By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Tamaryn Payne, Emily Wyatt, Sian Abrahams and Naomi Willow
Written and Directed by David Creed
Most of us can agree that cults are weird, and the people that don’t agree tend to be cult members, although if you ask them, they’ll probably self-identify as spiritual free thinkers with an affinity for sweatsuits. Our innate fear of cults, of groups that unthinkingly believe in something fundamentally wrong, has manifested in some truly great films, from classics like The Wicker Man to the more recent and divisive Midsommar. Now imagine those films that take a surreal approach to immersing innocent outsiders into a world of manufactured truths, hidden symbolisms and unfathomable rituals, but drain them of any charm, take a script about a (laughably small) group of people worshipping a lackluster wooden totem, and hope that the rest of the film just kind of falls into place. And there you have SACRILEGE.
Before we get into the synopsis, can we talk about that fucking poster?! That looks like a Russian knockoff of Dark Phoenix posing in front of Captain America’s shield, which I assure you, has nothing to do with this film. And can I further ask if that’s a CGI person? Those eyes look like they’d be more in place in a Final Fantasy game, not warning viewers of some evil English cult. Could they not afford to hire a model to pose for the poster? In fact, wouldn’t a quick photo of literally any one of the lead actresses (since this digital dame doesn’t appear anywhere in the film) have cost less than whatever this middle-of-the-road creation is? If this is supposed to be the deity the cult worships, that is not properly conveyed in the film, since all we see is a loose pile of antlers used as an effigy, not some pyrokinetic ember woman, which would have been kinda rad.
Speaking of pyrokinesis, the film opens with some rando running out of a cottage, trying to get away from some unseen assailant. Struggling to open his car door, he spontaneously combusts, and dies on his way to a fountain, unable to douse the flames consuming his flesh. This is a disproportionately cool beginning to the film, and this guy will not be integral to the rest of the plot. Smash cut to Kayla (Tamaryn Payne) who is the middle of her cult-less life, enjoying her days as a successful businesswoman. Suddenly, she receives news that an abusive, stalker ex is being released from prison, so she decides to unwind with her three best friends, Trish, Blake and Stacey (Emily Wyatt, Sian Abrahams and Naomi Willow.) They decide to go up to a cottage, and if you guessed it was the same one that the human torch escaped from at the beginning of the film, you win the prize of me warning you away from this film.
While at the cottage, they find a grow house nearby, steal some joints, and get high on someone else’s supply. After a fun montage of stilted dialogue and vaguely fun looking hangouts, they decide to drop in on a local pagan ceremony, which is totally not a dickhead tourist thing to do. The festival consists of a wild-eyed scenery chewing priest making ominous pledges to that earlier mentioned pile of antlers, while offering the whole crowd cookies, liquor and weed, which is actually a pretty great way to offset the overall spooky mood. Some of the girls break of from their clique to join the pagan cult’s dancing, and the two wallflowers receive a warning to escape while they still can. This is a warning the audience should heed as well.
I’m going to spoil the ending of the film in this paragraph, because a synopsis of a film this short is hard to do without talking about the abrupt ending. The girls begin dying from misadventures due to these hallucinations by falling on things or running into things. Eventually, it is down to Kayla and her favorite friend, who just drank bleach in a fit of “what nerds think hallucinogenic drugs make people do” thinking. Seriously, the one reactionary missing trope is putting a baby in the oven. Kayla must get her bleach guzzling gal pal to a doctor, but oh no, the cult is here blocking their path! And one of the cult members unmasks to reveal Kayla’s abusive ex! That’s shocking. The cult watches on as Kayla and her ex have a bloody fistfight, until Kayla tells him she is no longer afraid of him, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s the last thing he wanted to hear cuz he’s just a goddamn hallucination. Don’t think about this too much, because you might realize that this means the cult watched on as Kayla wrassled an invisible foe, while doing nothing. After defeating her personal Tyler Durden, Kayla fires a flare gun at the pile of antlers effigy (I guess the cult dragged it to the road so it could watch?) and that does the trick of defeating the cult.
The argument for a need of more women writers and directors has never had a better poster child than SACRILEGE. Writer and Director David Creed chose to appropriate the topic of abuse and manipulate it into being a vehicle for his mediocre cult slasher, which you should stay far away from, even if it kills you.
Catch SACRILEGE on DVD and Digital Beginning March 16th from Devilworks