12th Apr2018

‘The Ferryman’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Nicola Holt, Garth Maunders, Pamela Ashton, Frank Mathews, Shobi Rae Mclean, Azz Mohammed, Philip Scott-Shurety | Written and Directed by Elliot Macguire


After struggling to deal with a recent tragedy in her life, Mara (Nicola Holt) becomes lost in a perpetual routine, isolated and depressed to the point where she decides to take her own life. Following her attempted suicide, Mara wakes to finds herself in a hospital bed and in a further twist of events, her estranged father Roland (Garth Maunders) is sitting by her side. At first Mara wants nothing to do with her father, who offers to help her out for a while in an attempt to make up for lost time. But when an unexpected death of a nurse turns her home a crime scene, and the strange sounds and apparitions begin to make her question her sanity, she has no option but to turn to him for help.

As she continues to try and come to terms with what is happening, the sounds and visions start to get stronger as the malevolent entity begins to manifest itself more clearly, but no one else can see or hear it. Following the violent death of her friend, Mara realises that the entity will never leave her alone and knows what she has to do.

The Ferryman is the debut feature film from writer-director Elliott Maguire, which deals as much with the emotional struggles of the characters as it does building up the horror. Portraying the issues sensitively from the perspective of Mara, the film deals with loss, suicide and family; even the ones who you never really knew. The depiction of Mara’s emotional struggles is so well handled in the film, if you removed the horror elements it could still work brilliantly as a psychological drama.

The film builds up the atmosphere slowly, using the silence as much as the films score. Moments of silent daily monotony, often broken by the sounds of the crashing waves or a ships marine horn, in a subtle indication that the ferryman is coming. The natural light throughout the film is often obstructed, and the closed environments help to create a bleak claustrophobic atmosphere which encompass the films downbeat tone.

There is an almost dreamlike look to the film which is enforced by the clever editing. The looping shots and flashbacks often creating a bizarre and distorted vision of reality. The experimental structure and feel of the film reminded me of Lost Highway (1997), so when you come away at the end of the film you have several possible explanations of the events in the film. I had several conclusions of what the film represented, and if I watched it again, I am sure I would find several clues which may suggest a different explanation.

Despite the low budget of The Ferryman it looks good, which is more surprising when you consider it was filmed on an iPhone. The quality of the film is really good, even if the darkest scenes there is no indication that it was filmed on a handheld device. It just goes to shows that even if you haven’t got the budget for the latest and greatest equipment, if you have the talent and a unique of the story to tell, you can still make it happen.

There are some good performances from the supporting cast including Garth Maunders who delivers a good portrayal as the awkward parent trying to make up for lost time. The film however belongs to Nicola Holt as the fragile and lonely Mara, who delivers a powerful and moving performance. Director Elliott Maguire does a brilliant job with the look and style of the film to bring it together, but it is the emotional impact of Nicola’s performance which gives the film such an impact, because she makes you empathise for her character.

The Ferryman is an emotional psychological horror which exceeds the limit budget thanks to some creative editing and a brilliant performance from the films lead Nicola Holt. The film will not be for everyone because the unanswered questions leave the film open to interpretation and the experimental stylings may be confusing to some viewers. But if you are looking for a film that will really get you thinking, this is one to watch.

The Ferryman will be available to download/stream on Vimeo from Friday 13th April, from 99p. Check out the trailer below:


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