Sadly, due to this being very much a low budget affair, much of that happens off-screen, with characters telling the others they saw something or it taking place in a room where there’s no camera. McGing tries to get around this limit in resources by focussing on building atmosphere. He understands that especially in stories like this, it’s often what people can’t see that helps to create that sense of unease. Still, at the risk of starting to bore an audience as it threatens more than once, something has to happen, and here we follow the Brick Tamland guide to scaring people (LOUD NOISES!). Characters speak in exposition so we never really get to know them outside of their assigned role (professor, medium et al). They do silly things that only people in horror movies do, everyone starts shouting and running from here to there and then it all ends on kind of a bummer.
However, there’s enough to recommend. Not every person who picks up a camera knows which end to point, or how to structure a film, but here McGing and his crew are clearly competent. He goes for a desaturated look with occasional flashes of colour, which suits the Dartmoor aesthetic established at the outset. McGing as writer throws in some Kneale-like attempts at a scientific explanation for hauntings and the afterlife. The cast have a good crack at investing us in proceedings and making us care about these rote characters. The nuclear threat background brings a different slant and adds to the atmosphere.
It’s just not enough to get around what the film was up against from the start. Found-footage and haunted house movies are so familiar these days that to break away from the pack you have to do something special, and mixing the two almost doubles that need to stand out. Having said that, there’s enough talent on display that I encourage McGing to have another go and put his energies into making something much fresher and less familiar next time.
THE UNFOLDING / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: EUGENE MCGING / STARRING: ROBERT DAWS, NICK JULIAN, LISA KERR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW