The Sacrifice Game was recently added to Shudder’s December schedule, perfect timing for a horror film set during Christmas. We all know holiday horror is a favorite this time of year, and fans are always looking for new yuletide terror to add to their watchlist.
Jenn Wexler, who you may know as the writer/director of 2018’s The Ranger co-wrote and directed The Sacrifice Game, with Sean Redlitz partnering with her on the writing side of things. But, this is a different type of horror movie, so don’t go into it thinking you will be getting the punk aesthetic of The Ranger.
Instead, The Sacrifice Game is set in 1971 at a boarding school, and it definitely looks the part. As a child of the 70s, I definitely felt like the costumes and setting were legit.
Misfit Clara will be staying on campus during the Christmas holiday, and Samantha just discovered at the last minute that she will not be going home as planned. Joining the two girls is young teacher Rose, who seems determined to make the holiday as nice as she possibly can.
As we discover in the gonzo opening scene, a group of four home invaders has been committing brutal murders. It’s a really terrific scene, putting the viewer behind the killers as they knock on doors and slaughter the residents in their own homes. It sets the tone for the film in the very beginning.
Naturally, the killers end up at the boarding school after one of them is shot by a police officer, and that’s where we really get pulled into the story. In a short amount of time, we have come to know and care about the characters of Rose, Samantha and Clara, so it’s distressing to see them bound and terrorized by the demonic cult members. Led by Maisie and Jude, the group is trying to summon a demon, and it helps that Maisie is a former student of the school.
The Sacrifice Game features a nifty twist
As the story unwinds, we get a well-executed twist that turns everything around, and it’s a crazy ride getting there. The Sacrifice Game has some gnarly, bloody kill scenes, and there is a creepy dance scene that rivals the one in M3gan.
None of this story, good as it is, would be as effective in the hands of lesser actors. Madison Baines is vulnerable and appealing as Samantha, it’s easy to feel for her character, who didn’t expect to be stuck at school during Christmas. And the very weird Clara gets a persuasive reading by young Georgia Acken. We acknowledge her strangeness while also feeling sorry for a girl who obviously has issues and is bullied by her peers.
Chloe Levine, who also appeared in The Ranger, is convincing as Rose, and then there are those “bad guys.” All three of the men were persuaded to go on the killing spree because of Maisie, who they all want for themselves. Olivia Scott Welch plays the former student, who thinks she has everything figured out (boy, is she in for a surprise).
Her boyfriend Jude is all menacing testosterone as portrayed by Mena Massound, and the stoic former soldier Grant is physically menacing. He clearly has some PTSD from his time in Viet Nam. My favorite of the cult members was Doug (Laurent Pitre), who is a bit doofy, but somehow makes you like him. He provides some comic relief throughout the film.
The setting for The Sacrifice Game is perfect for a Christmas-set horror film; there are Christmas lights and decorations, and the weather is snowy. I can see this becoming a film I watch each year in November-December, alongside Black Christmas, Krampus and Christmas Evil.
The Sacrifice Game is a Shudder Original, and can only be seen on Shudder currently.