The Sacrifice Game (2023) Movie Review – The devil takes over Christmas

The devil takes over Christmas

This weekend saw the release of The Sacrifice Game over on Shudder. Holiday horror has been quite prominent this time of year with films like It’s a Wonderful Knife, Thanksgiving, and XXX-Mas (and many of the classics that are due for a rewatch).

Jenn Wexler’s directorial effort takes place during Christmas break in the early 1970’s at a boarding school. All the students have left, with the exception of two girls and a younger teacher who stays behind to watch them. A group of serial killers who are making headlines have made their way to the school. They plan to cap off their batch of satanic killings on the remaining students, but they’re met with massive consequences.

The Sacrifice Game establishes its villains in the opening scene with their brutal murders, which feel in the same vein as the Manson murders. They’re known as the Christmas Killers as they have been striking during the holidays and have yet to be caught.

Their journey is paralleled by us getting to know the students who stay behind on Christmas break. Clara (played by Georgia Acken) and Samantha (Madison Baines). It’s very clear that Clara is a bit of an outcast, but we think that’s just another horror movie trope that we’ve seen millions of times now.

The Christmas Killers are skinning their victims in hopes of reaching a climactic kill that will summon a demon. As they find their stopping point at the boarding school, they think the victims there will indeed assist them in doing just that. But Wexler’s direction of the movie takes us away from what would be another snore of an indie horror film and twists us down a fun, dark third act that makes us regret even thinking about clicking off this movie on Shudder and just going back to another yearly watch of the original Black Christmas.

For its tone and plot alone, The Sacrifice Game feels dark and dreadful. A home invasion film of sorts where the victims seem helpless and alone. Some of the performances, though, do feel like they are missing the mark. Some of the evildoers in this film have just plain old annoying performances as well as character traits.

Yet, by the time we reach the third act, the real demonic force in all of this film comes to the surface. You forgive a bit of the lackluster dialogue. Take for example, the man killer Jude (Mena Massoud), who is the arrogant leader of the pack of four killers. He’s handsome and hypersexual as he pursues Maisie (Olivia Scott Welch), the woman in the group who has a connection to the boarding school. His arrogance has a cringey feel to it, but when he goes from predator to prey, you’re almost happy you judged his performance that way, because now you want him to get his.

What could be perceived as something that hurts the film is that it takes place in the early 1970’s. But nothing about this movie, besides some wardrobe and music on a record player, makes it feel like that era. The two leads, although great once the film really gets going, look like teenagers of this era of the 2020’s.

Nothing about the boarding school feels lived in like most places like that from that era. Does it hurt the movie? Yeah. Does it also have something to do with potential budgetary constraints on an indie horror film? Maybe yeah to that.

Either way, The Sacrifice Game’s twists and turns in its 99 minutes have some splendid payoffs that are a welcome sight. Otherwise, this would have ended up as another mediocre horror film that falls into the sea of content on Shudder. A lot of its flaws can be forgiven as it ramps up a tense, third act full of hypnotic satanic panic, perfect if you want something a bit different during the Christmas season.

 

Read More: The Sacrifice Game Ending Explained


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  • Verdict - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
6.5/10

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