One of my favorite actresses, Radha Mitchell, stars here as Tora Hamilton, a prominent New York City doctor who moves to a tiny island off the Scottish coast with her husband so they can adopt a baby. Thanks to the local laws, they have to live on the island for twelve months before they can adopt. When one of their horses drops dead on their property, Tora uses a backhoe to dig a grave for it. But it turns out the grave is already in use. Tora discovers a human body has already been buried in the peat bog. It’s the body of a young woman who has been savagely killed in what appears to be a ritualistic ceremony.
After she calls in the local cops, they reassure Tora that this body is probably several hundred years old, despite it still looking fresh. The peat bog has a way of preserving bodies buried within it for centuries. However, Tora uncovers evidence that shows that not only was this woman killed more recently, like two or three years ago, but that she might have been a woman who had gone missing on the island. But the fact that she was slaughtered just a few years ago raises the unsettling notion that somebody is still performing human sacrifice to this very day.
Despite its horror movie trappings, Sacrifice is mainly a thriller. It’s a boarder line police procedural, with the main character a spunky doctor who refuses to just let things lie by conducting her own investigation. At times this feels a little silly–when it becomes clear that she might be facing a conspiracy, instead of wisely backing off, Tora just keeps plowing right on, making one wonder if she has a death wish, especially after she’s been threatened by a shadowy figure at the hospital where she works. The smart move would be to leave the island and call the police on the mainland.
But if she did that, then the movie would have been only forty five minutes long. Sacrifice isn’t very cinematic–at least not in the sense that the story is told visually, but verbally, in exposition-heavy conversation scenes. At times it feels more like a TV movie, almost like an offering that would be seen on the Lifetime Channel. Still, Radha Mitchell manages to outshine the material here; her performance is steadfast and sympathetic, and she kept me glued to the screen, caring about what will happen to her next, for all of the film’s running time. If you’re looking for a mild but fun thriller with a strong female lead, you can’t go wrong with this. –SF