Review by: Dave Wain
Stars: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Sarah Annis, Lee Arnold
Written by: Elliot Goldner
UK Certification: 15
UK RRP: £12.99
UK DVD Region: 2
Runtime: 89 minutes
Directed by: Elliot Goldner
UK Release Date: 6th April 2014
Hype n. Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.
In a medium where hype rules many a film’s release, it’s hard not to cast a cynical eye over a litany of plaudits. Today hype can be bought, and very often it is with positive reviews and glowing recommendations that bear little correlation to the work of ‘art’ that the praise has been bestowed upon. Over the past year The Borderlands has been a veritable magnet for accolades at the respective film festivals it’s played at, and that sneering eye of mine was a little cautious as to how worthy it was of this praise. As the film began to play though, any suspicion I had swiftly evaporated.
A glorious elevated shot encompassing some low cloud and rolling hills welcomes us to the serenity of the West Country of England. We’re introduced to a techie called Gray (Robin Hill) who is impatiently checking off a list of hidden cameras, microphones and wires. Soon after he’s joined by a Scottish priest named Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) who it seems he’s meeting for the first time. It’s a strange pairing as they initially appear to be diametrically opposed personalities – Gray is brash and somewhat cocky, whilst Deacon seems reserved, and is also particularly cynical towards Gray’s equipment, especially when he’s required to continually wear a camera headset.
Both men appear to have an understanding of why they’re there, but quite cannily we’re left to deduce their motives ourselves, something I found to be a welcome change from the usual spoon feeding of the narrative. Eventually the two men travel to a parish church – the location that Gray and Deacon have been sent to investigate, and they’re introduced to a Father Crellick (Luke Neal) who it transpires witnessed a supernatural event during a Christening and is the reason for this inquest. The final part of the jigsaw is Mark (Aidan McArdle), a priest who has been sent direct from the Vatican to investigate this unusual phenomenon and who seems to hold some superiority over both Gray and Deacon. Mark’s arrival heightens the intensity of the film, with its (relatively) light-hearted tone deepening drastically with the horror of a burning sheep hurtling towards their accommodation. The following day the threesome begin their work in earnest, and so begins a journey that can only be described as startling and unforgettable.
There’s a scene in The Borderlands where both Gray and Deacon are in a pub, sat at a table, and for a couple of minutes they engage in a theological discussion. For a split second, I couldn’t help but think of Father Karras and Father Merrin sat on the stairs outside Regan’s bedroom in The Exorcist. It’s a crazy comparison, but for that allegory to enter my head it does at least hint at the level in which The Borderlands operates. It’s the intelligence of it that elevates it to a higher plain. We’ve spent much of the 21st century being drip-fed replicated template horror that it has almost cauterized our senses, so much so that when a film like this shows up we feel a level of trepidation at the prospect of being privy to a literate, respectful genre movie.
Producer Jennifer Handorf states that with regard to the film they tried to examine found footage flaws and consciously do the opposite, citing the “why don’t they just drop the camera and run” as one of the key bug bears of the sub-genre. Thus by taking the plausibility issues and strangling them at birth, writer / director Goldner along with the improvisation of the cast have created something both plausible and very very frightening.
Credit in this film is spread far and wide from director to producer to the astounding cast – Gordon Kennedy in particular. However, a lengthy standing ovation should surely go to Metrodome, who after years of distributing other people’s films have decided to branch out to producing their own, and what a choice of movie they made to pop their proverbial cherry. This is the 140th film I’ve reviewed for UKHorrorScene, and in all honesty it could well be the scariest.
9 out of 10