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THE BORDERLANDS

Written By:

Iain Robertson
borderland

While The Blair Witch Project may not have invented the found footage genre, it certainly brought it back into the public consciousness. 25 years later and it’s still providing fertile ground for fledgling filmmakers (and a few more established ones, such as the late, great George A. Romero) to take advantage of the (usually) low-fi, low budget opportunities the genre provides. With wildly varying results.

Originally released in 2013, and after gaining a cult following (Mark Kermode is a big fan, but don’t hold that against it) and now finally gaining a well-deserved Blu-ray release, The Borderlands is a superior entry in the genre. It sees a small Vatican team (two church-y types and a smart-ass tech guy) sent to a ‘charming’, unnamed English village (the kind where the local youth set fire to sheep for the lols), to investigate a supposed miracle at the local church. Their mission is to investigate the veracity of the claim made by the local priest Father Crellick, (yes, we know it’s close to Father Ted’s Crilly, just ignore that bit) using scientific methods to disprove or verify the claim. Needless to say, there’s genuinely some spooky goings on at the church, and as part of the investigation – and luckily for us – the team wear headcams at all time to document everything, as well as installing cameras throughout the church as well as the cottage where they’re staying.

There’s a couple of areas in which The Borderlands surpasses many of its contemporaries. Firstly, the cast is superb, with Ben Wheatley regular Robin Hill being alternately entertaining and irritatingly punchable as the team’s tech expert Gray, and Gordon Kennedy as Deacon, one of the Vatican’s investigators (with a shadowy past) being the standouts.

Secondly, it’s genuinely creepy. Something bad is happening in the church, and as the team gradually uncover the mystery, first-time director (and writer) Elliot Goldner does a great job of ratcheting up the tension. Whether it’s with a well-timed (but fortunately not overused) jump scare, some superbly creepy effects on the soundtrack (which sound great on the blu ray), or a superbly claustrophobic finale, the films uses the limitations of the genre to its benefit, using them to enhance the scares. Goldner knows that what we don’t see if often just as – if not more – terrifying than what we don’t, and plays into that to great effect.

The blu ray does the film justice, with a new commentary and in-depth interviews with actors Hill and Kennedy, as well as the film’s producer and special effects artist (director Goldner being strangely absent). There’s also a limited edition with a 70-page book comprising essays on the film and artwork.

The Borderlands is an overlooked gem, and one of the best British horrors of recent years. Hopefully, this new release will help it find a new, wider audience. Recommended.

stars

THE BORDERLANDS is out now on Blu-ray from Second Sight.

 

Iain Robertson

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