THE BORDERLANDS aka FINAL PRAYER

9 out of 10

Release Date: 15th April 2014

Director: Elliot Goldner

Cast: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Luke Neal and Patrick Godfrey

Writer: Elliot Goldner

Trailer: THE BORDERLANDS

Borderlands_Poster_LR-700x1033Not another found-footage movie! There’s a bunch of people that have turned off from this cheap framing device already but wait, come back! Here’s one of the very best of them. It had to happen eventually that there’d be someone out there that could use this storytelling method and come up with a great story to tell. The Borderlands is that film. It’s truly the best we can hope for after the legions of Blair Witch Project / Paranormal Activity wannabes.

Vatican sanctioned miracle debunker Deacon (GORDON KENNEDY – JUST LIKE A WOMAN) arrives at a remote Devon church to disprove a supernatural event caught on film. With him is atheist techie Gray (ROBIN HILL – DOWN TERRACE). They are later joined by their tardy handler; a high ranking priest called Mark (AIDAN MCARDLE – KILLING BONO). The church and their rented cottage is rigged with cameras. Said footage shows a family christening disrupted by ringing bells and moving candle sticks. Deacon has seen faked ‘miracles’ like this over and over again. But there’s something more to this case.  The clergyman under investigation is a young man, Father Crellick (LUKE NEAL – WILDERNESS), the first to welcome a congregation after the church had been closed for nearly 100 years. He is shaken by a series of encounters and the investigation uncovers a very very disturbing mystery.

The atmosphere is key. The villagers themselves seem to be a dark and subdued lot. Hoodies lurk on every corner and the old people are monosyllabic and violent. The church itself is very creepy, it’s small but large enough to house something atrocious. The scenes in which Father Crillick is caught on camera going to the church in the dead of night are particularly hair raising. For a horror buff like myself this is a potent horror. There are well-established plot beats but this only serves to put you in a place of comfort only for the story to utterly unseat you come the climax.

Great performances from the forgotten Gordon Kennedy (wasn’t he one of Cilla Black‘s mates on Surprise Surprise back in the day?) and Down Terrace‘s Robin Hill. The fear that Gray shows as their grave situation escalates is excellent. I’ve rarely seen a character nail ‘frightened’ to death as he does. The Borderlands is successful because even after the mystery is partially unravelled you’re still gripped. The outcome is as unknowable and completely baffling as it is successful. One of the best UK horror ghost stories Britpic has seen to date.

9 out of 10 – Great yet unusual adoption of the found-footage method of horror filmmaking. This is all about the plot and some very very good acting that carries you away and gets you swept up in the mounting feeling of panic and dread. Something I’ve not seen in a ‘FF’ since Rec or The Blair Witch Project. Horror fans get connected.

Another review below by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher. He loved this scary masterpiece too!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Gordon Kennedy: Belly of the Bulldog, Robin Hood (TV), With Or Without You, Just Like a Woman
  • Robin Hill: The ABCs of Death, Down Terrace
  • Aidan McArdle: Mr Selfridge (TV), The Mill (TV), Killing Bono, Morris – A Life With Bells On
  • Luke Neal: Pudsey The Dog, Wilderness
  • Patrick Godfrey: Mr Turner, The Duchess, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Everafter, The Gambler, The Remains Of The Day, Maurice, Clockwise, A Room With A View, Dr Who (TV)
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One thought on “THE BORDERLANDS aka FINAL PRAYER

  1. THE BORDERLANDS – review by Matt Usher

    In the last two years I have wanted to switch off many of the 150+ films I’ve been asked to review for Britpic, generally because they are excruciatingly awful. How did I get through STAGGER or CUT? I persevered in hope, always believing that some light might emerge even from a tunnel as dingy and dire as BASEMENT. Paradoxically, with THE BORDERLANDS my optimism finally paid off, but I still wanted to switch it off, ‘cos it scared me. Yes, scared me! In a proper way, in a look-over-your-shoulder-before-turning-out-the-lights-and-make-sure-there’s-no-one-under-the-bed sort of way, not in a Terry Stone in drag sort of way. It’s probably the scariest film I’ve seen in twenty years.

    But why? And how? Particularly with such a terrible title. Indeed, this is my only significant problem with the film. Although the title makes sense (though I’m not saying why) it’s hardly a distinctive attention-grabber. In fact it makes the film sound like a rural drama with Peter Mullan as a depressed sheep-farmer meeting his estranged daughter. True, there is a very unfortunate sheep in THE BORDERLANDS, but the borderlands here refer more to Heaven and Hell, states of consciousness, belief, religion and virtue. That sort of stuff.

    A lonely creepy long-abandoned church has become the site of an unexplained event. During a christening the church went a bit haywire, and stuff on the altar moved about on its own and the home video camera went weird and it was all earthquakey and strange. Apparently this isn’t that unusual so the Vatican has a special department to deal with this sort of nonsense, and therefore the church calls in a ghostbusting trio led by Gordon Kennedy (seeking (and gaining) redemption from hosting the National Lottery), playing Deacon (unwise name), a grizzled Scot (is there any other kind? – such is Sean Connery’s true legacy) who likes a drink (what with being a priest and a Scot, and having a Dark Secret) and seeking redemption for his Dark Secret. The team also comprises Deacon’s boss, a supercilious by-the-book bore called Mark (played a little too straight-laced by Aidan McArdle) and an IT technical geek – an agnostic (‘I believe in … stuff’) played by the excellently natural Robin Hill. As the Vatican likes to keep control of miracles the team is tasked with finding fakery wherever it goes. They are convinced that the local priest, Father Crellick (Luke Neal as the befuddled yet beatific believer) has faked the whole thing to get a bit of attention and fill a few pews. Only the agnostic technician seems willing to entertain other possibilities. And, this being a horror film, guess who’s right? But things keep going bump in the night, there’s something in the church, there’s a scary bit of plastic sheeting, and where does the crying come from? And why does all the recording equipment misbehave?

    In many ways this is a standard horror of the ‘there’s something scary in the chimney’ variety. What sets it apart is its approach. The film-makers make use of the ‘found-footage’ technique, which you may have encountered many, many times over the last decade or so, but anyone who thought that gimmick ran out of steam twenty-five minutes into BLAIR WITCH PROJECT can sigh a sigh of relief. Here’s the twist: this time it works. Here’s another twist: this time it’s integral to the plot, not just a lazy framing device. In order to get to the bottom of the ‘fake’ miracle our ghostbusters are using all sorts of hi-tech gizmo know-how which basically means they’re all wearing cameras on their heads. This means that the audience will always see what they see when they see it. In other words: no warning. No shadows, no lurking, the audience experience things only when the characters do. It’s unflinching in that respect. And of course the technology is showing the characters (and us) things that the technology itself should disprove. Being (almost) permanently restricted to the characters’ point of view is unsettling enough, but then there’s the small matter of the sounds. The film’s sound design is exceptionally eerie. Whether it’s the disembodied cries of ghostly children, paint being scraped, or things that go bump in the night (there’s a lot of that), the film is determined to keep you on edge by keeping as much out of the picture as possible.

    In many ways THE BORDERLANDS is a modest, unassuming film. The cast is small (and excellent), and the scope is tiny: the trouble is located in a tiny, isolated church on the outskirts of a small, unfriendly, deeply non-descript village. The IT bloke spots a take-away, a launderette and a betting shop and observes that those three institutions basically sum life up here. He’s almost right, but he misses out the church, just as most of us do. (Don’t worry I’m not about to turn evangelical on you.) But I think the film may be suggesting that it is a mistake to turn our backs on the church and the idea of community that it represents. However, this is not a benign church either, so the film’s also warning against bind faith as well. Perhaps (and I may be projecting quite a bit here what with all the stupidity going on in the names of the religions this week – Israel, Syria, Iraq) the film is about vigilance: don’t turn a blind eye, stay sceptical. Not that vigilance actually helps any of the characters in the film. Actually, I’ve no idea what the film is about in that sense, I was too busy being scared, frightened and terrified and hoping that the film might at some point relent and give us a camera shot which was neutral, not charged with menace.

    THE BORDERLANDS is easily the best British horror in years (despite the title): scary, claustrophobic, thoughtful, atmospheric and uncompromising. It also leaves lots of room for speculation. (And the only similarity with THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is that they both have caves in them.)

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