Stars: Melia Kreiling, Nick Blood, Mark Bonner, Simone Kirby, Olivia Popica, Sophie Harkness, Fergal McElherron, Jemma Obrien, James Lecky | Written and Directed by Luke Hymans
Written and directed by Luke Hymans (Dubplate Drama), this horror film, shot in Belfast, tells the story of American documentary film-makers Georgia (Melia Kreiling – Cold) and Matt (Nick Blood – Spike Island) who head to Exmoor in the south of England in an attempt to catch, on film, the “Beast of Exmoor” which apparently exists somewhere in the remote grassland of that particular part of Devon. There reason for wanting to capture this so-called “beast” on camera? £25,000 from the local newspaper.
Xmoor begins with the two leads looking at a YouTube video that is apparently footage of this “beast”, and Georgia convinces Matt to go to Exmoor with the intention of filming this creature and collecting the cash reward. Our documentarians are greeted early-on, while on their way to their destination, by two twin boys burning out a car, a junkie throwing a bottle at them in a decaying farmhouse, a pile of dead burning sheep and the same twins attacking Georgia in her van. We find that the bottle-wielding junkie had been attacked by the “beast” and they interview here, but she refuses details and seems to be hiding something. Georgia and Matt meet up with Fox (Mark Bonner – Psychoville), a tracker who Georgia knows from the past, and they set out to Exmoor.
They find the area that Fox refers to as “the lair of the beast” and process to set up stealth-cameras around in order to capture some footage. It isn’t long before the three of them stumble upon a dead body and vomit their guys up due to the smell. They find another body and realise that the beast is not to blame because the hands and feet of the bodies are bound. It appears they have stumbled upon a dumping ground for the dead. The three make a decision to wait around the dumping ground in order to catch the person or people responsible, with the idea being that the capture of a serial killer would make news around the world. They set up camp and keep their eyes peeled, but it isn’t long before they are a part of the labyrinth created by the true human “beast of Exmoor” and their situation goes from bad to worse. The final half-hour of the film presents an intense fight for survival in the midst of a killer’s hunting grounds.
Xmoor‘s story is interesting and it changes and twists regularly, leaving us wondering what might happen next, something I enjoyed about the experience. The setting is dark and hard to navigate, and with all the trees and shadows there is a possibility of something happening at any time which helps up the tension and create a feeling of unpredictability. I liked the setting, and I liked some of what the story offered, though at times it took more than expelling disbelief to enjoy it, there were decisions made by our three main characters that were more than just implausible and far-fetched.
The use of a fast-paced rave scene at one point is obviously there to set the film apart from the pack, but I don’t feel like it fit with the rural setting or overall low-key tone of the film. It felt thrown-in and weird. The cast do a good job at purveying fear in their performances, but it’s Bonner, as Fox, who is the most layered and interesting character in the film, his gloomy and closed-off manner allowing us to slowly see into who he is and find out about his past.
It is worth noting that our lead performers were both raised in London, England, and yet they are cast as American film-makers. Their accents, while you get used to them as the film progresses, are off-putting at times and don’t sound authentic. Kreiling’s is fine for the most-part but Blood’s is particularly “off”, he seems distracted by his need to put on the accent and it feels, most of the time, over delivered and exaggerated. I couldn’t help but ponder why there was a need for these characters to be from the USA, and why they couldn’t have been from England. It’s a small issue, but one I encounter regularly and never truly understand the reasoning for.
I had an okay time with Xmoor, it was interesting, and though the performances were mixed, some were decent. The writing was iffy and the character’s decision-making skills were questionable throughout the movie, but it wasn’t bad, and I thought the final third of the film was well set-up and had some tense moments. It isn’t original, I’ve seen other films like it, but I thought the use of a bluff in the plot worked well and the woodland setting provided the film with some of its best moments.
Xmoor won’t break boundaries or turn too many heads, but it was enjoyable for the most-part.
Xmoor is released on DVD on May 9th, courtesy of Signature’s new DTV arm Precision Pictures