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Fantasia ’23 Movie Review: Players Gonna Play in “THE SACRIFICE GAME”

Friday, August 11, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Madison Baines, Georgia Acken and Chloë Levine
Written by Sean Redlitz and Jenn Wexler
Directed by Jenn Wexler

Bumbling criminals have a deep, well-populated history in cinema. From The Producers and The Ladykillers to Home Alone and Cottage Country, showing relatable and unpolished “bad guys” has proven a great way to drum up laughs and skewer would-be kingpins. Director Jenn Wexler’s second feature film, THE SACRIFICE GAME, uses the guise of these culpable idiots to frame a boarding school mystery.

Though this is only the second film directed by Wexler, she is a prolific producer. Her experience in the trenches of indie genre film shows in THE SACRIFICE GAME, as it is far more ambitious than her directorial debut, The Ranger. The cast is bigger, the sets grander, and the story spans far more than that of her punk slasher gem.

THE SACRIFICE GAME mostly takes place at a girls’ boarding school in the 1970s. On the cusp of the winter break, most of the young girls are excited to go home and see their families. That is everyone but Samantha (Madison Baines) and Clara (Georgia Acken). While Samantha is distraught, Clara seems more annoyed that she has to share the empty school with another student. Clara is a bit of an outcast but seems unbothered by the open disdain she gets from her classmates. Teacher Rose (Chloë Levine) is not too jazzed to be at the academy for the holidays either but is determined to make the most of it.

A nearly empty boarding school in the dead of winter is rich enough with frightening potential for any horror film, but things get even more interesting when a small band of ruthless killers arrives at the school for a very specific purpose. Though their leader (Mena Massoud) is no Charles Manson, he certainly thinks highly of himself and his crew.

When the innocent-seeming girls and the murderous outlaws come together, all hell breaks loose (literally and figuratively) after it is revealed that the gang’s arrival at the school is anything but random.

Like most home invasions or, in this case, school- invasions, there are certain scenes where the students and their teacher are tied up and taunted to the point of tears. While these moments are necessary to build tension and empathy, in THE SACRIFICE GAME, they tend to slow down the plot and distract from all of the other elements at play. And that is a shame because there is so much great going on.

Levine and Baines give excellent performances, but Acken brings Clara’s confounding stoicism from cartoonish to creepy. Clara is difficult to read as a child, and the control Acken uses in shaping her character makes the audience want to pay attention to her every move.

The overall plot of THE SACRIFICE GAME also has an awful lot of fun toying with audience expectations. Watching the criminals dream bigger than their abilities and their cockiness in thinking they know everything makes it that much sweeter when they inevitably tumble. The boarding school setting is perfect for a cat-and-mouse chase and to hide generations of deep, dark history. While there are minor pacing issues, THE SACRIFICE GAME combines a few well-tread paths to create its own hilarious and spooky world.

Deirdre is a Chicago-based film critic and life-long horror fan. In addition to writing for RUE MORGUE, she also contributes to C-Ville Weekly,, and belongs to the Chicago Film Critics Association. She's got two black cats and wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero.