Fantasia 2023 Review: THE SACRIFICE GAME, Jenn Wexler's Second Horror Flick Delivers Horror, Gore, Terrific Young Leads

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Fantasia 2023 Review: THE SACRIFICE GAME, Jenn Wexler's Second Horror Flick Delivers Horror, Gore, Terrific Young Leads
In an isolated girl’s school in the early ’70s, lonely new girl, Samantha finds out that she and the very strange and reclusive Clara will have to spend their Christmas break in their near-deserted school with the young teacher, Rose and her boyfriend, Jimmy. 
All over the news and in the papers are reports of a series of killings across the state. If you pay close attention to the path of the killings the trail leads whoever is doing this on a collision course with the school. These killings are being done by a quartet of marauding maniacs, slashing and stabbing their way across the state, looking to fulfill their mission and gain immense power from a demonic force. 
As maniacs are wont to do they force their way in, bringing mayhem, madness, and gore as they torment the innocent girls and and their two minders. But what if them coming across the school was no accident? What if they were meant to be there? Who or what wanted these crazy killers to come to the school? And why?
Jenn Wexler’s sophomore feature film, The Sacrifice Game, had its world premiere at Fantasia this weekend. Shot in Quebec, Canada, it was a sort of homecoming for a film that will be hugely appreciated by the horror crowd. Rife with menacing and heartless villains which often leads to killer gore it is a great horror flick from start to finish. 
In an opening statement, Wexler’s prologue sets the bloody, gory tone for the entire movie and makes us aware that evil is on its way. Not content with delivering a straight-forward story Wexler, along with her co-writer and partner Sean Redlitz, ward off some of our expectations in a process of elimination that leaves only a few to fend for themselves. Never fear as the action and gore kick it up another notch for a bloody finale.
Behind the intense action, gore and outcomes, there is also a story here about friendship, of one that can happen between two of the unlikeliest of people. Both Samantha and Clara are awkward in their own ways. Neither of them can make friends with other girls in the school, where they have to fend for themselves. Given the circumstances however they have to work together to save themselves from these killers. Finding the strength and courage in themselves, especially Samantha, is the only way to do so. 
What really stood out during the screening was just how good the cast were. You cannot say that any one actor is a standout here when everyone has given Wexler a top shelf performance. Of the riders of the apocalypse Mena Massoud’s Jude is obsessive and maniacal. Olivia Scott Welch is the enticing but brutal Maisie. Jude’s ‘girl’ she is the one who possesses the knowledge about obtaining this demonicly granted power; the brutal and deadly road trip began because of her. Will she let Jude keep it for themselves?
Derek Johns’ Grant, a quiet giant of a man, is a Vietnam vet. His size and indifference to violence is a key asset for the gang. Have mercy if that skillset is ever turned on you. Laurent Pitre’s Doug is the chattiest of the bunch so it is only right that they also be our source of comic relief. 
There are also the two young girls. Two young actresses on rise and will get considerable notice for their performances in Wexler's film. 
Madison Baines is bloody terrific as Samantha, the new girl at school. Baines terrifically conveys the sadness that comes with being abandoned at Christmas, the uncertainty she feels when the only girl she can speak to is resident weirdo Clara and the resilience she finds in herself later in the film to come back at her oppressors. 
Then there is Georgia Acken. It is sickening to learn that this is her first feature film. All it took was a smile. There is a moment in the movie when Clara smiles at Samantha and you know it is game on. Happening late in the story, there was a collective shudder that came over the audience that night. Oh shit, it was about to get real! She nails the performance, from the awkward weirdo. 
Bolstered by great casting, two terrific young lead actresses, and great horror and gore, The Sacrifice Game will garner more horror fans to the directing and writing talents of Jenn Wexler. Refusing to work solely with horror's conventions, Wexler and Redlitz shake things up, lifting this horror film free from the depths of normality. Seek it out. 
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