Last month I recommended EXHIBIT A – an example of a found-footage film done right. In my write-up I mentioned THE BORDERLANDS (aka FINAL PRAYER) as another UK-based found-footage flick that I’d enjoyed, and I wanted to talk some more about it today. Here’s a synopsis, followed by a trailer, followed by my thoughts.
A team of Vatican investigators descend upon a church in a remote part of the UK to demystify the unusual happenings, but what they discover is more disturbing than anything they had imagined.Read more: The Borderlands (aka Final Prayer)
As far as I’m concerned, THE BORDERLANDS is another rare example of a found-footage film done right. It has something in common with EXHIBIT A, BLAIR WITCH, and other successful movies in the genre in that there’s a reason for the characters to be filming what’s happening to them/around them. Here, a team of Vatican investigators have been dispatched to find out what’s going on in a church in the middle of the British countryside, and though the premise is a little wobbly, if you can put that to one side you’ll have no trouble accepting that the cast would be walking around with cameras strapped to their heads.
So far, so good. The main portion of the film is fairly by-the-numbers: all your typical characters are in attendance (weird priest, doubting investigator, tech nerd, devout church official, etc), the locals are suspicious and clearly have something to hide, and there are a succession of increasingly scary set-pieces and jump scares. And, for the most part, things pan out pretty much just as you’d expect.
But then, as we reach the film’s climax, things take a heck of a turn. Things go in a direction you’re not expecting, and the final section of the story is genuinely surprising and claustrophobic. It’s rewarding, compulsive viewing.
Found-footage films have a tendency to appear cheap. That’s no surprise – after all, we’re supposed to believe we’re eavesdropping on the characters’ experiences via smartphones, cheap camcorders, grainy security footage, and the like. The success of these films often hinges on the performances, and here they’re decent across the board. Particularly strong is GORDON KENNEDY (who people as old as me might remember from Channel 4’s ABSOLUTELY) as world-weary investigator Deacon.
THE BORDERLANDS is 10 years old and was produced at the height of the found-footage fad. If you go looking for it you’ll notice that it was re-released under the title FINAL PRAYER, and that’s a real shame. I understand how the re-naming of movies works (the AUTUMN movie was released around the world as THE DEAD WALKING, AUTUMN OF THE LIVING DEAD, END OF THE WORLD, THE PERFECT VIRUS, and various other titles), but this rebranding was particularly unfortunate. I deliberately posted the original trailer here, because the re-cut FINAL PRAYER trailer strips THE BORDERLANDS of any mystery. It’s longer, has a bloody terrible voiceover, and manages to ruin the film’s final act twist completely. Avoid, please.
The point of these posts is, hopefully, to draw a little attention to decent films which might have been overlooked or forgotten in the years since their original release (or re-release). THE BORDERLANDS/ FINAL PRAYER definitely fits the bill. It’s a well performed, well put-together movie that builds to a heck of a finish, and I really enjoyed it. It’s been available to stream for a while, however it appears to have temporarily disappeared here in the UK. I’m sure it will be back at some point. In the meantime, it’s available on DVD.
Thanks for reading.
Over the years I’ve recommended many films, books, and podcasts. You can find a full list of them here.
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