Blu-ray Review: Found Footage Horror THE BORDERLANDS (aka FINAL PRAYER) Finally Get The Release It Deserves

3 out of 5 stars

Released in 2013, The Borderlands came and went with relatively little fanfare. Coming out in the wake of the found-footage phenomenon, the Elliott Garner-directed film got lumped in with many lesser films which permeated the horror scene at the time. With a few exceptions, the found-footage subgenre has a pretty atrocious track record and many low-budget filmmakers use the gimmick as a way of covering the tracks of poor storytelling while obscuring their lack of finesse behind the camera. It takes real skill and an understanding of storytelling to make the format work – and it can’t be contrived, it needs to be organic. 

However, The Borderlands (known as Final Prayer in the U.S.) was a cut above many of those poor efforts and over the last decade, the film’s reputation has slowly grown – hence a sparkly new blu-ray release from Second Sight Films. 

The Borderlands follows a team (can three men be considered a team?) of Vatican investigators as they attempt to see if the strange goings on in a small village church are a miracle or a man-made marvel. Writer/director Elliot Goldner sets things up well, getting the ‘found footage’ idea planted in the mind audience’s mind at the start of the movie. The main issue with the gimmick usually comes across as strained, it always feels false – why would anyone in danger want to record what is happening rather than getting the hell out of Dodge? However, Goldner makes the concept feel organic, and then he moves on, getting into character development – something which is usually ignored in the horror genre.

Gordon Kennedy and Robin Hill make an interring duo as a pair of paranormal investigators from different backgrounds. The film works because their friendship feels real. Kennedy is a gruff Scot, with religious beliefs, while Hill is a wise-cracking tech geek with no interest in religion. The duo’s chemistry keeps The Borderlands grounded – keeping the feeling that it belongs in the real world.

In lesser hands, The Boderlands could have been a terrible movie about things which go bump in the night, but Elliott Garner and his cast keep things on the right side of believable. They must be applauded for delivering something that has the right amount of scares and humour. They build up audience goodwill – and this helps to cover a few plot gaps and storytelling missteps – and that’s how you deliver a good horror movie.

Special Features

Second Sight Films now has the reputation of delivering exceptional extras with their releases – and The Borderlands is no different.

First up, you get a chatty and informative commentary from stars Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy, producer Jennifer Handorf and special effects artist Dan Martin. There’s also a relaxed talk between Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy that covers how they got their parts and what it was like making the film. Meanwhile, producer Jennifer Handorf covers the trials and tribulations of the film’s production in a solo chat and effects guru Dan Martin tells you everything you wanted to know about slime (but were afraid to ask). Great!