Sacrifice — a review

Nancy Drew, eat yer heart out....

Nancy Drew, eat yer heart out….

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.

Oh, this space is taken? Excuse me....

Oh, this space is taken? Excuse me….

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

Tiger House –a review

Looks like this lazy Sunday morning has come to an abrupt end!

Looks like this lazy Sunday morning has come to an abrupt end!

In Tiger House, young Kelly (Kaya Scodelario, who’s better known from the Maze Runner series), worried that her boyfriend Callum (Ed Skrien) might have dumped her, sneaks into the spacious home that Callum shares with his mother and stepfather one night. After meeting up with Callum in his bedroom, it turns out that Kelly’s fears were for naught, for Callum is still very much in love with her–he’s just had his cell phone taken from him by his parents for an infraction that he committed, that’s all. Kelly, happy that all is well with her relationship, spends the night with her boyfriend.

But on this very same night, a bunch of crooks break into the house by drugging and then killing the dog. (Note: if you’re going to have a dog, it would be best for all involved (including the dog) to keep him/her in the house with you). They take Callum and his family hostage, tying up the boy and his mother in the master bedroom, while Callum’s stepdad is forced to take a group of them into work with him tomorrow to allow them to rob the depot where he works at.

Whoa! Excuse me while I...uh...go get help. Yeah, that's what I'll do, I' get help! You two just stay there, don't go anywhere, and I'll be back!

Whoa! Excuse me while I…uh…go get help. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do, I’ll…um…go get help! You two just stay there, don’t go anywhere, and I’ll be right back!

Neither the crooks or Callum’s parents know that Kelly is there, setting the stage for a nice cat and mouse thriller between her and the bad guys. The problem is that Tiger House stumbles over its own feet almost right out of the gate and falls flat on its face. The first problem is that Kelly finds herself trapped under a bed, lying right above her is Shane, the leader of the bad guys (Dougray Scott, who’s wasted here), who was injured in a fight with Callum. Kelly spends way too much time under the bed, and at one point I wondered if she was going to be stuck under there for the entire film. She finally gets out, but that’s not the end of the problems.

Way too much takes place off screen. From the fight that Callum has with Shane to the heist at the depot, we either hear about it afterwards, or listen in on it over a phone. It would be nice to actually SEE some of these important events. And the tone of the film also changes weirdly towards the end: it starts out with a high school kid trapped in a house with a band of killers, and it ends with with Kelly practically swearing vengeance against one of the bad guys and then brutally taking him down and killing him. What happened to the shy high school kid and when did she become the daughter of Rambo? While I enjoy a good cinematic cat and mouse chase every now and then, it’s probably best to stay out of Tiger House. –SF