Gray (Robin Hill) is a video and audio technician who's been hired to assist a couple of "specialists" involved with the Vatican in their latest venture. He arrives at the designated meeting place, an old cottage in a sleepy village in the heart of England's West Country, and promptly begins fitting the place with strategically placed surveillance cameras.

A short while later, the dishevelled Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) arrives. This mismatched pair don't get along initially but gradually warm to each other as they shop, booze and do jigsaws - whiling away the time waiting for the arrival of the third member of their party, Mark (Aidan McArdle).

Growing restless in Mark's absence, the pair eventually decide to travel out to the village's nearby church, where they've been told mysterious things have been happening. Once there, Father Crellick (Luke Neal) shows them video footage from a Christening service he'd recently conducted. In it, ornaments at the back of the church begin to inexplicably move mid-service. Could this be evidence of paranormal activity?

Gray seems convinced, but the more seasoned Deacon is sceptical. Once he arrives, Mark isn't too sure either. And so, the threesome decide to set up further cameras (including headcams which allow for copious point-of-view shots) and investigate further. In-between drinking, bickering and being generally clumsy.

After spending perhaps too much time getting beneath each other's feet in the cottage, this intrepid trio finally graduate to exploring the church in much greater depth. But what consequences will their subsequent findings have...?

THE BORDERLANDS marks the feature debut of British director Elliot Goldner, who up until this point was more experienced as a short filmmaker with close control over most aspects of his productions. He acquits himself well here, allowing his own witty script to unfurl in unfussy, naturalistic fashion. The editing is taut, the pace never falters and the transition from comedy to horror is deftly handled.

Indeed, despite the first twenty minutes coming across as a weird, low-budget cross between "Father Ted" and "Peep Show", the film gathers momentum almost insidiously and it's ultimately easy to see why it was so well received during its 2013 screenings at Frightfest and Dublin's Horrorthon.

The small cast work extremely well together, which is a must when filming with little money and limited locations. In particular, the chemistry between Hill and Kennedy evolves as events progress. Theirs is an enjoyably daft, sincere coupling that serves as the key to the film's success. Kennedy's a regular in various TV programmes (everything from "Stressed Eric" and "Robin Hood" to "Casualty", "MI High" and beyond), while Hill can also be seen in the likes of KILL LIST and SIGHTSEERS. Their experience brings necessary gravitas to proceedings.

Goldner's handheld camerawork lends the action a necessary urgency, even when - in truth - precious little of remark is occurring. Thankfully, this isn't a "found footage" film: it's more controlled, more stylish and more considered than that. Kudos to Goldner for fathoming a way to employ the shaky first-person camera effect in a manner that doesn't fall into the trappings of an extremely tired sub-genre.

I mentioned SIGHTSEERS and KILL LIST a little earlier, and it's worth bringing them up again to note that THE BORDERLANDS has a very similar tone and lo-fi aesthetic to Ben Wheatley's films. It's also distinctly, quirkily British just as they are. Okay, it's rougher around the edges and lacks the emotional punch of KILL LIST, but Goldner's genuinely funny character observations in the film's first half and his adroit manoeuvre into darker territory during its latter half certainly suggest he could grow into a home-grown filmmaker of similar relevance.

Metrodome Distribution bring THE BORDERLANDS to UK DVD in a faithful 16x9 transfer of the uncut 89-minute film. Correctly framed and boasting intentionally grainy blacks during its darker scenes, this is a presentation of otherwise bright, natural colours and strong amounts of detail in even the recesses of the picture.

English 2.0 audio is also a reliable affair, bolstering the action when required and providing clean passages of ominous silence at all the right moments.

We were sent a rudimentary screener DVD-R of the film to review, so I'm unable to comment on menu design, chapters or extras.

Remember how KILL LIST lulled viewers in to thinking it was an iffy no-budget comedy drama, before attacking the senses with a pitch-black descent into Hell? Well, Elliot Goldner's THE BORDERLANDS is another British film that manages a similar trick, albeit on a slightly lesser scale.

Worth seeking out.

By Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome Distribution
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review