Sacrifice (2021) is written and directed by Andy Collier & Toor Mian and takes a subtle approach to slow-burn folk horror. It follows a young couple as they travel to a small Norwegian island to claim an inheritance. However, it soon becomes clear that the local customs may be more than quirky folklore.
We recently had a chance to speak with horror legend Barbara Crampton. Special thanks to Ms. Crampton for taking the time to give us this interview!
“…at the heart of Lovecraft is this idea that we are not in control of our environment and the events that happen around us as much as we think we’re in control.”
Julio Ibarra for Nightmare on Film Street: What was your favorite part of shooting in Norway?
Barbara Crampton: I guess just you know, really, the location was pretty amazing. There’s so much water. And I had never seen the fjords before. I had never been to Norway. And we were in a very rural location, and everywhere you looked, there was either a body of water or a big mountain jutting out of the water or streams coming down off the mountain. So it was just a really gorgeous location.
And the other part of the movie that I loved is working with the two young leads, Sophie and Ludo; they are amazing young actors. And it’s very rare that you, you know, go on to a set, you don’t know who you’re working with, and they show up, and they’re both spectacular! And I think the movie really worked so well, in large part, because they were so great in their parts.
NOFS: Yeah, and their performances were really powerful, especially in their first scene with Renate. And it’s interesting that they’re both British actors and were playing Americans, and you are American but were playing Norwegian.
BC: Yeah, we all had to do different accents!
NOFS: So how long did it take you to nail that?
BC: About two months or so. I hired someone- I live near San Francisco, so I hired somebody from the Scandinavian school. She is a Norwegian woman, and she teaches Norwegian to Americans. So she came over to my house for about two months, and we would, you know, we went through all of the dialogue, and we also just conversed normally. I would just talk in my accent, and she would talk in a heavy accent. I wanted to have a heavier accent, you know, for some particular words and some scenes, and it took a while, but she was a great teacher. It was super fun to be able to do an accent like that, you know?
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“I think that I’m sort of a reluctant cult leader in a way, you know, we’re beholden to something greater than ourselves.”
NOFS: So there’s a pretty big twist at the end of the movie. What was it like playing Renate, knowing what was to come?
BC: Well, as far as playing the head of a cult, I had to kind of lure my prey in and make them feel comfortable. And I didn’t want them to leave the island or attempt to leave the island, so I needed them to feel like they were in a safe place. And it was only for that twist at the end that it’s truly and fully revealed what the whole movie’s been about. So it was fun to be able to make that the twist for the end, and I thought it was a nice little button on the whole film.
NOFS: Yeah, I thought it added dimension to this sympathetic character. She’s not as aggressive as cult leaders in other movies.
BC: Yes, I think so. I mean, I decided to play it like that so that I could sort of, as I said, lure them in and make them feel okay about it. But I had small moments where my frustration at being a cult leader- I think that I’m sort of a reluctant cult leader in a way, you know, we’re beholden to something greater than ourselves. And that has created a lot of angst within my character as well. So I wanted to play that.
NOFS: Why do you think slow burns like Sacrifice are so popular right now?
BC: Do you think they’re popular?
“I think that Lovecraft really is able to get into the deepest fears and anxieties of your everyday life.”
NOFS: Yeah, I feel like I see a new one every couple of months!
BC: Because I feel like audiences are far more willing to sit through a slow burn TV show than they are through movies. So I sometimes worry about movies, you know, like ours, and like other ones that I love as well. But you have to stick with it for an hour and a half or so and really be able to delve into the characters. I mean, this is more of a character piece, like a slow-burn movie is like House of the Devil or The Innkeepers or something like that. So you really do have to stick with little clues and really be watchful and mindful. And, just get into the whole story and not be waiting for some big extravagant thing to happen, which I feel like, you know, maybe some audiences really like. But I’m glad to hear that you think audiences want to and are willing to sit through a slow burn horror film.
NOFS: At only eighty-seven minutes of runtime though, you guys managed to fit in a lot of character development. You really feel for every character.
BC: I think that’s a testament to the acting, you know, and to the directors and the way they put the whole story together to keep everybody engaged for that amount of time without some big explosion or, you know, bloody massacre or something.
NOFS: So I know you just finished your own Lovecraft adaptation with Castle Freak. Why do you think that storytelling is still effective today?
BC: Well, at the heart of Lovecraft is this idea that we are not in control of our environment and the events that happen around us as much as we think we’re in control. And there are other things around us that really motivate what happens in our environment.
And I feel like today, a lot of people have that feeling in their own lives with the pandemic especially, and with the political situation that we’ve just gone through for a couple of years, really four years. But no matter what side you feel like you’re on, we are beholden to so many things that happen politically around us. And we don’t have as much control. And then, this pandemic hit, and here we are, we’re all at home waiting for somebody to tell us what to do, you know? So I think that Lovecraft really is able to get into the deepest fears and anxieties of your everyday life. I think that’s why he’s more popular than ever.
“As a woman […] I’m an invented character as well, but the themes of Lovecraft work for everybody”
NOFS: I know that some people take issue with Lovecraft with just kind of the subtext of a lot of his writings. So what would you kind of say to somebody who’s a little bit hesitant to try out Castle Freak or Sacrifice because of those reasons?
BC: Well, I think that we’re taking his stories and making them our own and updating them for today’s society. And that’s definitely what Jordan Peele did with Lovecraft Country, and I mean, Lovecraft didn’t really write any African Americans into his stories. Still, here, he took [Lovecraft’s] stories and made them his own, or, you know, to illustrate some issues that black people have gone through for a long time.
As a woman, I’ve been in many Lovecraft stories with Stuart Gordon, from Re-animator to From Beyond, to my own acting in Castle Freak. I’m an invented character as well, but the themes of Lovecraft work for everybody, you know? I think Lovecraft is just writing from his own point of view and using characters from his own world and his own point of view that he wanted to write about, but who says we can’t gender swap things and change things up for ourselves now that we’re in a new society and in a new culture and have expanded our awareness and our thinking?
“…who says we can’t gender swap things and change things up for ourselves now that we’re in a new society and in a new culture and have expanded our awareness and our thinking?”
NOFS: Yeah, I agree. And Sacrifice is based on a Paul Kane story, and not a Lovecraft story, but I think that it still delves into that theme of xenophobia in its own way, with how Emma sees this new culture, or even just the way that they’re received as outsiders in the bar.
BC: Yes, and, you know, I think those issues weren’t as prevalent when we were filming the movie, but they are so much more prevalent right now with what’s happened at the border. You know, when Trump first took office, there was a big explosion of awareness, and then it’s in our film, as well. So I think it really resonates for today. […] It’s a pretty serious film, although we have a little humor and [co-directors] Toor and Andy, on the set, were so funny! They love to laugh, and they love to crack us all up, and it was like a comedy routine between them all day long. One was with us on the set, with the actors, that was Toor, and then Andy was behind the camera. So they’ve worked really well together, and we had a lot of fun. It’s a careful film and a beautiful location, so I hope everybody really enjoys traveling in their mind to Norway, even though we can’t go there physically!
“It’s a careful film and a beautiful location, so I hope everybody really enjoys traveling in their mind to Norway, even though we can’t go there physically!”
A big thank you to Barbara Crampton for taking time out of her schedule to speak with Nightmare on Film Street. Sacrifice releases in select theaters on February 5 and On Demand on February 9, with a Blu-ray release through Dread Releasing and Epic Pictures on February 23. If you’re interested, you can read the spoiler-free review here!
Will you be watching Sacrifice? Are you excited to see Barbara Crampton in a new role? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.