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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Borderlands review: Sunday worst

The Borderlands red light

Low-budget British indie finds absolutely nothing new in the supposedly spooky found-footage subgenre, unless all the typical haunted-house frights occurring in a church counts.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Did you know that supernatural activity messes with videocameras, causes them to go all wonky and record distorted images and weird digital static? Of course you did, because every single found-footage flick that’s about people recording supernatural activity — which is somewhere around 98 percent of them — has featured such ostensible video “evidence.” First-time writer and director Elliot Goldner finds absolutely nothing new in this supposedly spooky subgenre… beyond lobbing his characters into a “crazy” ending that would appear to ensure that the footage they are recording — the footage that we are watching — may never actually be, you know, found. Vatican investigators Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and Mark (Aidan McArdle: Killing Bono), accompanied by secular tech guy Gray (Rob Hill: Sightseers), head into the British countryside to scope out the strange doings reported by a parish priest in a very old, recently reopened church. Way too much of the runtime is given over the “surprising” “twist” that believer Deacon tends toward debunking while Gray — who isn’t quite an atheist; he believes in “stuff” — keeps insisting it’s all real, man! Yet there can be absolutely no doubt that the odd things happening here will turn out to be “real,” because there’d be no movie if they weren’t. What odd things? Strange noises (such as the mysterious sound of a baby crying), inanimate objects moving around on their own, all the typical haunted-house frights. Only difference here: it’s a church that’s haunted. The only truly upsetting thing Goldner invents, involving some local teens pulling a prank on the investigators, bears absolutely no relation to what’s happening in the church. In fact, not much of anything here gels into something approaching a cohesive story of any kind, never mind a scary one. I fear that filmmakers have come to believe that “found footage” itself is alarming. It isn’t.


The Borderlands is part of the Our Screen initiative in the U.K., allowing fans to request local screenings of new films. See the Our Screen site for more information.


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The Borderlands (2014)
UK/Ire release: Mar 28 2014 (VOD Mar 24 2014)

BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language and threat)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    OK, I always try to be optimistic, but when I see “found-footage horror” these days my first thought is not “oh, hey, I wonder if it’ll bring something new” but “ho hum, give me a reason not to stay away”.

  • filmtogo

    god bless, one review who shares my opinion. i thought i’m going nuts after reading a lot of more or less positive reviews. the borderlands is just dull, as you said, nothing new to see.

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