Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Brackenmore

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Directed by Chris Kemble and JP Davidson
Caragh Lake Films; Upstream Films; MVD Visual
72 minutes, 2016 / 2018

When I was in grade school, I had a teacher who posited that if our room was sealed off from the one next door, after 100 years or so it would probably be hard for the two classes to understand each other. I didn’t know what she was talking about then, but it stuck with me, and has resonated to me throughout my life.

That is sort of the premise of films like this and, say, The Wicker Man (1973) and Jug Face (2013), where remote villages come to have different gods that call on sacrifice and odd worship. For this film, it’s the isolated Irish titular town, where people mysteriously and regularly show up sneaking around in white death masks and stereotypically cultish long robes with cowls. No one ever does mention the Old Ones, though.

nto this peculiarity comes lovely Kate (Sophie Hopkins), who is summoned from London because her uncle has passed away, leaving her his modest estate (okay, small house) in town. She was born there, and is told to be his only living relative after she survived a car crash in her youth that killed her parents (i.e., the films prologue).

Everyone is acting oddly around her giving off a “what’ca doin’ in these here parts, stranger?” vibe. It’s pretty easy to figure out that the game is afoot, especially thanks to those masked folks showing up on the story’s periphery, circling ever closer. The lodging house in which she is staying and the lawyer handing the real estate in the late uncle’s will are, in the words of a friend of mine about this kind of thing, just not.

She gets cozy with a local named Tom (DJ McGrath), who shows her around town, unbeknownst to her hubby Allyn (Joe Kennard) back in London Town. While there are other people in the town, essentially Tom, the boarding house couple and the lawyer are just about all we meet in talking roles for the locals. We also don’t get to see too much of the town proper, as it seem to focus mostly on the indoors, other than the front of the houses on which the story focuses and a bit of the wooded area around the lake.

Events start to ramp up on this idyllic spot as someone in a mask and, yes, a cape with a cowl, attacks Kate, but she proves resourceful in what feels like a better way than most films that have women just be blade-fodder. Of course, the local constabulary accuses her of a night gone wrong, what with the attacker being a local and she being a…

It’s hard to tell in the story, and I liked this, whether certain actions are meant to scare her off into leaving, acts of retaliation of local vs. foreigner, or forcing her to stay. I guessed right, by the way.

There are little and subtle things that caught my eye though. For example, in the lawyer’s office there is a binder on a self behind Kate that has, in handwritten letters, 1916. This is an important date in relatively modern Irish history being the same year as Éirí Amach na Cásca, also known as the Easter Rising. No wonder the cop was critical about someone from London.

Along the way, there are hints about what is happening, such as a radio station going wild in the prologue, but mostly the story follows a line that feels familiar, with some elements that have been seen before in these kinds of genre films, even as far back as some Hammer Films,

The film is beautifully shot, and Hopkins is certainly easy on the eyes; she reminds me a bit of Kiera Knightly (if the latter were attractive), being lean of form and a strong chin. Smartly, the film goes for the tight, near claustrophobic closeness of the village, making it seem even smaller than it probably is (filmed in County Cork), especially since we are focused on a particular group of people. Of course, it also is a good way to keep the budget down (which I respect).

There are definitely some clichés here and there, and the big reveal of a specific person is a duh moment, but there are others you may not see coming, so I guess it’s still a “win.” While the ending is enjoyable, it also is a bit unclear. Call me crazy, but it feels like at one time this was a slightly different story, and they edited certain parts out (might explain there being two directors?). For example, during its filming, the working title was Banshee: Beyond the Lake, and there is even a Banshee listed in the IMDB credits, but I don’t remember seeing one. I enjoy Banshee stories, and I was puzzled. Perhaps in the sequel (which I would happily watch if there is one), or in a Director’s Cut version? I’m not sure. But what I am positive of is that I would have liked to have heard a commentary track that might answer some of my questions. Again, perhaps the Director’s Cut version at some point will do this. Meanwhile, the only extra available on this DVD is the chapter breaks.

The cast is all great, with Hopkins being outstanding by expressing a large range of emotions, and the accents don’t be doin’ no harm, either. There aren’t too many bloody scenes, but when it’s there, it’s a cornucopia of the red goo. A couple of other really good SFX appear here and there from Pitch Black Films, as well. Despite it all and because of the acting and cinematography¸ I’m happy I had the chance to see this, though I’m still scratching my head just a bit.

1 comment:

  1. I co-wrote the original screenplay so I can tell all about how and why it was changed. Can't go into on here though.