Adam (Nathan Hine) is a bit of a mess. He's a war veteran who suffers from violent flashbacks, which may or may not be the reason his wife and child have recently walked out on him. He spends his days drinking heavily, snorting cocaine and fucking his "just for fun" girlfriend before throwing her out of his house afterwards. One early hallucination also indicates that Adam is suicidal.
Enter Adam's friend Harry (Mike Knapp), an older guy who turns up one bright afternoon with the offer of taking Adam out for the day in the hope of him benefiting from some fresh air and a change of scenery. His plan is to drive out to The Sideling Hill, a genuine Pennsylvania-based manmade tunnel said to be cursed by Indians after a dispute many moons ago over who it belonged to. Adam's initially reluctant but changes his mind when he learns that Harry's brought along their attractive blonde pal Allie (Tiffany Laskey). So off they set to an abandoned tunnel plagued by years of urban legends.
What could possibly go wrong ...?
En route, the trio suffer an altercation with a group of rednecks. Though the dispute is ultimately resolved with relatively little trouble, it provides further indication that Adam is indeed one troubled individual.
Once they reach the titular tunnel, events turn truly dark as Adam - affected by PTSD from his time served in Iraq and, specifically, a sketchy incident in which he failed to save an injured comrade - begins to experience hallucinations and the threat of him exploding into violence becomes very real.
Is the old abandoned turnpike tunnel truly haunted, as locals claim? Or is it all in the seriously disturbed Adam's mind?
THE SIDELING HILL, the feature debut from writer-director Nathan Hine (also known as Harry Collins on Facebook, where he manages the rather fantastic Hardgore Core private group), is an excellent film.
It's a low-budget effort, certainly, but looks very good. It's shot on HD and photographed with finesse. There's also an agreeable focus on build-up, establishing characters and taking time to establish an air of palpable tension in anticipation of what's to come. This isn't just a relentless, mindless gorefest: it's far more measured.
When the gore comes, it doesn't disappoint. Yes, it's of the lo-fi variety, but in a very entertaining and mostly convincing way. And there is a lot of it. Practical effects are always a boon, and that's what we get here. In abundance.
Hine makes for a strong lead. He's got a naturally likeable presence about him and, despite his imposing stature, isn't afraid to show a more vulnerable side to his character. It lends Adam some necessary sympathy, which holds him in good stead come the film's dark and violent second half.
Solid support is offered, particularly from the ever-agreeable Laskey. For those who moan about the film's slowish start or its length (just under 2 hours long), invest in these characters and you'll find the twisted final act all the more disturbing. Excellent use of the claustrophobic Pennsylvanian tunnel and Matty Calhoun's savvy cinematography further conspire to wring the atmosphere for all its worth, amid a shit-tonne of gory goods during the film's latter third.
Scott Appleby and Brett Montez provide a mournful, often piano-led score which complements the pacing and tone of the film perfectly. Hine, who also oversaw the FX, appears to have paid great attention to every facet of his maiden feature production and the results speak for themselves.
Shot on HD utilising a reported budget of just $3,000.00, THE SIDELING HILL won't be polished enough for your average INSIDIOUS or MIDSOMMAR fan. It's aimed at the underground horror fan, and is a most worthy addition to that ever-growing black market.
THE SIDELING HILL was made available to SGM as an online screener link. The HD presentation was bright, colourful and pin-sharp in a nice 16x9 presentation. English 2.0 audio was clear and unproblematic throughout.
THE SIDELING HILL has received a most welcome limited release on blu-ray and DVD, region-free I believe, and is well worth checking out. For more information, search "the sideling hill" on Facebook.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Nathan Hine|