The Borderlands (2013)
I audibly groaned when I discovered that The Borderlands was a found footage movie, as this is a genre that really has been flogged to death of late. However, I subsequently found out that the movie had seen the involvement of writer James Moran, albeit in a non-credited capacity, which piqued my interest. A subsequent positive review by UK critic Mark Kermode led me to seek out a copy of the film and I must concur with his sentiments. Low budgets often produce binary results when it comes to movies. They can either be derivative, formulaic and safe or they can revisit an established idea but do so with innovation and flair. The Borderlands strives to do something more with the confines of the genre and is a little more than the some of its parts.
The plot is very straight forward with a team of two Vatican investigators and a technical support engineer exploring allegations of a miracle at a remote country church in Devon, Southwest England. Writer and director Elliot Goldner, keeps the setting and unfolding events distinctly low key which works in the movies favour. There are no overtly contrived jolts initially, just a very clever and subtle use of sound design to create an atmosphere of unease. The movies greatest asset by far is the interaction between Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and techie Gray (Robin Hill). The dialogue is priceless and very credible. The movie also takes a plausible stance in so far that both Vatican investigators are extremely cynical about their work and through experience naturally expect fraud and deceit.
The film builds nicely, with a few deliberate acts of misdirection. There's a rather unpleasant sequence involving some bored youths setting fire to a sheep that has more than a ring of truth about it. The use of technology is credible and at one point indicates that perhaps some of the strange events are not faked. Yet once the resident priest kills himself, the story then starts heading into the realms of the genuine supernatural. The movie climaxes with the arrival of an expert from the Vatican, Father Calvino (Patrick Godfrey), who finally expedites the plot and performs a banishment ritual. It is at this point that the story takes a leap of faith and asks the viewer to come with them. Ones enjoyment of the ending is very much dependent on whether you are prepared to do that.
The final denouement is most certainly an unpleasant experience for claustrophobes and also has a hint of The Blair Witch Project about it. The final payoff does have its own internal logic and I must admit I quite enjoyed the rather off the wall concept. Given that this was a very low budget movie, it is nice to see the writers trying to rise above the obvious limitations imposed upon them and striving to do something "shocking" as the genre's rules demand. The Borderlands is a destined to gain a cult following and is an enjoyable curiosity as well as a distinctly British variation of a tried and tested theme. As a directorial debut it is a promising first step and a welcome change from mainstream Hollywood horror output.