There are many things to be frightened by in the horror genre, in the same way, that there are many ways to frighten the audience with a horror film. One way that has been slowly but surely returning to the genre after a hiatus is slow dread-inducing horror. Alfred Hitchcock said “There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and ‘surprise,’ and yet many pictures continually confuse the two.” and that is the major difference between horror through dread and a jumpscare. In the introduction to Eraserhead, the dread is created through bizarre otherworldly imagery with a painfully oppressive score and sound design, leaving the audience vulnerable to the rest of the film’s horror. Sacrifice on the other hand reveals all of its secrets very early and leaves the audience to wait for the scares to happen, or rather not happen.
After the passing of his mother, Issac and his pregnant wife Emma travel Norway to see that house that they have inherited. On an isolated island they find the home, seemingly abandoned years ago, and decide to stay to try and sell it. During their stay, locals begin to act strangely after they discover Issac used to live here, and the town itself feels alien to Emma. Issac on the other hand feels like he is finally home, and has no interest in ever leaving.
In Midsommar tension is created by the group traveling to the Hårga because it is shown as a beautiful idyllic community until its horrific nature begins to reveal itself. Even if the audience has seen enough creepy isolated village movies to know this is going to end poorly, exactly what is in store for our characters is a mystery that slowly unfolds. Sacrifice is about a town that worships, Cthulu the fictional HP Lovecraft God, and it is a fact that the town does not shy away from. From effigies to plush dolls, to statues in the gift shop, the main exports of this town are apparently fish and Cthulu merchandise, undercutting an air of mystery the town could have held.
Another traditional technique to spawn dread and tension in a movie is a character’s slow descent into darkness, where they become a danger to the rest of the cast, the most notable example of this being Jack Torrence in The Shining. Sacrifice boldly drives into Issac’s fall from grace the day after they arrive with him commenting on the friendly locals, seemingly forgetting the bandaged brow he has from a local slamming his head on the bar. From there the loving couple from the introduction are at odds in a way that makes them feel like acquaintances, and it just gets more exhaustingly shallow from there.
Traveling to unknown locations in the world can be as terrifying as it is exciting, especially if it is one with a new language and culture than your own. Things that will be considered normal for them can feel completely abnormal to you. There is beautiful tension and thrills that can be found in that new world, that is unlike any other sub-genre of horror, none of which exists in Sacrifice.
4 out of 10