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quietearth [Film Festival 06.19.10] United Kingdom movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Colm McCarthy
Writers: Colm McCarthy / Tom McCarthy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 6 out of 10

James Nesbitt (Match Point) and Kate Dickie (Red Road) star in this supernatural horror/thriller debut by television director Colm McCarthy. Set in and around a rough Edinburgh council estate, it concerns a mother and son (Dickie, and newcomer Niall Brunton) who move into a vacant flat on the estate. Fergal meets a beautiful, clever local girl who appreciates his shyness, and they begin an off-beat romance - but what will happen if he gets too close to her? Meanwhile, two men travel from Ireland to Edinburgh and enlist the help of an elderly warlock to track down and kill a mysterious, grotesque creature which has been murdering residents on the estate.

Nesbitt plays Cathal, a hard drinking Irishman who's seemingly less informed about the dark arts than his companion, who arranges for Cathal to be given tattoos that will increase his magical abilities. They meet an old man in an Edinburgh pub (The Jinglin' Geordie - good ales) and he takes them to a caravan site where this spooky ritual takes place. Once the tattoos are inked, they perform an animal sacrifice (right next to where I work!) which tells them the direction of the estate where the beast dwells. Fergal's mother Mary begins to worry about her son and forbids him to spend time with his girlfriend Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge) but he won't listen, thinking her mad as she obsessively paints runes which she believes will protect them.

We meet some of the other people who stay on the estate, including a boy with mental health problems and a gang of tracksuited, baseball capped youths who live to torment all who cross their path. There's also a stuck-up English social worker who takes a personal interest in Mary and Fergal and gets far more than she bargained for when ancient magic turns her into a mumbling zombie. As the body count mounts and Cathal's search narrows, Mary becomes increasingly batty until a final, deadly confrontation.

I thought this film would be tailor made for me being as it is about witches and warlocks; being set in my home town; involving cheeky NEDs (look them up on urbandictionary) being torn apart by a demonic being - I walked in thinking I'd be entertained and yes I was, certainly. But there are just too many problems with the film for me to fully recommend it, chief among them being an uneven pace, a predictable twist and dialogue that felt unconvincing and forced. Technically the film is well made, solid even, and McCarthy has an impressive résumé of television work including 'Spooks' and 'The Tudors'. The camera work and performances were all first rate, especially given an obviously low budget.

McCarthy uses mostly handheld cameras which is effective in establishing the rough and edgy tone which suits a film dealing in old magic but set on a modern day housing estate. Nesbitt plays his character straight, as does Dickie and they're both on fine form here. Brunton is good as the monosyllabic, depressed teen, but it's Stanbridge who really shines as the heart and soul of the film - an innocent who get in deeper than she could have ever realised. Ian Whyte, who played the Predator in AVP2, is very menacing as the hulking great demon who picks off cast members one by one.

In the end it's just a minimal script, lack of deep characterization (we learn nothing about Mary or Cathal's past until the last five minutes) which drags this down from what could have been a respectable 8 to a solid 6. It's not a bad film by a long way, but it just isn't Great. I'll look out for McCarthy in the future though as this showed some real talent.

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