Are you growing tired of the unstoppable flood of found footage horror films spilling off the shelves at the local supermarket like a tsunami of shit? Are you getting fed up with the ever growing army of tenth rate film-makers using the format to disguise the fact that they have no idea where or how to point a camera? (“Hey…it’s supposed to look rubbish!!!) Have you sworn off watching any more mediocre found-footage horror movies for fear that the tiny little bit of respect you still have for the horror genre might wink out of existence with a barely audible, despair induced pop? Well don’t. Here comes The Borderlands, a tremendously well executed tale of terror, to balance the scales. I’m not the biggest fan of found footage horror movies (something you may have guessed) so cast your eyes in the direction of the score at the bottom of this review and please believe that this is to Paranormal Entity what Jaws is to Shark Attack III: Megalodon.
The Borderlands follows a group of Vatican endorsed investigators looking into an apparently paranormal incident that takes place during a christening at a newly re-opened Church located in the West Country of England. As the investigation proceeds and evidence pointing towards some kind of supernatural force being responsible starts to pile up they find their attempts to repudiate the cause of the event challenged. Soon they will find out that there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface of this House of God.
This movie is scary. With nary a cheap jump scare to be found The Borderlands succeeds in being an increasingly unnerving viewing experience right up until it delivers a wonderfully macabre, downright disturbing sting in the tail that is remarkable not only for how astonishingly gruesome it is on a conceptual level but also for succeeding in taking a step into unpredictable territory. It’s not often a horror movie (or movie in general) comes along that succeeds in doing something different enough to stand apart from its peers. The Borderlands does just that in spectacular fashion.
It also succeeds in being very funny. It’s obvious that the movie was created by people who have a deep understanding of the M.R. James school of subtle horrors. This is more about what you don’t see than what you do. It also presents some interesting ideas via a debate on secular and non-secular attitudes to miracles and whether the apparently paranormal events in the movie are of mortal, divine or diabolical design. That the film-makers have managed to build such a smart movie within the confines of the found footage sub-genre, a type of movie that isn’t typically known for it's exploration of big ideas, is simply incredible.
The cast are, top to bottom, fantastic. Gordon Kennedy who, if you’re old enough, you may remember from Channel 4’s comedy sketch show Absolutely is wonderful as Deacon; a man of God with a troubled past who is seldom seen without a drink in his hand. Robin Hill who was outstanding in Ben Wheatley’s debut movie Down Terrace is a lot of fun here as the tech wizard responsible for looking after the various pieces of equipment the group use to monitor and record any phenomena. His character starts off as comic relief but as events get progressively more alarming he soon sobers up. Everyone else delivers but it’s these two performances that are the heart of the movie.
The Borderlands is an entertaining melding of M.R. James' brand of classic ghost story, Nigel Kneale’s brilliant The Stone Tape and C4 sitcom Peep Show into what will surely be one of the year's best horror movies. Writer/director Elliot Goldner has delivered a debut feature full of wit, intelligence, fine performances and an expertly sustained atmosphere of mounting dread that pays off with a wonderful, morbidly shocking ending. This is a movie that demands the attention of the discerning horror fan looking for something to prove that the found footage route doesn't always have to be so uninspired. Highly recommended.