Directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian, Sacrifice is a new entry into the subgenre of folk horror with a Lovecraftian-inspired twist. Isaac (Ludovic Hughes) and his pregnant wife, Emma (Sophie Stevens), return to his hometown, a remote Norwegian village on an isolated island, to claim an unexpected inheritance. The trip takes a turn for the worst when the Americans encounter a sinister cult intent on satisfying an ancient evil within the sea.
Horror icon Barbara Crampton plays Sacrifice‘s cult leader. From her early roles in Re-Animator, Chopping Mall and Castle Freak, Crampton has cemented a place in ’80s and ’90s pop-culture. CBR had the opportunity to talk to Crampton about Sacrifice. She discusses learning Norweigan, the audience’s fascination with cults and the industry’s treatment of older women in films.
CBR: So, is the long-term goal still to be the “Betty White of Horror”?
Barbara Crampton: [Laughs] Yes, you must have heard me say that!
Let’s talk about Sacrifice. This is not your first rodeo with Lovecraftian-inspired films. Obviously, it’s a much different movie than Re-Animator or Castle Freak, but did filming bring back any nostalgia?
I feel like this film, even though it wasn’t based on any Lovecraft story per se, has the general feeling and tone of a Lovecraft film, very much so. Lovecraft wrote stories about cosmic horror: things that are beyond our control, things that we can’t understand that are unknowable or unthinkable. And this film is very much like that.
It’s about a cult, and a sacrifice must be made, and there are things that the cult members don’t really understand. But we are just going about what we are doing because we have to; because we are sacrificing to a god greater than ourselves. There is something about that greater god, that otherness out there controlling us, that is very Lovecraftian. So, you know, the tone of the film is very much similar to other films that I’ve been in that are based on real Lovecraft stories.
The film is set in Norway. Did you actually film on location?
We did! That was another exciting part about being able to work on this film, was having the opportunity to actually shoot on location in Norway and see all of its beauty and grandeur and gorgeousness. And to feel like we were on an island that is kind of isolated because Norway is very spread out and they don’t have a lot of big cities. They have small towns. But we were in a very rural community, so you had this feeling that there was something bigger than yourself, and you were a very small part of it.
The cinematography is beautiful, but I have to know, it didn’t show, but were you freezing while standing in that water?
It was really, really cold. It was incredible. It was so cold, and you only see a little scene like that on-screen for a few minutes, but with the night time shooting and the day time scene of the ritual being in the water, we were there all day. So, they got us wetsuits for under our robes. They fit under our robes, but it was still cold even in the wetsuit because we were in there for hours. But we had booties and wetsuits, and that helped a lot.
It’s so funny acting because you have to just deal with the elements and weather all the time. I’ve worked in 17 below freezing outside when we did We Are Still Here. Larry Fessenden and I — no, it wasn’t Larry Fessenden and I — it was my husband. But we were in a car filming in 17 below weather in upstate New York. You have whatever layers you can, and you’re just cold, and you have to pretend that you’re not [laughs]. But that’s just the job.
You speak a fair amount of Norwegian throughout the film. What did preparing for that look like? I imagine it’s more challenging to act when you’re not speaking your native language.
Yeah, I just take these things on as if it’s a challenge. It was very important to the directors — Toor and Andy —that I be able to speak in an authentic Norwegian accent. So, I hired somebody from the Scandinavian School in San Fransico to come to my house a couple of times a week for about eight weeks. We worked on really just the accent, and there were a couple of phrases I had to speak in Norwegian. I recorded her saying them, and then I would work on it on my own. We conversed with just regular conversation, and I would speak and just mimic her.
It was really a fun challenge. I wanted to be even more Norwegian than the Norwegians because, as the head of a cult, I felt like I have to be an old-timer. I have to really, really be steeped in the lore of our cult and our history and things like that. I picked certain words and asked, “How would an old-timer say this?” So, I picked up certain words like my daughter Astrid where you’re rolling the “r.” I just wanted to be as Norwegian as possible.
I think it’s fair to say Sacrifice falls under the folk horror subgenre given its cult theme. Why do you think cults continue to fascinate audiences?
Because we are in cults everywhere. Every day we are part of a cult, but we don’t know it. We don’t realize it. You know, religion to a certain degree is like that. Our political affiliations are even more than they ever were like that. There is so much disparity between Republicans and Democrats, and it’s getting worse. I feel like it’s just representative of who we are as people and how firmly we hold on to these certain beliefs, and allow people to lull us into this false sense of “you belong here, so this is what I think, and you think it too.”
There is this frustrating phenomenon that women often get less work and less meaningful roles as they age. You’ve had a very consistent and busy career since your revival. Is this something you think is improving in the film industry?
Well, I have to say I did take a break when I was in my late thirties because I wasn’t getting calls very much. So, I think that is still true of women, but it is getting better. There was a period of time — a year or two — that I didn’t get calls for anything. No auditions. No offers. No anything when I was about thirty-six or thirty-seven. I thought, “Oh, okay. Well, maybe that’s kind of it for me.” I met my husband, we got married. He wanted to move from Los Angeles to northern California. So, we came up to San Francisco, and I thought, “Okay, well that’s it. I’m just done. Nobody is calling. I can’t beat my head against the wall.”
But then, I got a call out of the blue to be in You’re Next in 2011, and that kind of brought me back. So, I feel like that was a lucky break for me. It exposed me to a wider audience and people were just more aware of me, and I just started working a little bit more.
I do think that things are difficult for anybody older, even men. But I’m heartened by the fact that there were some recent movies that came out like Relic and Anything for Jackson that highlighted older people. Everyone loves them, young people and older people. They seem to be very popular. So, it gives me hope that I can continue on and keep telling stories until I’m a grandmother.
I hope that some of the ladies that are my contemporaries will also continue to work. I moved into producing a little bit, and I’m working with some writers right now on a script that would give roles to a lot of women my age and my contemporaries and my friends. I’m really going to try to get that off the ground.
Directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian, Sacrifice stars Barbara Crampton, Sophie Stevens and Ludovic Hughes. The film opens In Select Theaters on Feb. 5 and On Demand on Feb. 9 + Blu-ray on Feb. 23.
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