Starring: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle
A team consisting of two specialist priests, Deacon (Kennedy) and Father Mark Amidon (McArdle) and a non-religious techie called Gray (Hill) are sent by the Vatican to a church in rural Devon to investigate apparent mysterious occurrences and a possible ‘miracle’ in the local church. Despite their being apparent video evidence for this, the two priests are sceptical and so set up cameras around the church and permanently wear head cams to disprove any of these theories. However a series of inexplicable occurrences and noises lead them to investigate further, leading to potentially darker revelations than they could have ever imagined.
Yes, I know what you are thinking in a very cynical tone; head cams and the setting up of cameras in the apparent spooky location can only mean it is yet another ‘found footage’ film. Let’s face it, this is a format that got old and boring before it even started, I for one hate all the Paranormal Activity films as they are just plain boring (though occasionally funny) as there is nothing clever about a film going quiet, quiet, quiet, BANG! Well I was similarly cynical towards The Borderlands, but after hearing good things I decided to check it out. I am very pleasantly surprised to say that The Borderlands takes a tried and tested concept but uses it very well and creates a genuinely haunting atmosphere throughout.
Goldner is not afraid to go with the tried and tested format such as having the techie to have exposition explained to him, and therefore us. However, this is a film that takes its time and Goldner avoids the temptation of using too many money shots, and saving the real horror to the film’s devastating final 20 minutes. Some may describe the first two thirds as filler, and yes to some extent it is, but it is very well written and acted filler. The dialogue between the two main characters of Deacon and Gray varies between expositional and naturalistic conversation, but yet just listening to the two of them having a chinwag is very watchable, making for two likeable characters.
With emotional investment into these two characters, what then develops is far more chilling and involving because of this. Though the initial plot developments may be a little predictable, Goldner creates a subtle, but unnerving atmosphere that slowly develops along with the revelations of the narrative, rarely having to rely on the tacky and cheap methods of the Paranormal Activity films or anything by James Wan. I of course do not want to reveal too much, but the final twenty minutes of The Borderlands are genuine edge of the seat stuff, with Goldner making extremely effective use of the found footage style. It is a haunting and disturbing ending that certainly stayed with me, and fully justify an investment of 90 minutes of anyone’s time.
Despite using a very tried and tested method, The Borderlands not only uses it very effectively, but is also a very well written and acted British horror that is genuinely atmospheric, haunting and unnerving, even for a horror genre cynic like me.