Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language and some Frightening Moments
Directed by: Elliot Goldner
Written by: Elliot Goldner
Starring: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Patrick Godfrey & Kevin Johnson
I’m not breaking new ground when I say that found footage horror flicks have more misses than hits. Because handheld horror is cheap and easy to make, you tend to get a lot of crappy low-budget cash-ins in the already overcrowded subgenre. Occasionally, a great found footage horror film will make waves on the festival circuit and receive tons of acclaim. FINAL PRAYER (formerly known as THE BORDERLANDS) received solid reviews upon its UK festival premiere and was finally dumped onto DVD a few years later in the US. While it’s not a terrible film by any means, FINAL PRAYER has a few borderline genius moments that are drowned by untapped potential and monotonous filler.
After a “miracle” occurs at an old South West England church, a small team is sent to investigate and possibly debunk the supposedly supernatural activity. Religious skeptic Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and non-believer tech guy Gray (Robin Hill) have opposing views on this miracle. However, doubt gives way to eerie belief when strange events continue to occur around the church and a morbid history about a Pagan deity emerges. Have Deacon and Gray actually stumbled upon something otherworldly? If that is the case, will both men make it out of this ever-deepening mystery alive?
On the positive side of things, FINAL PRAYER nails its found footage immersion factor with realistic performances. Gordon Kennedy and Robin Hill have believable chemistry together. Even though both characters can be annoying in spots (especially Gray), they feel authentically annoying and their reactions are totally believable in the increasingly strange situations. Gordon Kennedy’s Deacon comes off as especially interesting, because the film slowly reveals that he has a bit of a complicated past…to say the least.
Another positive quality worth mentioning is this movie’s kick-ass conclusion. The film plants seeds of a genuinely disturbing finale early on and even has one very early line of dialogue that foreshadows things in a big way (though it won’t stick out until the closing credits have begun to roll). FINAL PRAYER’s ending is the stuff of nightmares and will leave you thinking about it long after it’s over. However, here’s where I’m faced with some complicated feelings and a weird opinion about this movie. Despite having good performances and a great finale, there simply isn’t much else to this film.
I wish that the shaky cam and shoddy post-production effects (like fake static to cover up a microscopic budget) weren’t as aggravating as they were in this film. Sadly, they really grate on the viewer’s nerves in a bad way. The same can also be said about the glacial speed of the plot. Don’t get me wrong, because there are incredible found footage horror flicks that can easily be categorized as slow-burns (e.g. the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, the sensation that was BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and the criminally underrated HOME MOVIE). Those films kept delivering scares as they built up their super creepy plots, but FINAL PRAYER spends a ton of time developing stuff for its final 10 minutes. There simply aren’t many chilling bits in this film, save for the final 10 minutes.
I have a split opinion about FINAL PRAYER. On one hand, most of the film is rather unoriginal as we get a ton of tedious build-up that gets on the viewer’s nerves. On the other hand, the performances feel authentic and the ending is borderline genius. If the rest of the plot was nearly up to the level of the Lovecraftian inspired finale, this very well could have been one of the best found footage horror flicks of the last 10 years. As it is, I found FINAL PRAYER to be a mixed bag. There are fantastic qualities, but there are also mediocre bits and a rather unscary tone throughout that detracts from the film’s better moments. If you currently have no other horror films on your queue, then I’d tepidly recommend checking out FINAL PRAYER for its believable performances and the nightmarish finale. Other than that awesome ending, you’re not missing much.