Watching Christmas horror movies is a proud tradition for spooky fiends looking to escape their post-Halloween blues and the agonizing two months of forced consumerism and awful music blasting in every department store. The films in this very specific category are known for subverting the cheer and innocence associated with the holiday, and often focus on characters experiencing isolation because their family situation is far from those depicted in generic Hallmark Christmas movies. Every year, we are treated to new ideas on how to make Christmas creepy, and this year fans should be snuggling up on the couch to view is The Sacrifice Game.
Co-written with her husband Sean Redlitz, The Sacrifice Game is the sophomore feature for director Jenn Wexler, produced by Heather Buckley (who previously worked with Wexler on The Ranger), as well as Philip Kalin-Hajdu and Albert Melamed. The story is set in the 1970s, pulling inspiration from the Manson Murders and the supernatural horrors of that era.
“Every year, we are treated to new ideas on how to make Christmas creepy”
It’s almost Christmas at the Blackvale Boarding School for Girls. Samantha (Madison Baines, The Young Arsonists) is informed that she will not be able to return home for the holidays and will have to spend the break alone in the near-empty school with loner girl Clara (Georgia Acken in her big screen debut!), their teacher Rose (Chloë Levine, The Ranger) and her not-so-secret boyfriend Jimmy (Gus Kenworth, American Horror Story: 1984). Rose tries her best to lift the girls’ holiday spirits by preparing a Christmas eve feast, until their meal is interrupted by a group of strangers knocking at the door.
Not wanting to be rude, Rose lets the foursome in, unaware that they are the “Christmas Killers,” as the newspapers have called them, cult-like murderers who have been slicing victims in neighboring towns en route to Blackvale. They are led by charismatic Jude (Mena Massoud, Aladdin), Blackvale dropout Maisie (Olivia Scott Welch, Fear Street trilogy), and goons Grant (Derek Johns, We Are Zombies) and Doug (Laurent Pitre, Future Man). Their blood-soaked journey has led them to the boarding school, where they plan to perform a Satanic ritual and summon a powerful demon. As the schoolgirls fight to survive and innocent blood is spilled, the mysterious history of Blackvale school reveals itself.
Hot at the Shop:
Jenn Wexler could have stuck with a familiar home invasion plot, but instead chose to flip the movie on its head with a supernatural twist in the third act. After seeing our protagonists bound, gagged and toyed with by a cartoonishly evil villain, the bloody finale is both entertaining and satisfying. The dark hallways of the massive school serve as an excellent backdrop for games of cat and mouse, and the choice to set the action during Christmas in the ‘70s elevates the sound and the aesthetic of the film. The soundtrack consists of groovy rock n’ roll and old Christmas classics from the 1940s played in an unsettling fashion.
Despite its bleak premise, there’s a sprinkling of humor, mostly from Jude’s narcissism and Doug’s wimpiness. Grant provides some laughs with his nonchalance to violence. His inhumanity is later explained when he delivers a haunting monologue about his time serving in Vietnam (which Derek Johns apparently nailed in one take!). But it’s newbie Georgia Acken who shines as Clara, remaining relatively quiet for most of the movie, but by the end, she steals the show.
“A familiar home invasion plot, [that gets flipped] on its head with a supernatural twist in the third act.”
I was a huge fan of Jenn Wexler’s first movie The Ranger, a punk rock slasher. Although a small part of me was hoping her following film would also include punk characters, I was overall pleased with how stylish and fun The Sacrifice Game was (plus my craving for punk rock was satiated with the end credits song). It proves that Wexler isn’t nailed down by any kind of formula and can pull off any subgenre she wishes to tackle. I’m even more excited to see what she does next, and I look forward to revisiting The Sacrifice Game every holiday season for years to come.
[Review] Jenn Wexler’s THE SACRIFICE GAME is A Christmas Horror Classic in The Making
Jenn Wexler could have stuck with a familiar home invasion plot, but instead chose to flip the movie on its head with a supernatural twist in the third act. After seeing our protagonists bound, gagged and toyed with by a cartoonishly evil villain, the bloody finale is both entertaining and satisfying.