Creepy-Town Conspiracy Thriller ‘Sacrifice’ Probably Won’t Win a Cult of Its Own


There are promising ingredients in Sacrifice: Take an isolated Scottish community, ancient pagan rituals, and a dollop of Rosemary’s Baby-style maternal paranoia; whisk to combine.

Yet this watered-down throwback to The Wicker Man never really heats up. Radha Mitchell plays Tora, an American OB-GYN who, after several miscarriages, moves with her husband (Rupert Graves) to his hometown on the Shetland Islands; their plan is to adopt from a nearby orphanage. Soon after the move, Tora discovers a body buried behind their cottage; an autopsy reveals that the corpse had given birth just days before her heart was cut out and runes were carved into her back.

As Tora investigates, she begins to uncover a longstanding conspiracy of ritual murder, misogyny, and lots of clandestine adoptions. Writer-director Peter A. Dowling tips his hand so early that it’s more of a surprise when someone isn’t tied to the cabal than when they are.

The result is a competent but unexciting entry in the thriller subgenre of protagonists scowling at medical records and computer screens, connecting dot to unsavory dot. Dowling punctuates the revelations with rote chase scenes and some by-the-numbers cat-and-mouse. As a nail-biter, Sacrifice never breaks the skin.

Written and directed by Peter A. Dowling
IFC Midnight
Opens April 29, IFC Center