Review by Mark Schwab
June 11th, 2017
Regular guy Matthew Summers (Reginald P. Louis) finds himself in a harrowing position as a captive of James Campbell (Theodore Bouloukos) in some kind of underground cave. Campbell has subdued Matthew, accusing him of murdering his brother and intending to carry out an agenda avenging his family. Although this setup has promise, first time writer/director Alexandre Gay makes some decisions that limit the effectiveness of his debut feature film.
The first obstacle he faced was a simple budgetary/time one. His budget was in the mid-4 figures and he created a 2-day shooting schedule. That right there is pretty insane parameters to attempt a decent feature film - not much coverage can be had in just two days of shooting even when your movie consists of two actors and one location. The filmmakers decided to solve that problem by shooting the entire film in one continuous take. No cuts at all for 80 minutes. I mean, really, even Alfred Hitchcock hid two edits in his continuous-take thriller ROPE. Because of that choice, SACRIFICE has a lot of trouble maintaining a cinematic pace and creating any strong visual compositions. The camera hazily wanders with slow pans from one actor to the other and then back again. Also, since the camera needed to always be ready to record everything within the frame, this meant that the entire set needed to be lit. Although every cave rock from foreground to background is indeed well-lit, there are no shadows and no depth which flattens things out. The camera used here is obviously of high quality but again these parameters don't allow for the full use of it's abilities.
The next obstacle was the screenplay. Although some interesting concepts are raised about family bonds and how far one will go to protect their loved ones, it all gets buried under a ton of exposition. The two leads are constantly talking out their entire backstories and interior motivations non-stop, leaving nothing for the viewer to contemplate or interpret.
The final hurdle that SACRIFICE needed to jump was the sound mix. By shooting an entire film in one take and having it be incredibly dialogue-heavy, this would make recording usable sound on-set all but impossible. Especially for a micro budget indie feature. As such, the entire soundtrack of SACRIFICE - while crystal clear - comes off as obviously dubbed. In fact it is actually too clear, as if the actors were speaking directly into microphones which also takes away from their performances as they were in the moment on set. There isn't any sonic texture to it which also distracts from getting totally immersed in the experience.
Some of the positives need to be acknowledged though. For one thing, my research indicated that director Alexandre Gay is only 19 years old and only had five days to prepare this film. Considering all of the roadblocks he threw in front of himself, I'm impressed that he saw it through and that it looks and sounds as good as it does. Most new filmmakers given this budget and these limitations would have created a totally unwatchable and unlistenable product and SACRIFICE is neither. There is also a nice score here - originally composed - of a level that you don't normally get in a debut micro budget feature film.
So, yes, I salute you Alexandre Gay. You were crazy to attempt this but I'm really glad you did. You got across the finish line maybe a little battered and bloodied but still on your feet. Now go make another movie with everything you learned from this one.
You can stream "SACRIFICE" from their Vimeo OnDemand page.