Strictly speaking, this folk horror-styled Air B’n’B nightmare ought to have been called Sacrifice – but another 2020 film got there first, and the makers presumably didn’t want to go with Offering (the term used by the cultists in the film). Written and directed by David Creed, it’s nicely-played and paced but plotted by the numbers.
In an impressive opening, a bloke stumbles out of a nice house in the country and spontaneously combusts – which buys the film a couple of reels to introduce four young women and their reasons for taking a girlie weekend in the country – Kayla (Tamaryn Payne) is worried that her violently abusive male ex (David English) has just got out of prison and is being wooed by her female ex Trish (Emily Wyatt), and they head off in a big yellow van (‘Sunny D’) with insta-selfie swinger Stacey (Naomi Willow) and tattooed barkeep Blake (Sian Abrahams). En route to Mabon Village, the girls encounter a well-spoken hitchhiker (Jon Glasgow) who tells them there’s a big local festival on, and then get seethed at by a bearded groundsman (Rory Wilton).
The set-up at the fest, which is presided over by the local priest Father Saxon (Ian Champion), is that participants write down what they’re most afraid of and throw the paper in the fire … and we instantly deduce that the guy in the prologue was afraid of being burned alive. The women suffer themed hallucinations (a dog, bugs, decrepitude, Tyler), a local woman (Emma Spurgin Hussey, from Charlie Steeds’ rep company) warns them off, villagers put on those animal masks favoured by post-Wicker Man rural cults, the groundsman has antlers on his Land Rover.
Creed leaves it to the audience to make a lot of the connections. Have these women been lured here or are they just randoms? What does the cult get out of it, except – presumably – very low ratings on visitor satisfaction feedback sites? And shouldn’t the writer-director have maybe got in a female co-writer since the interbabe chatter and lesbian love interest doesn’t quite convince? The sex/skinny-dip scenes are tactfully staged so as not to feature actual nudity and the horror stuff (after the burning) also seems pitched to a TV safe level – the woman terrified of bugs seems to have only two or three crawling over her for most of her freakout scene.
Shot in the West Country, it is – strangely – the second film I’ve seen this week with a joke reference to Ilfracombe (the other was made in 1972, so it’s not a trend).