Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Another week, and another glut of direct-to-video movies that would all feature quite comfortably within the detritus stained walls of the DTV Junkyard, so for the sake of simplicity I’ve plucked a threesome of homegrown horror’s to analyse. The first of which, GODFORSAKEN, is far less interesting than that of the career of its director, Jamil Dehlavi. An Indo-Pakistani-French filmmaker, he was born in Calcutta to an Indian father and French mother. A well-known name in his native country, his film career began in the early seventies, although perhaps the film he’s renowned for is Jinnah, the story of the founder of Pakistan, which featured Christopher Lee in the lead role.
Production on Godforsaken went ahead sometime in 2008, with the film completed the following year, so it was with an element of surprise that it’s only just seeing the light of day on DVD now. To make sure, I got in touch with MJ Simpson, author of the magnificent Urban Terrors: New British Horror Cinema 1997-2008. “According to my records it premiered in March 2010 and there was a US release in September 2012, but this is its first appearance in the UK”, he told me. “There’s a June 2012 ‘unavailable’ UK disc on Amazon from a label called Crabtree but that must have been cancelled because it wasn’t submitted to the BBFC until last month.”
Lucile (Annabel Wright) has been driven mad by the death of her child sixteen years ago. A strange man appears (Nick Ashdon), claiming to be a fallen angel, who was supposed to protect the child and his failure to do so lead to his fall from grace. He carries wounds on his back that resemble the stumps of severed wings. He has now returned with a mission to redeem himself, but his violent and underhand methods are far from heavenly.
Aside from this weeks’ Junkyard threesome all hailing from this fair isle, they all suffer from the same flaw of failed potential. Godforsaken begins with nod and a chin-stroke of intrigue with its ballet-set, violin score that reminiscent of the odd giallo more than anything else, but its weakness is its unrelentingly po-faced demeanour. It’s all exhaustingly dreary, and yes, while there’s some great location shooting in and around London, not to mention both Wright and Ashdon being easy on the eye, it rarely shrugs off its tedious nature, succeeding only in making you dust down your old copy of Gregory Widen’s The Prophecy.
“The best British horror in years” declares the Sunday Sport, a perfect reason for most people with an IQ above seven NOT to grab XMOOR off the supermarket shelves this week. Well, perhaps that’s a little harsh, although it does seem a little desperate from Signature’s usually savvy PR department to saddle this with a quote from such a reviled publication!
Determined to make history, American students Georgia and Matt travel to the remote Exmoor in North Devon to capture footage of legendary panthers that are said to roam the moor. Joined by an animal tracker, they head into the unforgiving terrain where they uncover a series of dead bodies that have been dumped in the forest that bear none of the hallmarks of an animal attack. Meanwhile, the cause of such horrors is about to become dangerously clear.
Filmed in Northern Ireland with a not-too-shabby million pound budget, you can’t help but think Xmoor might have impressed a little more than it does. The main issue for me was the rather tenuous inclusion of the panther aspect to the story; it just seems like a frivolous diversion to what essentially wants to be a serial killer themed stalk n’slash, and whose primary objective is to get this couple into the woods by any means necessary. It’s a shame, as there’s a lot here that impresses, from the awesome aerial shots to some really artistic use of natural light, but some clunky dialogue “I guess there’s more to England than Supernanny and Prince Harry” said in needless American accents from the two British-bred leads only succeeds in raising ones hackles.
Finally this week is THE DEVIL WITHIN, the type of found footage movie that haters of the genre will use as further evidence of its flatlining condition. In November 2013, Rachel Kusza and her team of filmmakers travelled to Transylvania to document the Baciu Forest, a place with a dark and malicious history of strange occurrences. The crew were never heard from again. After searching for them for two years, Howard Redman, Rachel’s teacher, found their camera buried in the snow and just before he took his own life he managed to upload the footage to the internet.
Mark Evans directed this film, and, for the most part it’s not too shabby. Filmed on location in Romania, it doesn’t make the same mistake of many low-budgeters that are shot abroad, whereby there’s precious little of the locality up on screen. Here, Evans revels in small-town Romania, interviewing locals, and acquiring some awesome footage of this lush-looking country which really does provide the feature with some great authenticity.
So far, so good, but in the world of horror, there’s only so many establishing scenes you can insert before you’re left drumming your fingers impatiently on your arm rest, while you wait for the impending arrival of a litany of bone-shattering scares. In The Devil Within they sadly never arrive. It’s nearly an hour long wait before the start of any discernible tension, and when it does come into play, there’s a nagging lack of any tangible evil. The manifestation in the film is such a vague entity that it’s so hard to become absorbed by it, and that ultimately leads to Evans’ film failing, irrespective of its notable beginnings.