Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'Lord of Tears'

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It takes a lot of effort to make any kind of worthwhile indie horror film, but one cannot help but think it takes extra effort, plus a lot of focus and determination, to make a calm, quiet, sedate, and exceedingly "old-fashioned" indie horror film like the Scottish import Lord of Tears. If you're working on a conventional stalk / slash / scare piece of horror cinema, you know what you need: stalking, slashing, scaring, and maybe a surprise or two. Most  horror fans would be relatively pleased with that.

 
But if your goal is to pay homage to the old-fashioned Gothic tales that take place in haunted mansions -- and do it in such a moody, deliberate, and (dare I say) subtle fashion -- then you're clearly trying to appeal to a slightly more patient and open-minded horror fan. In other words, Lawrie Brewster's Lord of Tears won't exactly blow your speakers off, nor will it blow you away with staccato salvos of basic horror gristle, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.
 
Lord of Tears is actually a very accomplished piece of work. That sounds like a slight way of offering praise, so let's also say that Mr. Brewster and screenwriter Sarah Daley have cooked up a bizarre, unsettling, sometimes frustrating, and eventually fascinating horror tale that feels like an affectionate combination of Robin Hardy (The Wicker Man), Shirley Jackson (The Haunting), Ti West (The House of the Devil), and a few non-specific threads of overt Lovecraft-style eeriness that only work if a scary tale is given some time to find its stride and deliver its shocks on its own schedule.
 
The plot is admirably simple stuff: a drab but likable school teacher (Uean Douglas) finds that he has inherited a a cavernous mansion in the Scottish Highlands. Despite a posthumous warning to stay far away from the estate, James visits the foreboding domicile and decides to stick around for a little while. You know, poke into some old family history. (Bad idea.) Things start to look even sweeter once James strikes up a tentative romance with a local woman called Eve (Alexandra Hulme), but of course it doesn't take long before all sorts of horrific secrets are revealed.
 
Oh, and the evil spirits arrive in the form of a wonderfully disturbing "Owl Man" demon that haunts James' nightmares and eventually starts popping up in the light of day. As if you couldn't tell from the film's title, the "Owl Man" is no run-of-the-mill monster, and the filmmakers have a rather good time teasing you with the creature's presence before getting down to some seriously creepy material towards the ending. 
 
If Lord of Tears suffers from a handful of typical indie-style missteps (the movie feels about fifteen minutes too long, if I'm offering only one honest but pedestrian criticism), those are easily offset by the professionalism that is evident throughout the film. The odd score and weird songs; the moody and palpably evocative cinematography; a pair of leads who start out a bit static but quickly build an odd bit of chemistry together; the location itself; and the filmmakers' clear insistence on eschewing simple horror gimmicks in favor of something odd, quiet, and entirely "old-school" in appearance. 
 
Lord of Tears will not kick-start any franchises, nor will it break any DVD sales records, but it feels like the sort of film the more intrepid horror geeks will "discover" on their own and then gradually spread the word. All I know is one or two moments really creeped me out, and I never get creeped out. If that's not a compliment, I don't know any.
 
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