Dir. Elliot Goldner. U.K. 2013.

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This is a 'found footage' film. For the uninitiated, this is a format heavily popularised by the infamy and huge profitability of The Blair Witch Project and more recently, Troll Hunter and Paranormal Activity with its boring and needless sequels. The whole concept rests on the premise of a prior event being recorded by persons involved in the phenomenon and is found much later - with the participants in the footage gone, and that the present audience, us, party to the secrets that the footage reveals. The style is shaky, the acting often amateur, and the SFX bare, raw and uncomplicated. It can and has been very effective and has been the epitome of lo budget feature making for some time - or at least since Blair took such an amazing amount of cash.

It has, unfortunately been done to death, so approaching this subject matter, the film maker must, just really must, be approaching from the right perspective, a new perspective. This format strangely has been used predominantly in the horror genre. It is here that the previously unseen or the idea of it rings story bells with bringing life to a subject gone and ghostly. The Borderlands does do credit to the sub-genre by the provision of strong characterisations and location choice, there are however problems that it fails to rise above. This film should have been a low budget B movie and would have been the stronger for it. There is also a weakness in the performance of one of the pivotal characters that didn't bring home the bacon during a moment of high end tortured drama.

There is the cold opening set in Brazil - this is loaned from The Exorcist (which begins in the Middle East, then rests in America) which connects with some of the story revelations during the duration of the film but not with the end of it. Some of the revelations of a prior event in Brazil were not in the beginning .  The strengths though, are memorable ones. The main being the exceptional performance of a jaded, and borderline alcoholic miracle debunker, Deacon, played by Gordon Kennedy. From start to finish, this is the character that holds the rest of it together, regardless of the fact that red wine in copious amounts is what does it for him. His acting is superb and attitude and delivery of unfailing cynicism, refreshing acting as splendid foil to his partner and counterpart Mark, played by Aidan McArdle.

A church, an English church for that matter is haunted by something and two priestly ghost busters go check it out. English churches are spooky by nature. Almost always Gothic in presentation, they have a presence and feel as though they have been around forever and the cold, grainy stonework like it could hold the secrets of hundreds of years. Add to this the emotional furnaces of guilt and repentance and there is there a recipe for the sorts of goings on this film wants to deliver on. More horror should delve into this territory.  There was the opportunity to delve further into this with Borderlands - there is but one incidence at a Christening that sparks the whole gambit where the walls should shake off centuries of shenanigans.  We are left with a couple of moving candelabra, some noise behind walls and an unsettled priest. 

The lead up to the ending is well paced but should have a lot more dread and incident. The fate of the priest was hinted at in the account of prior events in Brazil reiterated by the senior trouble shooter Father Calvino, played with elderly gravitas by Patrick Godfrey. The ending is very well done, genuinely frightening - memorable but should have been the finale of a stronger piece considering the strengths it had to draw from.

Gail Spencer

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