Director: Peter Nicholson
Writers: Isabelle Grey, Peter Nicholson
Stars: David Hayman, Callum Blue, Rebecca Night
One of the problems faced by British filmmakers – or more particularly English filmmakers – when making a horror movie is that, to be honest, it’s very difficult to think of anywhere… out of the way. We live on such a crowded and frankly tame island that you’re never more than a short walk from the nearest road, national trust property or group of sodding cyclists competing about how much they’ve spent on their equipment. So whereas Spain, the US or Australia have vast sparsely populated areas where you can be miles away from nowhere, England has… areas of outstanding natural beauty. This makes it difficult to come up with a rural horror film that isn’t inherently ludicrous. Attempts to shoot an equivalent of Wolf Creek with a South Downs setting, for instance, where you’re never more than a half an hour walk from the nearest pub, are doomed to failure.
Dartmoor is a more suitable location than the South Downs, for sure, but you’re still unlikely to go more than twenty minutes without bumping into a rambler. Having said that, though, Dartmoor Killing makes a pretty good fist of not becoming too silly and even builds the touristy nature of the countryside into the plot. Susan (Rebecca Night) treats her friend Becky (Gemma-Leah Devereux) to a girl’s walking weekend as a pre-wedding treat. They come across a ranger called Chris (Callum Blue) who has sprained his ankle and so they agree to take him back to his nearby farm. By this time it’s nearly dark, so they agree to stay for the night; Susan is particularly happy about this because she’s taken a fancy to the young man, despite the fact that he spends a lot of time talking about his dead mother and shows miraculous powers of recovery in overcoming his aforementioned ankle injury. In the meantime, Becky starts having flashbacks to when she was at the farm before as a teenager on an outward bound course, when she witnessed something so terrible that she’s banked the whole thing from her memory.
It might not be particularly original, but Dartmoor Killing is an decent little film which is effectively put together by director Peter Nicholson (a graduate from documentaries and docu-dramas such as the Emmy award winning Pompeii: The Last Day (2003)). It’s never remotely frightening and there’s never any real doubt that Chris is a complete nutjob, but it uses the locations well and manages to raise a soupcon of suspense. It also benefits greatly from some good performances – the acting from all of the key players is far superior to what you normally would find in a low budget British horror film – including good old David Hayman (Sawney: Flesh of Man) as a Devon equivalent to Father Ted’s Father Jack.