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  Borderlands, The Church From Hell
Year: 2013
Director: Elliott Goldner
Stars: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Luke Neal, Patrick Godfrey, Sarah Annis, Marcus Cunningham, Peter Charlton, Kevin Johnson
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: In Devon, there has been a report of a miracle in a Catholic church belonging to a small, rural village, one which was supposedly captured on camera, so the Vatican have dispatched one of their investigators, Deacon (Gordon Kennedy), to uncover the truth. To that end they have recruited an electronics expert, Gray (Robin Hill) to assist, and one rule they both must abide by is to have cameras operating at all times, to ensure that should any supernatural phenomena be occurring they will be recorded, and if they are not, they will have a record of any trickery as an alternative. From the start it's clear Deacon has little time for the often coarse Gray, but strange happenings have a way of forging friendships...

The Borderlands was yet another found footage horror movie which followed dutifully in the wake of The Blair Witch Project, so this could have been the most original use of the format ever, but it would still leave a substantial percentage of the audience cold as the market for chillers had been so saturated by such entertainments you just had to mention the words "found footage" and they would mean "been there, done that, seen it all before". Yet this victim of its own success in low budget filmmaking did have budding directors and writers ploughing ahead regardless, as if squeezing the profits out of one more of these shockers was preferable to coming up with something genuinely new.

Ah, but then there were examples such as this one which didn't seek to slavishly emulate Blair Witch and actually concocted a novel plot, albeit one which still owed quite a bit to horrors of the past. You could view this as a British version of The Last Exorcism in light of the way it followed many of the same narrative points, but as always, it wasn't so much the medium that was important in going over old ground, it was what the filmmakers did with it, and in that way director Elliott Goldner's script led up to a genuinely freaky ending for the audience to digest. They were patently working on a low budget, but as references to trickery and conjuring implied, they could use what resources they had to pull the wool over the characters' eyes, and with any luck the audiences' too.

Except they would be well aware of what happens to sceptics in horror movies - name one where they are proven correct, after all. OK, Scooby-Doo isn't really a horror movie. Anyway, the mildly antagonistic Deacon and Gray await the third member of their party, Mark (Aidan McArdle), who is a priest, but while they do the duo talk to the local priest, Father Crellick (Luke Neal) all the time supposedly reserving judgement but actually looking out for any evidence of subterfuge. At least, Deacon is, he's investigated too many of these before to be a true believer, bringing in an interesting religious debate about how many of the pious want there to be evidence of God in the world that they are willing to "help" Him along by manufacturing the miracles themselves.

None of this gets too heavy - it's a horror leading up to a punchline after all, and the excuses for the cameras being on all the time that the characters wear headsets near-constantly are hard to believe, no matter how convenient it is for Goldner and his crew. Indeed, there are parts that veer almost into comedy, comfortable territory for Kennedy who was part of the celebrated Absolutely team on TV in the early nineties, which makes what it's all building to even more of a sick joke at the investigators' expense. To hint at some dark forces abroad in the land, the picture would break up in a way that previously would have implemented a static effect or judder to indicate videotape, but now has a more digital appearance, all very well but it does look as if the DVD or streaming or broadcast (however you're watching the movie) is breaking down in a technical fault, so be warned it's not your hardware that's suffering. With neat elements of the macabre in a slow increase of tension, maybe too slow for some, the feeling of claustrophobia is what stays with you in a modest yet effective effort.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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