Sunday, July 03, 2022

The Sanctuary – review

Director: Allen Kool

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

So, I watched the film The Taste of Blood without realising that it followed this film (set some twenty years earlier). The sequel had plenty of narrative weaknesses. This part was narratively stronger due to it being, I think, simpler in premise. That is not to say it had a strong sense of narrative, nor that it didn’t have other weaknesses. However, I do think it held together better than the sequel – up to a point.


The film starts with a campfire and a group of (mostly) kids telling scary stories – grandpa (James M Jenkinson) takes over the telling and the story he offers is this film. The start of his story talks about a couple, Wade (Dylen Michael Guiry) and his girlfriend. He sees she has a bloke’s card with a number on it – gets jealous and psychotic and kills her (the murder hidden behind a fade to black and then seeing her corpse in a bathtub). He is arrested – and apparently holding him amounts to cuffing him to a pipe (one assumes that the town was too small for more than a single holding cell, already full).

Dylen Michael Guiry as Wade

The Sheriff, Glen (Drew Riedstra), transports Wade and car thief Henry (Ed Robinson) to the Penitentiary but, out in the countryside something hits the windscreen and he crashes. Glen is killed and Wade manages to break out of the car and get Glen’s handcuff keys and gun. Henry asks for help, he knows where they can lay low but Wade breaks his neck. Now, Dylen Michael Guiry doesn’t seem too built and whilst his character is unhinged the ability to, cold, break another’s neck in one easy move seemed… implausible.

John-Riley O'Handley as Nate

By the time Glen is overdue and the transport found Wade has got far away, dunked himself accidentally in a river and there’s been a storm and so the cops have no idea where he is. Nate Fields (John-Riley O'Handley) is drafted in as temporary sheriff… Wade meanwhile has stumbled across a farm in the dark and ended up with a rifle pressed against his back. The owner is the elderly Harley Whalen (Rick Amsbury) but his wife Edna (Lawrene Denkers) tells Harley to put the gun down and brings Wade in to offer a hot bath and hot meal.

The Whalens

There are two issues here, one of the film’s making and one of my own. The film’s is that whilst the section of Wade ingratiating himself with the Whalens worked to a degree it was hamstrung by two things – firstly it was hard to buy Guiry’s performance – for instance his smiles whilst he had a rifle at his back struck more as sneers, he played overtly saccharine but had mini rages when not observed and one felt he just didn’t had the nuance needed – he needed a performance more like Sting's in Brimstone and treacle and didn’t have the chops for it. The other thing was there wasn’t enough atmosphere built by the director, making us fear for the old couple.


The issue that was my own making was the (SPOILER) knowledge that the Whalens are cannibal killers, due to having watched the sequel first – but because they were drawn as doddering oldsters Wade never felt in peril (and we had no sympathy for him). What I had hoped was that the connection to (I’m guessing) Sawney Bean would be explicit – but no, just a mention of an old Scottish clan, destroyed with unspeakable things done to the men and the women burned alive. The film is also not explicit when it comes to the supernatural element – we see them younger and we see them eating meat (not explicitly stated as human) and no explicit connection between the two – though it is through cannibalism that they get physically younger.

Rick Amsbury as Harley

However, up to the point of Wade in the household the film does hold itself together better than the sequel. However, it has Nate go to the house (not see Wade and get fed a story about a visiting grandson) and a cliff-hanger around Wade and Harley and then cuts forward and concentrates on Nate – giving us backstory we don’t need for this character (in this film at least) and dragging the pace down to that of a snail. It has been months when he discovers that the Whalens never had grandchildren and goes out to see them again.

bloodied knife

Beyond this the makeup for the Whalens works, as it does in the sequel, and we spend more time with them (or so it feels) which is no bad thing as Amsbury and Denkers work well in their roles – though more tension would have helped that section of the film. I really want to give this the benefit of the doubt – the shying away from explicit violence meant that complex sfx were not necessary but also missed a beat for the horror fan, until the soap opera of Nate’s life the pace worked better and whilst there were filmmaking faux pas it did try and hold its own. Unfortunately Guiry wasn’t experienced enough to carry this, and it needed a strong primary villain (especially as the Whalen aspect was meant to be hidden for most of the film). 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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