British found footage…
Those are 3 words that scare the absolute crap out of me. The combination of 2 things I’ve grown to hate in horror should have been a disaster…I should have hated every second & this review should be filled with all my bile & disgust.
Instead you’re about to read a rare thing indeed. You’re going to read me tell you why this British found footage movie is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
In a secluded part of the English countryside, Gray & Deacon are about to start investigating some paranormal activity. Deacon is a Scottish priest & paranormal investigator working for the Vatican. He appears unfriendly at first but later it becomes clear his scepticism has helped debunk many fraudulent claims in the past.
Gray is the tech guy…not a religious man but a wizz with cameras & computers. Hired by the Vatican after he told a few porkies regarding his religious beliefs, it is his job to ensure they record every bit of footage during the investigation. Modern technology means this found footage movie has moved away from the handheld camera style (thank the gods) & instead employs head-cams with an instantly believable reason for them to not take them off. Seriously…if more found footage films spent time doing this they’d all be a lot better.
Later in the movie they will be joined by the meticulous Mark, also a priest but one leaning more to the scientific side of these investigations.
Anyway…they are here to investigate paranormal activity at the nearby church. The town is a sleepy little place filled with suspicious townspeople & questionable habits. The local priest is convinced it is the work of God & is clearly distressed as the group set about trying to prove that there is no paranormal activity.
Their investigation will see them delve deep into the towns past, something no-one wants. Is the church actually haunted or is it all the work of the clearly unhinged local priest?
Right, that’s all you get as this is a film you don’t want spoiled. The enjoyment comes from never knowing what comes next & there is plenty of that.
Let’s start with the acting…everyone & I mean everyone is amazing throughout. It is so rare to be so convinced & impressed by the relationships throughout & no point did my immersion drop. To see the initial scepticism replaced by genuine wonder & excitement then fear & eventually the dawning realisation that nothing is what it seems is so exciting. A large amount of this film sees characters just talking & getting to know one another…it should be boring but it isn’t as it helps us get to know them as well. By end I cared about them…
The found-footage trope is handled really well as early on it establishes head-cams & the reason for them to be always on. The film-makers do a wonderful job of avoiding un-necessarily dark areas & keeping the cameras as still as possible. By the end I had stopped noticing that it was found-footage which says a hell of a lot I think.
The story might seem like something you’ve seen before & it is, up to a point, what it does manage to do is create one of the most impressive senses of dread I’ve experienced in a movie for a while. It avoids clunky jump scares & any moments that do occur feel natural. Do you know how hard it is for horror films to do this?
We end up with a film that just builds tension, dread & excitement up & up until you feel like you can’t take anymore. It makes you feel like you want to turn the film off ‘cause you just can’t take then tension anymore…bloody amazing.
…the best bit though is saved for the final 10 minutes, a classic payoff for all the tension. It’s unsettling & will stick with you for days…very little is resolved & that might leave you feeling a bit cold but I really like the un-answered questions. It allows you to speculate on just what was going on…
I love being surprised & another reason why I will watch any horror even if it includes ideas/tropes that I hate. The Borderlands is a great horror movie that combines classic film-making with modern ideas. See this movie…