[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00C3L3VW8][/pullquote] The found footage horror genre has hit something of a creative cul-de-sac in recent years. The explosion in popularity because of its low cost to make and high returns at the box office have seen an explosion in the number being made, which has lead to an over-saturation in the quality. It is always a surprise then, when one appears suddenly, as low-budget British film The Borderlands has, and does something that so few of them achieve and actually scares its audience.
Freelance cameraman and all-round techie Gray (Robin Hill) has been hired to join a team from the Vatican whose role is to investigate potential miracles. Meeting the gruff realist Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and high-flying young Mark (Nathan McArdle), the three men are tasked into investigating video footage from a small parish that seems to show items moving of their own free will during a baptism. They descend upon the church and setup cameras throughout while wearing portable ones on their heads to allow them to report an ˜uninterrupted timeline’ of events. Initially skeptical about the authenticity of the video, the trio begin to experience bizarre and in some cases unexplainable experiences, which lead them closer to discovering the truth.
The true key to the success of The Borderlands is it’s investment in character. From the awkward first meeting between roguish chatterbox Grey and grumpy Deacon, the two men become the heart and soul of the film, with their relationship developing over one too many late night conversations with alcohol providing the social lubricant. In a short space of time they have bonded over their past experiences to the point where the late arrival of the third team member feels like an invasion of their and by extension, our happiness. With the focus almost entirely with these 3, barring the late addition of an aging Father Merrin/Basil Exposition type character, we learn to understand them and how they might react in the upcoming bizarre situations, which leads to satisfying engagement and ultimately more sense that what we’re seeing is real.
With this all in place, the scares aren’t overdone and provide some truly long-lasting chills. Adopting the Paranormal Activity route of switching between handheld and fixed location cameras, The Borderlands is able to condition its audience on when to expect scares. Then just to keep everyone guessing they’ll through in a couple of jump-scares so that you never truly feel comfortable watching. By the time you reach the final act, a dizzying chase through claustrophobic tight spaces your nerves are shredded and you are ready for the finale.
What a shame then that it suffers from the same problem as The Last Exorcism, being unable to match the intensity and quality of story with a satisfying ending. Having got 99% of the film right, the final scene leaves the audience feeling empty and bitterly disappointed. Easily on its way to becoming one of the best horror films in recent years, The Borderlands must settle for the title of ˜Very good found footage film.’