April 12, 2014

DVD Review: The Borderlands (2014)

Is this the first British Found Footage flick that we've ever seen? I'm pretty sure that it is, because the only other ones that I can think of are Incident at Loch Ness, The Zombie Diaries and Exhibit A, and we haven't seen any of those.

Oh wait, I just remembered the Possession of David O-Reilly... and The Tapes... we saw those. They were not so good.

So I guess it's safe to say that the UK has made the Found Footage effort before, and it's also safe to say that this is the best British-made Found Footage flick that we've seen.

Were going to keep the plot details of this one vague, because saying too much would give the ending away, and we're not going to ruin  the best part of the movie here...

Not that Found Footage flicks are a big mystery to begin with, because you know everyone dies at the end, else there wouldn't be any found footage to begin with. Still, this one went to a different place with its Cinema Verite stylings, and ruining it for the uninitiated would be a sucky thing for us to do.

For posterity's sake, The Borderlands is the story of a crack team of Vatican investigators who are sent to look into reports of Paranormal Activity at a small church int he remote British countryside. Despite video proof of an "incident," the investigators are naturally skeptical of the claims, and they pretty much think that the church's Priest is making it all up to get a bump in attendance; the poor guy only has a congregation of like, six people, so we wouldn't blame him if that were the case.

"This guy serious, mate?"
They set up cameras around the church, strap on head cams, and begin to investigate. They eventually discover that the church sits atop a network of tunnels, and that it was once used by Pagans to worship some sort of ancient Deity. Also, there's something about an orphanage, and a diary left behind by someone who disappeared long ago without a trace, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, we digress.

"Yep, it looks not haunted to me. We should probably just pack up our shit go home."
A bunch of ghostly baby cries, some creepy whispers, and flaming lamb later, they begin to wonder if there is actually something to the claims. Something? Just something? Things are moving around on their own, and there's eerie scratching noises around every corner... It's pretty obvious by this point that something is amiss, guys! Skeptics will be skeptics though, and so more "investigating" is deemed necessary.

Flaming lamb out of nowhere!
From here on out, the usual Found Footage tropes kick into high gear, and everyone finds themselves doing some stupid shit all in the name of "finding the answers." All I'm saying is that there's a point when you stop digging for the truth, and you run, and that point is usually before you hear a ghost baby crying from somewhere deep in the dark basement... where Satan most likely lives.

Pain. It all ends with pain.
Aside from the fact that it was a slow burn, and that the true scares were few and far between (for us, at least), The Borderlands was an effective little movie. It had atmosphere to spare, and it kept up the tension admirably. Once it got going, and delved further into the history of the church and its former worshippers, we found it to be pretty compelling as well.

The wide, quiet shots of the British Countryside were gorgeous to behold, and also added an eerie element of foreboding to the movie. For our money, England and Ireland are two of the prettiest places in the world in which to shoot country footage, and for that reason alone, we'll take a Horror flick set there anytime.

The ending threw us for a true loop. Not because it was some crazy twist that was so clever and shocking (even though it was), but because once we realized what was happening, it just... blew our minds. It was a grand idea done very subtly (and on the cheap), left us wanting to know and see more.

Even when it's creepy, England is a pretty, pretty place.
This movie was way too light on scares. The Borderlands was heavy on atmosphere, and some of its mythology was chilling to think about, but as far as being actually scary, it really wasn't. The tension ramped up quite a bit towards the end of the movie, which was a good thing, but the distracting shaky cam crap basically killed that for us. *More on that below.

Gray was an annoying knob. Jesus did we want to slap the piss out of that cheeky prick about 25 different times over the course of the movie's running time.

Also, given the way that the movie ended, how was the team's footage ever found to be seen by us? Was it uploaded to a remote server as it recorded? Because if not, there's really no way that this Found Footage could have ever been found.

Is he reaching for a ghost pint?
The shaky cam in this movie was unbearable at times. It's really hard to get into the mood of a movie, especially one that is supposed to be terrifying and filled with dread, if we can't see what's going on. Once the third act began, and the situation for the characters became more dire, we should have felt that same sense of impending doom. Instead, we felt a strong urge to yell "hold the damn camera still, idiots."

You can explain the jittering camera work by claiming that it's all in step with the "reality" aspect of the movie, but the point is that as an audience, if we can't see what's going on because the POV is jumping all over the place, how are we supposed to truly enjoy what were being shown?

The whole "whoever is filming this is obviously having some sort of violent fit" thing has worn out its welcome with us. 

The village simpleton.
 This movie was apparently shot in a blood dry county, although the end did get fairly slimy.


Don't ever climb through narrow rock formations in underground tunnels, because why would you do that?

Yeah, keep going, idiots.
The only reason that this movie didn't land somewhere in the "C" range for us, was because the ending was pretty clever, and made us smile. We may have pointed out a lot of the film's shortcomings in this review, but in the end we still enjoyed it, and so it deserves the decent grade that it got.

We liked it, we just didn't love it. Were we not so tired of Found Footage and its all-too-familiar trappings, we probably would have liked it even more. As it stands, this one is worth a watch.

The Borderlands is on DVD now (UK), and will hit shelves in the US sometime later this year.


Don't get it twisted: The Borderlands is not a movie about either one of our two favorite video games, which bums us out a bit, because that means no Handsome Jack... and we'd totally watch a Horror movie involving Handsome Jack. And Claptrap. Claptrap would have to be in it too.


  1. I am glad you reviewed this. It sounds like something I would enjoy, so I ordered an import copy after I saw this post. It arrived today, so I'm looking forward to watching it this weekend.

  2. I Imported a copy of this thanks to your review. It sounds right up my alley. The DVD arrived this morning, so I'll be looking forward to watching it this weekend.


  3. Let us know what you thought about it, Matt. Sometimes, imorpting is the way to go!

  4. Oops, sorry about the two posts above. It was my first time posting a comment on blogspot, and I thought the capcha code didn't go through initially, which explains the similar post hours later. :)

    Anyway, I really enjoyed the film. I thought the atmosphere was well maintained pretty much the whole time. However, although you were annoyed by Gray (and I could see why), I was truly annoyed by the Mark character - I think that was the name of the guy who thought he was in charge. Obnoxious!

  5. I don't think this review gives this movie credit. I'm always searching for horror movies that are doing something to evolve the genre. I started this movie with "oh great, another found footage movie about the devil" and it just became this surreal, unnerving experience. Also, as a big fan of found footage (and someone who is typically disappointed by their loose rules and logic) the believability in this one was impressive, they covered their ground on what was being filmed and why and by who.
    As far as I'm concerned this movie gets an A.

  6. Can somebody explain the ending I don't get it?

  7. BEWARE ENDING SPOILERS!!! As they travel further and further below the Church, they basically end up in the stomach of a gigantic, ancient Demon, where we presume they are slowly digested, and die.

    So, that's what happens.

  8. Comment towards the end...(SPOILER)

    That's more or less what I got from the ending scene. I'm pretty sure they wound up in the "belly of the beast" 8-)

    All in all, I've seen countless of Food Footage horror films and I have to say, this was up there with the best of them. The Deacon rocked, the main guy was actually quite fine at first until he just totally turned into a big pussy in the end. The suspense/atmosphere was on POINT, but there weren't many scares although with a film like this, it didn't need any cliché scares or jump scares; It was damn scary in it's own right :) Anways glad you enjoyed the film. It's well worth a look! 8/10

  9. Agreed, Mark. This was definitely one of the better FF flicks that we've seen in the past few years. Glad you dug it too.