Movie Review: Young women under pagan assault? “Sacrilege!”

If there is a simple formula for making a movie you assume the horror audience will embrace, the British thriller “Sacrilege” lays it bare for all to see.

“Bare” as in nudity — discrete, teasing and of course female. And gay. Skinny dipping, makeup sex, that sort of thing.

It’s got nubile lesbians isolated and under attack in the British countryside in the Lands Where You Get No Cell Signal.

There’s a pagan cult because of course there is, a festival celebrating a veritable “Wicker Man,” this time with antlers and a deer’s skull. Well, it’s not exactly wicker — more weeds and twigs and such.

Throw in the silent, hulking groundskeeper (Rory Wilton) at Mabon Lodge and you’ve got the makings of 767 other horror movies, varying only in geography and casting.

David Creed’s formula picture fails to generate any real frights or suspense, despite hewing as closely to horror formula as any thriller in recent memory.

Four young professional Londoners — Tamaryn Payne, Emily Wyatt, Sian Abrahams, Naomi Willow — meet at Blake’s Bar, gay-friendly as it’s run by Blake (Abrahams), and decide the news that the man who attacked Kayla (Payne) got out of prison early is reason enough to skip off to the country for a weekend.

Social influencer Stacey (Willow) and Kayla’s “cheating” ex Trish (Wyatt) pile into the van with them for a little “getting silly again together” at an early fall getaway.

“Here’s to the women in their stiletto shoes, who make all the money and drink all the booze.”

They pick up a hitcher on his way to “the festival,” which they’re promised will have music. He turns up later, after they check in, to make sure they’re coming.

And once they go, there’s enough alcohol and potent weed to take away their inhibitions and make them ignore the old woman (Emma Spurgin Hussey) who warns them away, to not follow the instructions of Father (Ian Champion) who has everyone scribble down their greatest fear on a scrap of paper and toss it into the bonfire.

See where this is going? Yeah, me too.

The women keep separating, and as they do, their worst nightmares flash before their hallucinating (maybe) eyes. And they’re picked off in generally gruesome ways.

The foreshadowing could not be more obvious than the “let’s get naked” moments. The performances are D-movie desultory, even if the production values aren’t bad.

“Sacrilege” may very well have the formula that lures in viewers. But you’ve got to get creative with it, everybody on board has to buy in, and you need the talent and shooting, directing and editing skill to make it come together in a way that generates fear and suspense.

“Sacrilege” doesn’t defile a horror formula. It just shows us how following the recipe to the letter doesn’t always work.

MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, nudity

Cast: Tamaryn Payne, Emily Wyatt, Sian Abrahams, Naomi Willow, Ian Champion, David English, Rory Wilton and Emma Spurgin Hussey

Credits: Scripted and directed by David Creed. A DevilWorks release.

Running time: 1:23

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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