26th Aug2017

Frightfest 2017: ‘Boots On The Ground’ Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Tom Ainsley, Ian Virgo, Ryan McParland, Valmike Rampersad, Sally Day | Written and Directed by Louis Melville

boots-ground-poster

On the last night of the Afghan War, five British soldiers must stay alive until midnight. After a fight with Taliban forces, they bunk down in the ruins of an old fort dating back to the first Afghan war. As the night wears on, they encounter a hellish labyrinthine with supernatural forces.

While most found-footage films are a slow burn that linger for the first 80 minutes before igniting into a blaze the last 10 minutes, Boots On The Ground throws us right into the action against hounding Taliban forces. Gone are the days when the audience was expected to slog through aimless exposition and minor scares that amounted to little more than a tease. It is almost as if director and screenwriter Louis Melville expects our found-footage horror movies to actually be interesting!

Boots On The Ground is a fascinating character study about soldiers fighting to stay alive, far from their homes. These men and women have families and hopes and dreams. They also have demonic hell-beasts and madness terrorizing them at every turn, which makes said hopes and dreams all the more tragic as their tale unfolds.

This film also does an amazing job of keeping you guessing at just what it is about. It begins as a war picture, then sharply turns into a sort of heist movie. I was into the film from the start, but when it is revealed that the squad is secretly in possession of thousands of American dollars, my attention really peaked.

And it’s not the plot that has to carry the film… The cast is strong and every member of the ill-fated squad is played well. Fans of independent cinema might be used to forgiving of some overacting here and there, but in Boots on the Ground the performances are top notch. The breathless pace at which the soldiers are fighting the Taliban, monsters, or each other is exhausting to watch and Melville aptly brings out the best from his cast.

In between the conflict we’re given brief moments of rest and character development. I believe this is where the film shines. The audience doesn’t need blunt character backgrounds dumped at our feet ten minutes into the movie. We have a whole movie to learn about what makes everyone tick, there is no rush. The script holds a fine balance between fast paced tension and subtle characterization. By the end, I wasn’t sure if the characters were good or if they were bad, but I didn’t want them to die.

I cared.

I was very impressed by Boots On The Ground, and that is probably the greatest compliment I could give it. I cared about what happened. It is a great war movie. It is a great heist movie. It is a great horror movie. I would recommend this film to anyone who will listen and I am very interested in what projects Melville has lined up next. You will find this 86 minutes well invested. The found-footage genre is alive and well in such capable hands.

**** 4/5

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