With shaky cameras and confusing shots, The Borderlands is yet another “found footage” film that relies on the audience’s imagination and cheap jump tactics to scare its viewers. The film follows a team of Vatican investigators who are sent to a church in the middle of the British West Country to assess the claim that a string of holy miracles could be occurring.
The film takes over an hour to get started, apparently so that the viewer can gain a relationship with the two protagonists Grey (Robin Hill) and Deacon (Gordon Kennedy). Little seems to happen during this time except for the unexplained slaughter of a sheep outside the cottage that they are staying in. Having seen this kind of thing before, Deacon, a member of the Vatican and also an alcoholic, considers the miracles as nothing more than sleight of hand trickery by Father Crellick (Luke Neal). Tech savvy non-believer Grey, however, is marginally excited at the prospect of finding supernatural activity in this tiny, run down church in the middle of the countryside.
After an hour of waiting, supernatural events finally begin to unfold, framed by cheap jump shots that are preceded by such long build-ups that each and every shot that follows is already anticipated. Goldner and cinematographer Eben Bolter try too hard to build tension with the use of head mounted cameras and poor quality flashlights. Nevertheless, there are convincing moments where we are left desperately searching the darkness with only a small, frantic circle of light to help guide the way. Unfortunately most of the time these scenes are tediously long and we are left hoping that something happens in daylight so that we can actually see what we are supposed to be scared of.
The film is most effective when pursuing a “less is more” tactic. There are many scenes in which Goldner shows us next to nothing, leaving us to rely on a character’s heavy breathing and wild shrieking to confirm that yes, something terrifying is happening and no, you aren’t allowed to see it. Yet by showing little and explaining less than that, The Borderlands runs the risk of producing a confused and unsatisfied audience at the end of the film.
By the end of the film we are as lost as we were at the beginning, with no knowledge or insight into what has just unfolded. The Borderlands leaves too much unanswered and results in a frustrating watch, which does not do much for the waning reputation of the found footage genre. Perhaps it is time to put away that shaky hand held camera for good?