BORLEY RECTORY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ASHLEY THORPE / STARRING: JONATHAN RIGBY, REECE SHEARSMITH, ANNABEL BATES, JULIAN SANDS, NICHOLAS VINCE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The story of the most haunted house in Britain, Borley Rectory, has been told many times on screen. Ashley Thorpe’s part-animated feature tells the tale in a mesmerising fashion.
A succession of clergy have moved into the rectory over the years, all leaving after experiencing disturbances. Paranormal investigator/debunker Harry Price (Rigby) and journalist V. C. Wall (Shearsmith) decide to get to the bottom of what’s been going on over decades at the house, with terrifying consequences.
Borley Rectory was made to have a distinct look. The actors were all filmed on green screen, with everything else added digitally. It’s also rendered in black and white and made to look as if it were a film made in the thirties or forties. Remarkably, the result works to give a real otherworldly atmosphere. Without resorting to jump scares or other ‘modern’ tricks, Thorpe manages to build an atmosphere of dread in which the merest shadow can send a shiver down the spine. Its unique look may not be to everyone’s taste, but perseverance pays off to bring a thoroughly entertaining documentary-style piece.
Where the Borley Rectory release excels is in the special features. A feature-length making-of piece is longer than the actual film and doesn’t disappoint. With input from most of the cast and crew, it’s tells the fascinating story of brining the movie to the screen. No stone is left unturned in the journey from idea to finished product - from the ups to the many downs. It makes you appreciate the work put into the finished production even more. Other extra items include various question and answer sessions from film festivals, and Shearsmith and Rigby discussing various aspects of horror and Gothic at the British Library. There’s an enthralling look at the process of animating the backgrounds and such, too. The fact this was pretty much a one-man job by Thorpe is a testament to his tenacity and skill. A section focusing on the influence of the Usborne Ghost book popular in the seventies - and just re-issued to terrify a new generation - will invoke nostalgia in people of certain age (of which this writer is) and hearing about how the book came about, and the philosophy of the company’s owner (Peter Usborne) certainly makes you want to support them. Thorpe’s previous short films are also included. If only every release had this wealth of added value; Nucleus Films need to be applauded for going all-in for here. On the quality of the extras alone, Borley Rectory is in the running for Blu-ray of the year.