The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE MOOR | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE MOOR

The Moor review
A grieving father, a podcaster and a pair of psychics search the Yorkshire moors for the body of a boy abducted 25 years earlier.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Chris Cronin

Starring: Sophia La Porta, David Edward-Robertson, Bernard Hill, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips

The Moor poster

Director Chris Cronin has received acclaim for a series of shorts that display an ability to tell a story in a concise running time. At almost two hours, his feature debut The Moor (scripted by Paul Thomas) could use some of that economy. There's a thin line between slow burn storytelling and ponderous pacing, and The Moor is too often guilty of the latter.

Cronin reminds us of his background in shorts with a gripping opening one-shot sequence that functions as a complete horror story in its own right. In 1996, a young girl, Claire (Billie Suggett), coerces her younger friend Danny (Dexter Sol Ansell) into joining her in a plot to steal sweets from a corner shop in their small Yorkshire village. The plan is for Danny to distract the shopkeeper by claiming he's lost his dad while Claire loads up on sherbet, with the two meeting in an alley round the corner. After Danny fails to appear, Claire returns to the shop where the shopkeeper assures her Danny was taken away by his dad; except it wasn't his father at all but the man responsible for a series of child abductions, and presumably murders, across the region that summer.

The Moor review

25 years later and Claire (Sophia La Porta) is now a struggling podcaster racked with guilt over her role in Danny's still unsolved disappearance. The suspected killer was only convicted of one murder, as the other bodies were never found, and is set to be released in the coming weeks. Determined to find his son's body and ensure the killer remains behind bars, Danny's father Bill (David Edward-Robertson) approaches Claire and asks for her help in publicising his search through her podcast. Claire insists that she only covers entertainment rather than true crime, but Bill's desperation and her own remorse convince her to agree to help the grieving father.

Thanks to the advice of a dowser, Alex (Mark Peachey), and his psychic teenage daughter Ellie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips), Bill is convinced he knows the rough area where the bodies are buried. Guided by a ranger (Vicki Hackett), Bill, Claire, Alex and Ellie undertake a series of expeditions that leads them deeper and deeper into the foreboding expanse of the moors, where they uncover physical evidence and have supernatural experiences.

The Moor review

The Yorkshire moors have long proven fertile ground for dark tales, exploited by storytellers as disparate as Emily Bronte and John Landis. Who can forget Brian Glover's plea for the naive protagonists of An American Werewolf in London to "Stay off the moors!"? In reality of course mention of the moors raises the spectre of the infamous Moors murders of the 1960s. Shrouded in fog, it's hard to think of a more fitting setting for a horror movie, so it's no surprise to find that The Moor is at its most engaging when it drops its protagonists in the titular tundra.

Cronin does a fine job of economically mythologising the land in a way that means even those viewers unfamiliar with its place in fiction and true crime will immediately understand the dark hold it has over Claire. On first arrival Cronin focusses on Claire's feet as she steps from the tarmac of the road onto the grassy plain, establishing that she has crossed over into a realm she may never truly be able to return from. He makes striking use of that classic horror filmmaker's tool - the fog machine - coating the land in a thick mist that keeps the viewer squinting for shadows and silhouettes on the murky horizon. The appearance of neolithic stones and creepy sheep adds a folk-horror element.

The Moor review

The Moor suffers from serious pacing issues however, thanks largely to its structure, which sees our small band of searchers make a series of expeditions, the fruitless nature of which can prove as frustrating for the viewer as for the luckless protagonists; imagine how The Blair Witch Project might play if the camera crew didn't get lost in the woods but were able to return to town every time dusk began settling in.

Speaking of Blair Witch, the addition of Claire's chest-mounted GoPro camera allows the film to take on a found footage aesthetic in some key moments. We're also treated to snippets of talking heads (including the great Bernard Hill as a mournful cop involved in the original case) from the documentary Claire is piecing together. I couldn't help but wonder if it might have been a wiser choice to have the entire movie play out through a combination of Claire's interviews and her GoPro footage. The climax relies on the latter and finally delivers the sort of thrills we've waited close to two hours for as the influence of Lucio Fulci rises from the bog. It plays like a late attempt to send horror fans away happy, but most of the movie will likely appeal more to true crime obsessives than those seeking paranormal thrills.

The Moor
 is in UK cinemas from June 14th.

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