Dartmoor Killing (2015)    1 Stars

“Three Secrets.   Two women.   One killer.”

Dartmoor Killing (2015)
Dartmoor Killing (2015)

Director: Peter Nicholson

Cast: Callum Blue, David Hayman, Rebecca Night

Synopsis: A dark and atmospheric story of female friendship tested by deceit, betrayal and a terrifying past.






WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

A walking trip on Dartmoor doesn’t sound like the most exciting of hen parties, but twentysomethings Susan (Rebecca Knight) and Becky (Gemma-Leah Devereux – Stitches) find more excitement than they bargained for when they run into hunky Chris (Callum Blue) on the first afternoon of their weekend away. He seems like a decent enough sort on the surface, but there’s also something a little off about him. It’s something indefinable, which Becky senses but can’t explain, but which might have something to do with the eerie feeling she has that this isn’t the first time she’s visited his home. Chris persuaded the girls to help him hobble back there after claiming to have sprained his ankle, although later, after the girls have accepted his offer to stay the night, his limp magically disappears. Despite this, the girls decide to stay, but when Susan makes a late-night visit to Chris’s bedroom and Susan stumbles across his senile old father (David Hayman) in a darkened room downstairs, it becomes apparent that Chris is harbouring a dark secret from the past which somehow involves Becky.

Documentary filmmaker Peter Nicholson’s first fiction feature is a moody little thriller which is particularly good at creating strong undertones of tension within apparently benign situations. Sadly, Nicholson’s storytelling skills (with Isabelle Grey) are not quite so polished; at some point, all that tension has to find an outlet, but the film’s explanation for all that has gone before is far too contrived to survive even rudimentary analysis. The plot relies on a coincidence of such mind-boggling proportions that it grows more fantastic the more you think about it, and on that hoariest of clichés: the heroine with amnesia. In fact, our heroine not only can’t remember, she apparently doesn’t even know she can’t remember. Given the nature of the incident she has forgotten, it’s simply impossible for her not to have some knowledge, even if it’s only second-hand, and yet the film simply ignores this fact.

Nicholson shows promise as a director, although he struggles to coax convincing performances from his cast. Ironically, Blue is at his best in moments of high drama, which is precisely when both Knight and Devereux struggle to convince. Despite this, Dartmoor Killing is worth a look for those who long for old-style psychological thrillers that don’t rely on cheap jump cuts to make an impression.

(Reviewed 24th November 2015)

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