UNHALLOWED GROUND

2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 12th June 2015

Director: Russell England

Cast: Ameet Chana, Poppy Drayton, Thomas Law, Marcus Griffiths, Morgane Polanski, Rachel Petladwala, Paul Raschid, Andrew Lewis and Will Thorp

Writer: Paul Raschid

Trailer: UNHALLOWED GROUND

Unhallowed-Ground-PosterSomebody’s been overdosing on Scooby Doo! Out of all the haunted house movies I’ve ever seen this is the one that resembles the plot template to every single episode of the popular ghost busting cartoon dog show.  The only thing missing was a dog. Well, the dog is the finished movie really.

The makers left suspense at home on this occasion and thought that they could swap the usual band of frightened team of self-loathers with a bunch of posh school kids playing at soldiers on their last night at boarding school.  Said poshos get given this task 350 years to the day that four head boys where ritualistically murdered during the days of the bubonic plague. Uncanny shadows with glowing eyes turn up in unexpected places whilst the kids carry on oblivously working out their place in the world and amongst their peers. Meanwhile, a pair of really thick cat burglars (AMEET CHANA and WILL THORP) turn up to raid the school archive to steal some first editions books. So our plummy Famous 5 (or 6 in this case) split up and look for clues as to what’s making noises, duffing up the Asian characters and throwing spiders into shower cublicles. I think “Lets split up!” is one of the main bits of dialogue. Even with the added peril of having a human threat (the burglars) as well as the ghosts, the scare level is dialled down to around 1 out of 10. It seems to take an age for the ghostly spirits to attack anybody.

The acting is reasonable by the whole of the cast, yet the script and story is so clunky that any potential it does have leaks away before the mystery is solved. The unmasking of the non-supernatural killers is very Scooby Doo. I think the baddie even says “I would’ve gotten away with it if wasn’t for you…blah, blah…”

The setting is fairly creepy but the whole film is bloodless and fairly boring for a horror. The only fairly well-known actor is Ameet Chana (WILD WEST) who was in Eastenders for a long time. Subsequently, he hogs top billing but he’s not the main character and he seems to be fairly relieved when it’s his turn to go home.

The DVD box gets a mention for being the most misleading cover ever. It has an American style ranch house on the front, not a boarding school (ala Stow) (not the picture included above). The written description also describes the plot to an altogether different film which sounds no better than the effort enclosed. It’s like the synopsis was written long before the film got finished and the wrong word.doc got sent to the PR / Copywriters. It talks about a haunted derelict house on the moors where a group of friends take shelter for the night? The mind boggles.

2.5 out of 10 – All potential is lost by a lack of pace and fear. There’s nothing new to report in this flat exercise in how to make a horror with zero number of scares. Well acted but slight and ultimately botched.

Read below for second review.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Ameet Chana: Cash and Curry, Eastenders (TV), The Story of F*ck, Bend It Like Beckham, Wild West
  • Poppy Drayton: Down Dog
  • Thomas Law: Eastenders (TV)
  • Rachel Petladwala: MI High (TV)
  • Andrew Lewis: Holby City (TV)
  • Will Thorp: Coronation Street (TV), Dr Who (TV), Casualty (TV)
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One thought on “UNHALLOWED GROUND

  1. UNHALLOWED GROUND – review by Joe Pesci II

    At last! A silly so-bad-it’s-good film, the sort I was beginning to worry had vanished. I think even the actors and director give up about three quarters of the way through and just play it for laughs (unless it’s meant to be a horror comedy in which case it’s not funny enough and is a terrible disappointment).

    Things start badly when the title (in a font suggesting a 1980s TV sword and sorcery non-epic) drops into shot, the second word appearing first. Mind you Ground Unhallowed would’ve been a slightly more arty title. Then we see a bloke skipping gingerly about in a misty (but not mysterious) forest. It transpires that his students have met gruesome ends and it’s all something to do with the great plague.

    We skip forward to the present day. We’re in an incredibly posh private school oddly named Dhoultham. It’s the last day of term and an admirably multiracial trio of students (all of whom look old enough to have children at the school) (honestly it’s worse than Please Sir) have been selected to perform one of the school’s ancient traditions (albeit one which they will be marked on): to patrol the grounds that night (in full army camouflage and cadet get-up) and … erm … that’s it. The Headmaster, realising this doesn’t sound like a particularly gruelling test promises some grim surprises of his own. And, in the interests of equality and providing enough bodies to sacrifice to the plot, the film-makers throw in three girls from another school to provide decoration and screams (honestly, it’s not me who’s being sexist here).

    So our intrepid sextet embark on their task. But who are they? There’s a black rugby captain who is proud of his physique (that’s a euphemism). There’s an Asian swot with family troubles. There’s a nice but very dim white lad. There’s a sex-mad dim blonde girl (I’m not making this up), a sensible practical French girl, and a religious Asian swot (I’m not making this up – someone else did). I apologise: my descriptions here are misleading as I have actually given them greater depth than the actors and script muster.

    Then the problems really begin. Bored, our clueless coterie of future world leaders takes little interest in their tedious task (and who can blame them?). But there are a few things lurking in the dark ready to disrupt what they hope will end up being a night of juvenile hi-jinks. Firstly there are the plans of the headmaster. But these never actually transpire. Secondly, the school’s ‘archive’ (or library as you’d normally call it) is the target for two devious burglars who learned their trade from Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in HOME ALONE. Thirdly, one of the girls is terrified of a spider (I’m not making any of this up), a spider which I think may have been a toy jiggled about by a crew member. Oh, and fourthly, there’s a malevolent Satanic presence abroad this unhallowed night, a presence with a thirst for human sacrifice. (Probably should have mentioned that first).

    Being the sort of posh kids who are being trained to run the country they face their fears with (mostly) bland faces of stoic indifference. When the Satanic presence smashes one of the characters about like a doll it only musters a smattering of interest amongst these dumb bright things. Indeed, when another character discovers a corpse – a human corpse – a recently deceased human corpse – in the library, he spends most of his time drooling over all the amazing first editions the school has (even though he has, being a swot, presumably visited the library previously). Mind you, this is a library with an astonishingly sophisticated alarm system, not like what you get at your usual cash-strapped branch library. The indifference of the characters to their imminent doom (I think there’s a political point there but I can’t be bothered to think it through) is mirrored in the succinct performance of the actors.

    Or, to put it another way, there’s a lot of poster paint acting on show. Marcus Griffiths is the cocky one, so that’s about the only attitude he exhibits. Poppy Drayton has a naughty smile plastered immovably to her face for the duration, even when the spookiness and horror starts to pile up (and I hope that was a wig). Paul Raschid does ‘moderate inner turmoil’ and ‘ooh! Cool books! Never mind about the dead bloke’. Thomas Law does bland leader with all the conviction of a modern politician. Best of the bunch is Rachel Petladwala as the seriously religious one. Morgane Polanski looks a bit upset, and Will Thorp and Ameet Chana try to look like Macauley Culkin would be no match for them. And fail.

    The weirdest thing about the film, something which almost stands in its favour, is its structure. We’ve all seen films where half a dozen idiots set out on a mission, only to be slaughtered by homicidal terrors at irregular intervals. UNHALLOWED GROUND keeps its cast as alive as possible for as long as possible. Before the big denouement only a couple of minor characters bite the dust. (Don’t worry, there’s a bit of a massacre eventually.) Obviously, delaying the inevitable bloodbath serves to build up tension. Supposedly. Unfortunately by the time of the grand finale (notable for its appalling hellfire special effect) the film is staggering along, having stumbled from one non-set-piece to another. And so, devoid of any decent conclusion, the film pulls out a twist ending of such startling improbability, of such audience-bashing stupidity that you can only slap your hand to your head and utter ‘my word! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?’

    Special effects and gore and all that sort of stuff are variously poor or absent, as are any attempts to make anything in this film seem in any way real. It is a (literally) old school pre-Scooby Doo sort of horror, strictly for beginners, idiots and (ironically) fans of under-achievement.

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