THE BORDERLANDS (2013). Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE BORDERLANDS (2013)

4 stars
Second Sight. Limited Edition Blu Ray Box Set and Standard Blu Ray. 15th April

Anybody who has read some of my previous write-ups will potentially know I am not a big fan of found footage horror movies (BLAIR WITCH has a lot to answer for), because all too often they are an excuse for lazy filmmaking. However, if they are done well and the shooting of the footage is plausibly justified, then they can be highly effective.

A case in point is THE BORDERLANDS (known as FINAL PRAYER in the US). Here it just about gets away with the continual filming conceit, though I do wonder if it could have been just as effective as a straight narrative.

Strange things have been reported at a centuries old church in Devon – with footage from a christening appearing to confirm it. The Vatican decides to send in experts to investigate, as the suspicion is that the local priest, Father Crellick (Luke Neal), is actually faking it, in an attempt to gain notoriety and maybe increase attendance at his services (though that does seem a bit of a drastic method to increase your flock).

Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) is the world weary, seen it all before, somewhat boozy investigator with a spotty past sent to check it out, initially joined by Gray (Robin Hill), a tech whiz responsible for setting up the cameras, microphones and associated paraphernalia, in the hope of either disproving or capturing the so called “miracle”. They are joined a few days later by the ‘by the book’ Mark Amidon (Aidan McArdle), much to Deacon’s displeasure.

Alongside setting up the various equipment in the church, they are each wearing head cams, to ensure they film everything. Of course, before long, odd things start to happen, including strange noises and even an infant crying. Can it all be explained away rationally? Or are there supernatural forces at play within the walls of this house of God?

Often creepy and atmospheric, this is definitely one of the better examples of the sub-genre. The main characters are well defined and given space to establish themselves so that subsequent horrors have more impact… though Gray is more than a little annoying. Writer/Director Elliot Goldner, in his theatrical debut, has made a film that manages to get over most of the reasons that found footage films stretch credulity to the limits. The shakycam aesthetic is still irritating, as far as I am concerned, however here it is used to good effect, with flashes of what is lurking in the dark, plus clever and subtle details thrown in that your may not notice (keep an eye on the gravestones for instance). There are some hair-raising moments and it is also peppered with some good lines of levity – “You don’t have to tell me dude, I’ve read The DaVinci Code” and the wonderful throw away “Good luck with Edward Woodward”, after they ask a less than helpful local for directions.

Steve Kirkham

Extras
New audio commentary by Actors Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy, Producer Jennifer Handorf and Special Effects Artist Dan Martin
Dressed the Part: a new interview with Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy
Losing Faith: a new interview with Jennifer Handorf
Monster Goo: a new interview with Dan Martin
Archive featurette: Behind the Scenes

Limited Edition you also get
Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Christopher Shy
70-page book with new essays by Tim Coleman, Martyn Conterio, Shellie McMurdo and Johnny Walker
6 collectors’ art cards