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Film Three Stars
James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie, James Cosmo and Ciarán McMenamin drew me immediately to this film, and the fact that it was British, set in Ireland and Scotland, and promised a storyline which seemed to suggest a dark and mysterious thriller with some nice horror elements to it, and the image of Nesbitt raising a knife ready to attack towards the camera suggests we're going to see his bad guy performance, the one we saw in the excellent Jekyll.

Added to the film are some newer, younger Scottish talent in the form of the new Doctor Who assistant Karen Gillan, and the rather gorgeous and pretty damn good actress Hanna Stanbridge who plays the female lead very convincingly considering her sparse list of performances.

So it seems to line up as a good film and could provide a strong British horror in the string of British horrors that we're so keen to produce.

Plot.pngIMDB lists a different plot to the one that I felt the film started off with, and that's because I felt the film was split. The first half carries the plot of a mother and son on the run, played by Kate Dickie and Niall Bruton. The mother is clearly a witch of some description, but not the witch in the traditional film sense, but a witch in the mystical spells and runes type of witch. For some reason they are being chased by a group in Ireland who obviously want the son, and they've sent one of their own, played by Ciarán McMenamin, along with a mysterious stranger, played by James Nesbitt, who is set out to be dangerous and slightly unreliable from the beginning. The stranger is given some of the group's magic to take with him in order to find the mother and son and deal with them.

The second half of the film turns into a monster film with a love interest, after the screening of the film I heard statements comparing this half to the Hulk time and time again, the Hulk that no one liked that is.

TheFilm.pngSo it's a film of two parts - did I just get a football reference in there and I don't even like football? I'm caught up in the World Cup too, what can I say? - the first half turns out to be the strongest and the one that I wanted the film to be.

Initially the film had me a little lost and confused, but that soon passed by as I started to pick up the story through the characters, because the film does something clever, it treats the audience with respect and instead of spelling everything out to them it brings them along for the ride, revealing nothing unless it comes through the story or the characters themselves.

There are no traditional sit down and talk through the plot moments, instead the film lets us learn with the characters and as the story unfolds, even keeping us in the dark while the characters obviously know more than us.

I really like that aspect, because you do get such a great satisfaction through learning with the characters and having the story slowly reveal itself to you, it's often much better than having a big twist built up as it's a steadily building from the opening.

There's no spoiling of the story too early and it's the unknown that makes it so intriguing, that and the mystical aspect to the film, the witchcraft, the groups of people hiding on the fringes of human life, the idea that there are mystical lairds that rule over and protect areas of humans without them knowing about it and that there are rules to be observed for these people with regards human life. Again none of this is explained, we just see these things revealed in the interactions and conversations between the characters.

Halfway through the film, or perhaps a little longer, it begins to change and turn into more of a standard monster film with the standard clichés, something we've seen a number of times before.

The good thing is that the mystical level of the story does continue, the characters are still there, and the style of the filming continues, when we see the creature we also see some impressive effects that look well above the film's budget.

Some people I talked to after the screening suggested that this second half was very reminiscent of the Hulk. Now I can see the similarities and connections between the two, but I can't say that the Hulk could be said to be bad because of these aspects, it's an aspect of the horror story that goes way back, you'll easily find something similar in the stories of Frankenstein.

They were referring to the idea of a the love story, the lover being the saviour, and so on. While that aspect of the story does seem rather twee, it's not what I think really does the film harm. I think it's the fact that it seems to abandon the first half of the film, the stronger and more interesting part of the film for just the standard monster and love story.

I did find that a big disappointment, but it didn't totally ruin the film, it just didn't make it that good from there on.

There are a few strange moments in the latter half too, one in particular sticks out in my mind between the mother and the son. The scene suggests that the relationship between them is a lot more than just mother and son, but it's never taken further.

Cast wise the film is strong, James Nesbitt plays his role well, with shades of his darker performance from Jekyll there, and Kate Dickie also performs well, although her role doesn't allow her to do that much as she continues to keep a stern and steadfast view throughout the film.

Actually there's one scene with her character that does become a little daft and pushes you away from the story, and that's the instant hatred she shows towards the character of housing officer seems rather bitter and against these rules that the lairds run, and that would surely be something she would know, and as we see, something the lairds would find out about.

Worse than that she casts a spell on her to forget and the resulting scenes of her wondering around the estate just don't feel right and even raised a snigger or two from the audience.

James Cosmo plays a really interesting character, the laird, who just isn't explored enough, but again provides a great deal of mystery.

The real star of the film though is Hanna Stanbridge who plays the love interest. Her performance begins a little shaky, but during the film she becomes stronger and stronger, and her performance more natural. Of course it does help that I carried a little bit of a crush for her throughout the film, but she is rather good.

Overall.pngI do wish that the film had stayed more with the the first half feel of the film rather than the second. As it moved into a monster film it lost a lot of the magic created in the first half that had me so intrigued and interested in the characters and their story, and the characters of the mother and son did feel decidedly weak.

The locations are great though, it's always nice to see your home town on film, but it just can't live up to the set-up of the first half. That said, it doesn't turn out terrible, in the end it's a pretty decent horror film.

UK IMDB Film Details
Filmstalker's EIFF 2010 Reviews




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