MANIFF: Saturday Horror Features

Will Stevenson | 4th March 2018

MANIFF treated its audiences to some horror on Saturday, beginning with Matthew Currie Holmes’ Buckout Road. This film, a very different take on an urban legend movie, tells the story of the infamous road in Westchester, New York, dubbed ‘the most haunted road in America’ and a group of young people who appear to be experiencing these urban legends themselves.

The film is full of curses, possession, death and religious imagery; all staples of this kind of film, and the ideas within the story are wonderful. Execution is this film’s only problem. It often seems to be trying to do too much all at once, constantly throwing religious passages and demonic curses our way without really spending time to fully explain them.

There is a constant air of inevitability and repetition surrounding the curses in the film and it appears that the main characters are inevitably linked to the cursed history, which is one of the ideas that makes Buckout Road stick out from other urban legend movies.

It is in no way a difficult film to follow despite its occasional over-trying, and is more than enjoyable to watch, giving us frequent humour and enough scares to satisfy any horror fan. Leading performances from Evan Ross (The Hunger Games) and Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Wynonna Earp) are perfect in allowing us to fully realise who these characters are and with supporting turns from the likes of Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, Saw) and Colm Feore (Thor), Buckout Road is never lacking in acting talent.

A horror that is worth horror fans’ time, if only for the interesting take it has on this sub-genre, this film could have truly been something special if only had it been a little simpler and a little less convoluted.

The Isle

Saturday evening saw the UK premiere of Tori and Matthew Butler Hart’s nineteenth century mythological folk horror The Isle which proved to be the strongest film of the festival so far.

Beautifully shot from beginning to end, the film is set on a remote Scottish island in 1846 where three sailors have become stranded after their ship crashed in the mist. Taking a great deal of inspiration from the Greek myths of the sirens as well as British folk horror of the early 1970s, The Isle is outstanding in creating its isolating, ethereal and unsettling atmosphere.

A wonderful blend of Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man and Robert Eggers’ The Witch, an engrossing mystery is built up surrounding the tragic history of the island and the spirit that haunts the once vibrant community. The Isle’s quality as a film is added to by intense

performances from Alex Hassell (Suburbicon) and writer/producer Tori Butler Hart who gives an especially impressive performance as Lanthe, one of the island’s four remaining residents and one who has a strong connection to the haunting. Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) brings a tragic performance to the film also, most notably in the latter half.

To create not only a successful ‘slow-burn’ style folk horror, whose pace fits almost perfectly with the very nature of its remote, grey, windy setting, but to also create a successful period piece is an incredible achievement that shows the sheer talent to make these kind of films.

It’s hard to say The Isle will be a film for everyone, much like The Witch in that respect, but for those who love haunting atmospheres, captivating stories and that little bit of the supernatural, it’s safe to say this is a film you will love!

The Isle is expected to release in the UK in October 2018.