31 Days of Halloween — Day 6: Final Prayer (2013) — by Dr. Shock

 

HMP FinalPrayerEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.


Commissioned by the Vatican, Deacon (Gordon Kennedy), a Scottish priest; and Gray (Robin Hill), a tech-savvy researcher, travel to a small village in Western England to look into claims that a miracle has occurred at the local church.

Several days later, the two are joined by the third member of their team, Father Mark Amadon (Aidan McArdle), and, with each wearing a headset camera (to ensure everything is documented), they make their way to the church in question, where they’re met by the Parish’s lone priest, Father Crellick (Luke Neal).

It was Father Crellick himself who reported the so-called miracle, which occurred during a Christening ceremony, and after reviewing video footage of the event, the three investigators set up cameras, microphones, and other gadgets inside the church, all in an effort to discover if the miracle was, in fact, genuine.

At first convinced that Father Crellick has somehow manufactured the whole thing, the trio soon learns there’s more to his claim than simple trickery.

Released as The Borderlands in its native UK, writer / director Elliot Goldner’s Final Prayer is a found footage horror film that bucks the trend by favoring character and story over mindless jump scares. In fact, one of the movie’s best attributes is the relationship that develops between its two main characters, Deacon and Gray.

Due to their very different personalities (Deacon is a quiet and introspective man of the cloth, Gray is a talkative, wise-cracking agnostic), they don’t hit it off initially, but during the few days they spend together before Father Mark shows up, they foster a mutual respect for one another (a scene where the two are sitting in a pub, discussing faith and the church, is a definite highlight).

Equally as interesting is how the three researchers approach the investigation. After watching the video of the Christening (during which a few incredible things occur), Gray, the least experienced of the group, is sure that Crellick is telling the truth.

Deacon and Father Mark, on the other hand, believe that the priest is simply trying to boost the attendance at his church by claiming something miraculous has happened there. Despite being men of faith, the priests are also skeptics bound and determined to expose Father Crellick as a fraud.

Deacon, who had a bad experience during a similar investigation in South America, is especially cynical, going so far as to tell Gray the miracle cannot possibly be real, that it isn’t a matter of “if” they’ll discover it’s a hoax, but “when.”

Thus far, I’ve made it sound like Final Prayer is nothing more than a talky, dramatic exploration of faith vs. reality. Not to worry, though, because in addition to its excellent character development and well-developed story, it’s also a very creepy motion picture.

Several times throughout the movie, we’re treated to footage captured by a camera that Gray set up inside the church, which shows Father Crellick entering the building at night, only to be scared away by an unknown force. Though brief, these segments will get your pulse pounding, as will a later scene in which Deacon visits the church by himself at night, an experience that causes him to finally believe something amazing is going on. In each instance, director Goldner relies on mood and atmosphere to build a sense of impending doom that’s so strong it’s almost tangible.

Well-acted and engaging from start to finish, Final Prayer is an intelligent, thought-provoking horror film, not to mention one of the most intriguing found footage movies of the last five years.

—Dr. Shock


—Dave’s original post for today’s review over on DVD Infatuation

Links for Dr. Shock:
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Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

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15 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 6: Final Prayer (2013) — by Dr. Shock

  1. (Contains massive amounts of spoilers so YOU don’t have to watch this trash)

    Day 6 – She-Wolf of London (1946)

    In recent years, I’ve become a big fan of the classic Universal Monsters movies. They’re timeless classics that manage to tell full stories in an hour’s time and while they may not divert much from the basic formula, it’s never a big problem for me. With the exception of Frankenstein’s Monster, my favorite monster would have to be the Wolf Man. He’s such an amazing character, finding that perfect balance between being a deadly beast and being the most tragic and sympathetic character out of all of the monsters. For whatever reason, Universal never made a true sequel to the Wolf Man. Oh sure, he later appeared in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, but those were less sequels and more about star attractions featuring several of the classic monsters. This lack of sequels is particularly unusual since their first werewolf movie, Werewolf in London, didn’t feature any sequels either. What gives? Instead of a sequel, five years later we were given She-Wolf of London. As disappointing as that is, this doesn’t have to be so bad. Look at 1936’s Dracula Daughter. That was a fun little movie showing off a female vampire despite not being a true sequel to Dracula. A movie about a chick werewolf sounds like a hoot of a time.

    Well…She-Wolf of London sucks. It really, really sucks. We’re not even talking about being terrible because of expectations not being reached like the original Mummy movie (Come on, a mummy movie without featuring a monster under wraps?!) or even one that is too dull despite a great monster (Looking at you, Creature From the Black Lagoon). She-Wolf of London was so terrible that it has to be my least favorite of all of the Universal Monster movies. They messed things up so badly that they failed to even get the easy things right.

    Without a doubt, the worst part about the movie is also the biggest spoiler. She-Wolf of London is not about a werewolf. We never see a werewolf at any point in the movie and by the conclusion of the film, we learn that there was never a werewolf on the loose, just a woman with a common garden tool that loved to howl while going after her prey. That’s some serious false advertisement. If you have a movie called She-Wolf of London, literally the bare minimum you should expect to see if a werewolf. Instead, they tried to roll with a drama/psychological thriller that I would have been fine with, despite not having as much interest as I would have with a werewolf movie, but not when they’re promising another movie about a werewolf. To me, the movie should have been called something along the lines of The Allenby Curse. Go ahead and have a movie where some poor girl is mislead into thinking she’s come under the spell of her family’s curse and she’s killing helpless victims around her neighborhood due to transforming into a werewolf. Just don’t actually advertise the film as a werewolf movie.

    Since the killer isn’t actually a werewolf, we can’t actually get any shots of a werewolf in action. It’s even more perplexing when you watch the credits and you realize that Jack P. f’n Pierce was the make-up man for the movie. This is the same man who made some of the most iconic monsters in the history of the cinema. Here, he’s just twiddling his thumbs, unable to do anything special. The closest he comes to being able to showcase his talents is when showing the Constable’s neck after being attacked by the “Werewolf”. It’s a mere brief shot, but it is a gnarly looking gash. Seeing Pierce’s name in the opening only further caused me to be disappointed the longer the film went without any shots of any werewolves. When you see that brilliant name, you expect to see a great monster.

    The film suffers in a lot of other ways as well. One of the most noticeable for me was all of the scenes where logic was non-existent. Early on in the film, Barry and Phyllis are racing on their horses to see which one of them gets to pick the date for their wedding. Barry wins so he gets his wish of marrying his fiance the following week. Now, I’ve never planned a wedding before in my life and I imagine having boatloads of money makes everything easier, but isn’t a week really short notice for throwing together a wedding? After the attacks begin, the Scotland Yard beefs up their security as they roam the park, looking out for potential victims and stray animals that might be the werewolf. Everyone is paired up for safety measures, yet it’s Constable Hobbs, the one guy who actually believes a werewolf is the cause of the kills, that is just walking around by himself. Sometimes fools deserve to die in horror and for his blatant disregard of safety, I can’t say I had any sympathy for Hobbs after he’s attacked. Lastly, there’s the fact that Martha Winthrop was responsible for the kills partly because she did not want her niece to marry Barry and move away, thus meaning Martha would have to move out of their home since Phyllis received ownership of the home after her parent’s death. Yet, that doesn’t make any sense as Martha didn’t have any reason to believe Phyllis would sell the house or kick her out. Phyllis and her aunt were on good terms and not once was it ever brought up that Martha would have to move after Phyllis and Barry married. You’re killing people and for what?

    Just coming up with aspects about the movie that I enjoyed is a tough task of it’s own. The dialogue is awful and unbelievable, so little happens on the screen, they felt the need to state everything whether it needed to be said or not, none of the main characters are actually likable, and despite only being an hour long, it drags on terribly. I do think that at times, Sara Haden as Martha is a fairly effective villain. She’s easily the best character of the film.

    Overall, She-Wolf of London is Universal Monsters at their very worst. Unless you’re an absolute completest, don’t even bother considering watching this mess of a movie.

    I’d give this a 2/10 and that’s probably far more generous than I should be.

    • I’m pretty sure I said to avoid this abomination on an early “Destroy All Monsters” segment. Might not have been on this show. I did that segment on 2-3 short-lived horror podcasts.

      • You did it on HMP. I remember being heartbroken when you mentioned how terrible it was. Every October I try to get in several Universal Monster movies. She-Wolf of London was a leftover from last year. So even with your review, I still had to get this movie out of the way.

    • Where-wolf? Where-wolf?? Well you do get some shots of dogs but that’s it. Sal Roma, the film WAS titled Curse of the Allenbys in the UK. Still there’s really no curse. I do like the park with the fog and lanterns. The mansion is great as well. It’s fun to see June Lockhart in her early days. and there are some other good actors in this film but no one is really acting. Yes, the dialogue is pretty bad.

      This is the end of the Universal golden age. A lot of people say it ended in 1946. After that there are some Abbott and Costello films and in the 1950’s there’s a sic-fi horror resurgence including the Gill-man. WWII ended in 1945, the great depression was over and I think the audience grew tired of the old monsters. Horror was out and good times were back!

      She-wolf of London was most likely a money grab. They may have had the title saved for some years. The women monsters never looked ugly so Jack Pierce really didn’t have anything to do. I’m sure they wouldn’t have put June Lockhart in wolf man makeup. Watching She-wolf of London is a nice example of bad Universal Horror. It’s not even horror. It’s more of a murder mystery romance with a horror title. The wedding race doesn’t bother me. It seems like all of the romances (with the goal of marriage) are rushed in the Universal Films. Martha was a week old lady that fell on her own knife. I have no idea how she could handle killing all of those people! Plus she said her first kill was the boy in the park but the Constable at the beginning said there were previous murders. Anyhow, it’s no good but I do enjoy watching it! Here’s a cool interview with June Lockhart about the movie. She says how rushed the filming was and how they mostly did one take shots. There’s also a cool part about the censors.
      http://classic-horror.com/newsreel/interview_june_lockhart_on_she_wolf_of_london

      • Wow, that was a great interview and far more entertaining than the actual movie. There’s something very refreshing to find actors who fully admit that their movies were terrible, but they don’t seem bitter about it. It’s just a fond memory of making a little stinkfest. Special credit to Lockhart for being so prepared for the interview. Between having all of the old documents for production notes and re-watching the movie, she went far out of her way to try and help the interview along.

        Technically speaking, the Allensby Curse could have been real, it just didn’t affect Phyllis for whatever reason. Maybe it got deluded so much over generations that one of her parents was the last to be affected by it. Complete wishful thinking though.

        The Lockhart interview talking about how quickly everything happened would explain while there’s so many issues with movie, including not even being able to remember the body count.

        • Yes, Lockhart was great in that interview. I would love to see a remake where the Allensby curse was real and took over a relative!

          • It seemed like you could also do a fun little Tales from the Crypt like twist to the ending of the remake. Reveal it to be a big con by the aunt, as she’s the real murderer, but then surprise the aunt by revealing that the curse was real and Phyllis is actually capable of becoming a werewolf. The aunt gets killed and everyone goes home happy.

          • Yes! People should remake movies like this because they’re bound to get them better than the original.

  2. 31 Days of Halloween day 5
    15. Hell Mouth (**) – Stephen McHattie is the only redeeming feature of this one. Hell is full of bad CGI.
    16. Lesson of the Evil (****) – Takashi Miike directed school massacre movie. No way will anyone in America ever make a movie like this. Brings to mind American Psycho with some beginning of Martyrs violence.

  3. Day 6…
    Didn’t get to watch a movie today because I had to catch up with my television shows…if I fall behind I’m screwed…but I did get my horror in with the season finale of The Strain…I read the books way before the show and enjoy the show a lot…It seems to be pretty faithful to the source material from what I remember…I see a lot of hate from critics…but did they read the books…Anyways I’m always happy that there is one more horror show on tv that a person can watch…
    Rating…7.5

  4. Final Prayer: I didn’t like this film quite as much as you, Dave, although I can’t disagree with anything you said. The performances are excellent, the concept is super cool, it’s a great use of found footage and it seemed more written than other found footage movies (and well written too). Add in the beautiful location and awesome ending and you’ve got a (mostly) great little film. My problem was the scares. They were few and far between and most if them sucked. I did think there were one or two cheap jump scares that were really lame. Creepy, yes. Even truly scary at times based on the strength of the premise and performances. But ultimately did not deliver on individual scary moments and most of the middle of the film (especially the investigation moments) really sagged because of it. I know I mentioned this film briefly during our found footage episode, but I don’t think we got into it. I do like it, though. I’d be even more interested in seeing the prequel!

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