I like movies that revolve around creepy cults, I’m always fond of indie horror and I’m developing quite a fascination for British horror films: all of that comes together in Brackenmore (trailer), a horror movie that is finally getting a VOD release after two years in which it was displayed in minor festivals.
I nearly got the chance to see Brackenmore in Atlanta in 2016, when I was living in the United States, since there was a screening of the movie at the HorrorQuest festival: an independent festival for horror films that gave a boost for the distribution of movies like Capture, Kill, Release (2016) Invasion of the Undead (2015) and Rage (2011).
The Irish movie Brackenmore created quite a buzz due to its twist, but let’s back up a bit. The story revolves around Kate (Sophie Hopkins), a Londoner who, after the untimely death of an uncle she never knew she had, needs to go to her ancestral home (the little village of Brackenmore) to claim the uncle’s properties. She decides to travel without her husband since they’re going through some relationship issues, thus, when Kate meets Tom, a shady but intriguing guy who gets her more and more involved with the strange traditions of Brackenmore.
With a very short runtime (70 minutes), Brackenmore works as a quick, very atmospheric ride. The movie establishes an intriguing look and feel from the get-go, thanks to the simple and neat cinematography that blends perfectly with the desaturated colours. The technical aspects seem to reflect Kate’s interior mood: Sophie Hopskins, who I was previously familiar with for some BBC shows, does a fantastic job here and she’s a delight to look at. I mean, I find her gorgeous, which probably doesn’t add anything to this review, but hey, I just wanted to share this with you people!
Besides Hopkins, the acting here is rather amateur, which at times makes for a more genuine approach to the story. Plus, I really dig Irish accents!
Nonetheless, in other cases – such as an old couple of locals – the performances seem really forced and wooden, which can really kill the mood during certain sequences.
Yet, the complete lack of jump-scares only enhances the eerie atmosphere built up throughout the movie. Rookie directors Chris Kemble and J.P. Davidson are rather clever at avoiding the tiresome trope even in places where it would be easy to utilise it: for example, at one point Kate enters her uncle’s house and, suddenly, finds three severed goat heads on the kitchen table. Instead of having the scene accompanied by a loud, annoying noise, the filmmakers shot the scene without any sound and panned from right to left to give the sequence a more unsettling feeling.
Besides the atmospheric build-up, halfway through Brackenmore takes an unexpected, but most welcomed, violent turn that increase the strong impact of the movie.
Unfortunately, however, said sudden switch of tone is not followed by a consistent pace, making the movie as a whole quite uneven. The last 20 minutes of Brackenmore are probably its weakest spot, in my opinion.
Apart from the lack of balance, there are also a few sequences that don’t make any sense. The plot twist that made people talk about the movie is, in my opinion, very predictable and, if you’ve seen at least two or three films about cults, you could see it coming from miles away.
Also, the whole “secluded community vs foreign invader” theme is very trite and, instead of helping the movie, only gave it a layer of predictability.
The ending, in particular, is very messy and leaves many questions unanswered. Although I don’t have a problem with open ends per se, here it really feels like the filmmakers had no idea on how to conclude the story, which is a shame.
Overall, I’d still think that you should check out this flick if you’re into movies about satanic-like cults and independent horror filmmaking. Just don’t expect another The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) or Kill List (2011), because that it is not.
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My review is also available on IMDb – Brackenmore