UNHALLOWED GROUND

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

Admire, if you will, the lovely and spooky cover of this half-baked British horror thriller. See the moody image of some ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by gravestones and with a bloody axe buried in a stump of wood. Then watch the film and wonder why not one of these things appears in the film which is, in fact, set in and around a mansion-like boarding school in the middle of the English countryside. This misleading practice is pretty much par for the course for the direct-to-DVD horror market and once again we’re promised a moodier and creepier film than the one we actually get when we press ‘play’.

We’re at the clumsily-named but rambling Dhoultham School where six promising students from local schools for posh rich kids, as part of their military training, are instructed to spend the night patrolling the building and its grounds. Unfortunately the building is in the process of being infiltrated by two inept Home Alone-style burglars intent on snaffling some of the School’s secret artefacts and, just to make the night really special, there are supernatural doings afoot. 350 years earlier a bunch of kids from the school entered into a terrible pact with the devil to preserve the School from the ravages of the Black Death sweeping across the country. Typically, they’ve chosen tonight to resurrect themselves and a Satanic figure is stalking the corridors too, looking for payback…

Unhallowed Ground isn’t especially awful but it’s also not hugely accomplished. The whole set-up is doomed thanks to an unconvincing and fairly lifeless script with settles far too often for awkward and unsubtle expositionary bouts of info-dumping, seriously dodgy acting, deeply unsympathetic characters and, worst of all, horribly unscary scares. Ghouls pop up now again with silly glowing eyes like extras from a 1980s Duran Duran video and only the manifestation of the Devil with his cowl and beak-like proboscis looks even remotely alarming - but possibly for all the wrong reasons entirely.

By the final act, just as our interest is draining away through our boots (other footwear is available), the film tries to muster up a few surprises as a couple of the characters turn out to be not quite what we’ve been led to believe (don’t worry about spoilers - you really won’t care either way). Sadly it’s too little too late to save a film which has been mostly marking time and failing to deliver even the most simplistic scares or shocks. But despite its failings, it’s occasionally quite smartly directed and Burglar No 1 Will Thorp is an agreeable enough psychopath. It still seems quite likely that the film advertised on the cover would have been a better bet though…

Special Features: None

UNHALLOWED GROUND / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RUSSELL ENGLAND / SCREENPLAY: PAUL RASCHID / STARRING: ANEET CHANA, MARCUS GRIFFITHS, POPPY DRAYTON, WILL THORP / RELEASE DATE: JULY 27TH



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