Those of us that carry a passion for low-budget films also have specific knowledge of the art-form that the average movie viewer gleefully remains ignorant to. Granted, there have been independently made pieces of work that found their way into the pantheon of popular culture. However, for every “success”, there are countless visions that get ignored due to their lack of luster for that afore-mentioned average viewer. As a matter of fact, I have the opposite result within my brain. I usually shy away from the big-budget stuff, as it rarely excites me in the way that a film produced by the art-minded, rather than the money-minded, can. This is not to say that pictures made by nobodies aren’t created with the desire to be successful. They simply have a purer vision that comes from a place of passion, rather than just cranking out schlock for the sake of making a profit. You can genuinely feel that purity when watching this film! Written and Directed by Tjardus Greidanus, who was in his early twenties at the time, The Final Sacrifice has the elements needed in order to come across as genuine. The characters are believable, as is the story. Hollywood never could have pulled something like this off. If it had tried, it would have been an over the top fiasco with no heart and therefore, not believable, at all! (as is usually the case when that culture thinks it understands art). I believe I have said this before.
Our journey begins at dusk, in the middle of a snow-covered forest, with some creepy fellows wearing masks chasing an unknown man. There is also a gentleman in black who is clearly the leader of this group, standing by a fire and drawing a symbol in the snow. The scene ends with a single gun shot, off camera, and we are given a break from the story as the credits roll. The entire opening, which we learn is a prologue, is performed with no dialogue and they pull it off, folks. Once the story comes back, we are introduced to a young man named Troy, played by Christian Malcolm. Troy is alone, and has questions about the mysteries surrounding the death of his father. He begins digging through his father’s belongings that were stashed in the attic of his grandmother’s home and we learn that Troy’s father was an explorer of long-lost knowledge. Finding some curious papers, letters and a map, Troy sets off on trying to understand this reality, when he is suddenly attacked by those creepy cats in masks and their leader in black. Even creepier is the fact that the man knows who Troy is! Who are these people? How do they know Troy? What the hell is going on?! After a bit of a chase, Troy leaps into the back of a pick-up truck, that just happens to be going by and our story hits its first crossroad. The truck is owned by one of the, admittedly, strangest named characters of all time, Zap Rowsdower, played by Bruce Mitchell, who ends up friends with Troy. Eventually, Troy convinces Rowsdower to help him solve the mystery of his father’s map, as well as the bad dudes that are relentlessly hunting them down. As the story unfolds, we learn a lot about Troy, his father, this group of masked men and Mr. Rowsdower himself and how they are all connected. However, to say much more about the plot would give away some of those secrets. Why would I want to do that? Like you’ll actually make the effort to see this anyway.
I would like to fill out the rest of this little review with some technical praise, however, as the film is actually very well crafted! To my eyes, a large portion of this film was shot using natural lighting, and it shows to great effect. The grey-skies and snowy landscapes feel so real that I can sense the lonely cold. Grim forests almost always have a positive translation of terror and oppression on film, whether the viewer is used to such scenery or not. I grew up with landscapes similar to this, and though I feel that “at home” comfort within them, I am not ignorant to their dark side. Such scenery makes me want to listen to Black Metal albums from the early 1990’s! The scenes that are obviously using artificial lighting do so in a way that isn’t afraid of mixing light and shade. There is plenty of background darkness and even characters being swallowed by black and this also comes across very genuine. The bad guys aren’t over-stuffed super-villains. Rather they are more like the guy next door’s evil personality, which is usually far scarier! The acting in general, also feels more genuine. People aren’t oozing with confidence and power in their standard reality; they tend to be uncomfortable and awkward, especially when faced with situations that are out of their comfort zones. These fellows are definitely taken from their comfort zones, in this story. The cinematography isn’t stellar, but it’s certainly ambitious. There are dolly-shots that look as if they were set up by a big production crew, rather than friends from the neighborhood, which is absolutely admired by this viewer.
When one stops to consider the direction Horror Cinema was moving in around this time, The Final Sacrifice is a very welcome addition to the genre. A good old-fashioned scary mystery is always cooler than typical hack and slash, for the sake of hack and slash. I’ll put it another way. I figured out the “mystery” in that over-rated piece of schlock known as Saw within the first few minutes. The rest of the time was spent being bored out of my mind watching some poor slob’s blood-porn fantasy. That is all those films are, by the way. The Final Sacrifice is simply a fun film that actually relies on story and character development, rather than gore-masturbation. So how about checking it out?
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