Director: Elliott Goldner.
Starring. Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Lee Arnold, Patrick Godfrey. UK. 1h 29m.
There are some strange going on in Elliott Goldner’s dark found footage horror set in the beautiful rural Devon landscape. After a miracle at a small church close to being closed down, a team of Vatican expert investigators and a plucky technician head out to prove or disprove the supernatural activity only to discover the truth is harder to believe than the miracle.
Goldner successfully sets up a plausible reason for the cameras and maintains a really good combination of shaky and static cam set up. Starting in South America the camera follows the authorities barging into an abandoned church, Brother Deacon (Kennedy) is screaming into the phone that everyone is missing as the cops find hidden microphones and equipment, it’s an obvious religious scam, “get that camera out of my face” fade to black.
In the now, Gray (Hill) is setting up cameras in a small cottage and after managing to lock himself out, the first of a ton of silly mistakes, he then welcomes Deacon the two really don’t gel to begin with, Deacon has been through the wars but he’s not broken, just jaded and so matter of fact, but he is incredibly dedicated to finding the truth and has a huge sympathetic streak which often gets him into trouble, Gray is at the other end of the rainbow, he’s after a fat paycheck and admits that he doesn’t believe either way but finds the prospect of finding something creepy really exciting but he’s just a tech guy nothing more, but there’s a bit of belief bubbling somewhere under his laddish surface.
The dynamic duo start their investigations early before the arrival of the third amigo, Farther Mark Amidon (McArdie) but as there were so many faults in Season last investigation (the one that the film opened with) so everyone has to wear a go pro style headset and cameras are set up to document everything so “there are no gaps in the timeline”. The Village seems so strange, Gray attempts to have conversations with a man about a cow, but he’s just faced with stone silence, another attempt to ask for directions to the church is met with confusion, it’s like they are from another planet.
if a poltergeist farted in here 6 months ago, we’ll hear it
After meeting the parish priest Father Crelick, they set up more cameras in the church and begin looking around, initially Deacon is convinced it’s all rubbish while Gray is looking for things that go bump in the night, as a newbie it’s all sparkly and new to him. But after a sheep is set on fire outside their cottage, and a strange diary detailing child sacrifices to an unnamed pagan deity, a random suicide and some creepy noises can’t be explained, the investigation is on.
Usually the set up is to have skeptic vs believer but both men start out with reasonable reservations, one from past and extensive experiences, but as they dig in deep, they begin to annoy each other less and less as they talk so honestly with each other. The techniques add to their bond, which deepens as the men begin to fear their mission. Goldner uses some clever trickery with the numerous cameras to build the fear factor, at times it will switch between a few seemingly still scenes but you’ll be looking closely for tiny changes then BOOM! jump scare when you’ve relaxed. There’s also a lot going on on the peripheral as headsets are looking around gloomy churches. Camera glitches and the sounds of crying babies give the illusion that it’s nothing more than a bit of static of the crew picking up a baby monitor so every scar has a hit of cynicism, a point to disprove.
Generally I found that the movie was quite believable in ways, the characters are wholesome, no one is out to be a true hero, Gray is probably more down to earth but flaws and hiccups make everyone that bit more believable when chatting casually over a pint at the local pub. The biggest goof is possibly the very end, I don’t want to give anything away but there’s a tiny bit of haziness on how that was handled, let me know if you spot it.
There are no monsters, no devils it’s not real Gray it’s not real
In all it’s a highly engrossing and deeply atmospheric horror with some genuinely funny belly laughs to break up the seriousness. There’s so many little mysteries within the bigger picture, the historical diary and what happened years before when the church was new, and Gray is always talking to an anonymous backer, someone asking him to sky on Deacon, but it’s never really revealed who they might be… In the end Final Prayer or The Borderlands as my dvd reads, has a wonderful underlying narrative of a war between organised religion vs paganism, Gray mentioned how people used to worship what was in front of them rather than invisible gods and he’s on their side, Father Amidon shouts that the church needs to drop the fantasies about the world being created in 6 days and move on, whatever is happening with old and new gods meets at this point, possibly the reason for the title of Borderlands, for me this is how I believe something from the Cthulhu mythos should be dealt with in future movies most aptly House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, this gentle but deliberate plunge into insanity and unfathomable monsters, because let’s face it, did you see that ending coming??