Welcome back to Dark Corners Lockdown, a new Dark Corners strand looking at some films you can stream to pass the quarantine in terror.
We want to look at a diversity of films in this series so we’ve gone with something different in Borley Rectory, available on Amazon Prime.
This was not at all what I expected because both on Amazon and on IMDB it’s referred to as an ‘animated documentary’ and I don’t either of those words is 100% true.
‘If any entity is present here tonight will it please make it self known’ So, Borley Rectory picked up the reputation of being the most haunted house in England before it was demolished in 1944, with reported paranormal phenomena dating back to the mid-19th century involving the ghost of a nun and a pair of headless horsemen.
‘Indeed one could hail a Spector here as easily as one could hail a friend.
‘ The film takes a standard linear approach, this happened, then this happened, illustrated by dramatic reconstructions which are live action against an animated background.
It gives the whole thing an atmospheric, stylised feel and it seems to be shot deliberately to evoke silent cinema.
I would guess that Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 film Haxan was an influence, there’s a brief mention of witchcraft and that blending of documentary, drama and animation is something Christensen got just right.
But silent film has a sense of unreality built into it because no one is talking and it’s notable here that any atmosphere is shattered as soon as someone opens their mouth.
‘Ethel, look! It’s the ghost.
’ The other difference is, Christensen wasn’t making a strict documentary, it was a horror, masquerading as documentary, a tradition that leads to films like The Blair Witch Project.
Borley Rectory is a documentary that’s introduced some drama, ‘Perhaps we should ask whether it were the late Reverend Harry Bull’ #Loud knocks# Some of which is effective but it’s not always clear what’s fact – or at least reported – and what’s made up by the filmmakers.
The real problem here is that documentaries can be entertainment or they can be purely informative, and yes they can also be both.
Because of its linear approach, just reciting the history, Borley Rectory doesn’t have what you’d call a story, so that wipes it out as drama.
As a documentary, it suffers for those reconstructions which are, at best, speculative.
It’s also very one-sided, it’s presenting everything that people said as being true… right up until the end.
Now, this isn’t a spoiler, it does one of those ‘what happened next’ sections like you get in college movies like Animal House, following some of the individuals mentioned in the film and honestly it’s more interesting than the rest of the film put together.
The lives of some of these people are remarkable, you could tell a story about Borely Rectory from 10, 20 different perspectives and get a really interesting film.
Underlining something that sounds obvious; people are more interesting than a house.
This film doesn’t follow any single character, the lead character is the house, and although a film like 1963’s The Haunting does a very good job of making the house a living presence, this one doesn’t.
Another thing worth saying about that ‘where are they now’ section at the end; it actually undermines other parts of the film because it’s the only place where they acknowledge that some of these people were, by their own admission, lying.
There are some really creative moments and the whole thing perks up when Reece Shearsmith enters as Daily Mirror journalist V.
‘Mrs Smith, V.
Wall, your husband contacted my editor.
‘ Stylistically it’s interesting, it’s beautiful and creepy, a lot of work went in and this is a low budget labour of love by director, writer and animator Ashley Thorpe.
But maybe it should have just been a drama, then it could have leaned into the sensational stuff.
All this said, if you’re interested in paranormal investigation; worth a watch, I did learn stuff.
If you’ve got a streaming movie you’d likeus to review let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe.