Thursday, October 15, 2015

Film Review: The Beast of Xmoor (2014)

The Beast of Xmoor (aka X Moor or Exmoor)
United Kingdom/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"It had a lot of potential, but it's riddled with too many issues."

Filmmaking couple Georgia (Melia Kreiling) and Matt (Nick Blood) team up with veteran animal tracker Fox (Mark Bonnar) to capture footage of a fabled beast lurking in the moor, but find something more sinister...

The Beast of Xmoor is an interesting film. First of all, no, it's not a found-footage horror film or a creature feature as one might expect. The plot follows Georgia and Matt as they travel to the North Devon moor to capture footage of a panther-puma hybrid creature. They team up with Fox, who convinces them he can track the beast. However, when they delve into the forest, they find themselves in a makeshift gravesite – a dumping ground that could not be crafted by a human. Of course, after some arguing, the group reluctantly agree to try and catch the real beast of the exmoor. The plot introduces more characters towards the latter half, but doesn't really remedy some of its deeper problems. The ending was decent, but it did feel undeserved and dragged out – it's a short film, I suppose the filmmakers wanted to reach that sweet “feature-length” runtime.

The Beast of Xmoor is certainly an interesting film. If you were to go into this blind, you'd probably be surprised by its curveball. Unfortunately, the execution is flawed. A vast majority of the film is far too reliant on plot contrivances. The film heavily relies on the clumsiness and ignorance of its characters; Georgia often marches into danger, Matt conveniently slips and falls at the worst times , and Fox turns out to be less intelligent than originally believed. The rest of the characters also make at least one stupid decision. Plot contrivances are not the death of a film, but when they're this blatant, they interfere with the natural progression of the plot. Instead of saying, “Wow, I didn't expect that!” I said, “Why would you do that?!”

The film's not a complete loss, though. I already praised the engaging and interesting concept, so what else was good? Well, the pacing was brisk and the plot was well balanced. It never feels too slow or uneventful – at least not until the very end where it feels dragged out. There are also a few scenes with some moderate suspense and horror. The setting is also used well in creating that very same suspense and horror – it also looks great at times. It doesn't necessarily leave an impression, I won't lose any sleep at night, but it's something worth noting.

The acting is very inconsistent, especially towards the beginning. Melia Kreiling and Nick Blood are not only lacking in chemistry, but they often lack conviction. Their acting can often feel dull and unnatural. I won't blame it all on the cast, though. This is partially due to the stilted dialogue. Fortunately, the acting gets a little better towards the second half. The film looks great – when you can actually see. This was one of the film's bigger problems: some the nighttime scenes are too dark and you can barely see what's happening. It's odd because some of the other nighttime scenes don't suffer from this issue. Writer and director Luke Hyams has a very interesting concept, but he's flawed in his execution. His plot relies far too much on unnatural convenience and his direction fails to conjure any noteworthy scares.

Overall, The Beast of Xmoor is a disappointing film. It had a lot of potential, but it's riddled with too many issues. The story is genuinely interesting – I watched the entire film without my mind wandering. At the same time, the narrative suffers from its plot contrivances, its one-dimensional and often moronic characters, its poor lighting, and its dragged out ending. It doesn't leave an impression of terror or suspense, either. I'd only recommend it if you're looking to kill 80 minutes and have nothing better to watch.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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