fire as they are instructed. They do not realize, of course, that this ritual is far more sinister than dancing and “the best hooch and weed you’ve ever tried”, even when one of the townsfolk breaks away to warn two of them to run. What follows is a weekend of hallucinations, panic, and a fight for their lives.
While it does not always go full throttle on its ideas, there’s a lot in Sacrilege that is interesting enough to keep you watching. For one, even though there are sinister men on the fringes of the action, they are little more than pawns in a showdown between the women and the Goddess Mabon. Mabon has learned each of their worst fears from the fire ritual and manifests them as a way to get each of the women to bring about their own demise, accidentally or otherwise. Kayla’s is, perhaps obviously, the most threatening—she is afraid of her abuser Tyler (David English) finding her—but we can tell that each woman is genuinely terrified by their respective phobias. Even Stacey (Naomi Willows), who’s deepest fear seems to be aging, is convincing in her panic.
Perhaps the most surprising element is how unapologetically queer Sacrilege is. Virtually from the beginning we learn Kayla and Trish have a history together—a fact given to us in a club absolutely awash in bisexual lighting. From then on, Trish and Kayla seem to be the most fully fleshed out characters in the film. While Blake and Stacey are there as supportive friends who remain on their guard any time Trish enters a room, we don’t know much about them beyond their protective instincts toward Kayla. We learn their fears, of course, but nothing much about their lives. They’re painted in the broadest of strokes while Kayla and Trish are given far more detailed attention. I’m not sure exactly how much of that was intentional, but it was nice to see all the same. Plus, not to give too much away, but you can rest assured the “bury your gays” trope has no place in Creed’s film.
Sacrilege is beautifully shot and when Sarah Smithers’ cinematography and Scott McGinness’s score are given space to work together in some of the film’s tenser moments, it’s easy to find yourself pulled that much deeper into the story. In fact, the only moment that felt lacking enough to be a bit of a disappointment was the ending. At a sharp 83-minute runtime, it felt like the story needed a few more minutes to really have an impact. As it stands, the ending we are given takes a bit of the sharpness out of everything we’d been led to believe would make for a supernatural showdown. The point the film is trying to make succeeds in getting there, but I can’t help but feel it could have used a bit more bite. Despite this, Sacrilege is worth an evening’s rent if cult-filled villages and solstice rituals are up your alley. Just remember you cannot always trust the things you see.
Sacrilege comes to VOD/DVD from Devilworks on March 16th.
By Katelyn Nelson
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