I hate found footage movies.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project we’ve been plagued by them, an avalanche of cheap, shakey-cam movies practically guaranteed to induce boredom and motion sickness in equal measure.

Found footage films are lazy, they lack tension, lack logic, lack sense.  They may be a good way to hurdle the obstacle of poverty, to make a film when you have no money, but does the poverty always have to extend to the imagination and execution as well as the budget?  Why does horror always get the shit end of this particular schtick?  Where are the found footage rom-coms?

I’m sick of the endless supply of fake documentaries where a bunch of bad actors get lost in the woods/dark, panic and swear a lot.  I’m sick of the self-absorbed, palsied fucktard film students/hedonistic partygoers protagonists who don’t pack a tripod and can’t hold the camera steady enough to get a clear shot of the zombie/ghost/monster that’s about to kill them.  I’m sick of the pallid green night vision that masks how cheap the evil critter looks.  I’m sick of the gung-ho soldiers/SWATs going into abandoned military bunkers/quarantined apartment buildings to investigate paranormal activity/zombies/aliens.  I’m sick of how no one ever throws down the camera and runs like Hell.  And I’m sick of how no one ever thinks: “Before I go down into this dark basement, I’LL TURN A BLOODY LIGHT ON!”  And I’m really sick of how, despite everyone involved ending up dead or missing (eaten by zombies/raped by vampires/sucked into Hell by a vengeful poltergeist), somehow the little DV camera and it’s precious footage survives.

Have you ever used one of these cameras?  You can’t take half of them out when it’s raining let alone document a 10-storey. ill-defined, alien monster’s apocalyptic attack on Manhattan.

Sure, I love the granddaddies of the genre; Cannibal Holocaust is quite simply one of the best, most subversive films of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s while Peter Watkins’ 1971 pseudo-documentary Punishment Park is a politically engaged, angry, cold, hard, shining jewel of a film that leaves you nowhere to go.  Both are groundbreaking in their form and set the standards for every found footage movie that’s followed, standards very few can or even try to meet.  For every My Little Eye, Europa Report, Chronicle, 84 Charlie MoPic, Zero Day or Lucky Bastard that comes along offering something fresh and original or tries to move the genre forward creatively, there’s a hundred films like The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill with the aesthetic of a t’Internet dogging video (but crucially lacking the interest and incident) or the squalid faux-snuff oeuvre of Fred Vogel (August Underground).  Which brings us, finally, to the feature debut of writer/director Elliot Goldner, The Borderlands, an atmospheric though not entirely successful retread of the usual, overly familiar found-footage tropes.

When things go bump in the night (or at least during the day in the middle of a Christening!) at a small church in a West Country village, grizzled, veteran paranormal investigator Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and mouthy cameraman Gray (Robin Hill) are sent by the Vatican to investigate and debunk claims of a miracle.  Cue the usual mix of suspicious and menacing country bumpkins, spooky unexplainable phenomena, people wandering around in the dark swearing and one genuinely unsettling incident involving a sheep.

Despite an ominously portentous prologue involving disappearing priests in South America that ultimately has little to do with the rest of the film, The Borderlands, at least for it’s first two thirds, is an effective, if hardly groundbreaking, addition to the found footage genre that’s greatest asset lies in the performances of Gordon Kennedy and Robin Hill as the mismatched ghostbusters.  Familiar from Ben Wheatley films (and little else), Hill makes for a nervy, chatterbox, his gullible non-believer far easier to convince than his more sceptical cleric colleague while Kennedy, far more recognisable as a comic actor (“Stoneybridge!”) is a wonderfully taciturn presence, his gruff priest, handy with his fists, and their spiky relationship lies at the heart of what’s otherwise a pretty pedestrian film that for once at least attempts to explain why the protagonists keep filming as the caca hits the fan (the Vatican makes them wear headcams to document everything) and the film descends into the customary hysteria that marks the genre.

While The Borderlands offers little that’s new or original, it’s an efficient, atmospheric, unambitious timewaster that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and at least shows the promise of it’s writer/director.

VERDICT: [rating=3]

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