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  • Rich


Updated: Feb 4

Dark. Evil. Awake.

In Chris Cronin’s 2019 short film “Oscar’s Bell”, a father and son’s camping trip turns into a foreboding nightmare. A simple premise: the camera holds the dark — firelight and dog (Oscar) as company — while an ominous presence attempts to lure the man away from his boy. Cronin continues to utilise his lingering camerawork (and childhood threat) — once again pointing it at an isolated spot — in his debut feature, The Moor, opening up the canvas to explore something untamed about one of the few pockets of frontier the British Isles holds on to.

The story navigates in and around the reputation of a ‘place’; one that is steeped in collective memory and dread as we follow Claire (Sophia La Porta) who, 25 years after the abduction and murder of her childhood friend, begins to investigate the disappearance of the dead boy’s father, Bill (David Edward-Robertson). With the help of a guide and psychic, they venture deep into what appears to be a haunted moor…

The Yorkshire Moors not only retain an ancient, buried past (synonymous with most folk horror) but have, for an unimaginable amount of time, possessed us. The ‘call’ — that feeling of being drawn to the land — may be as innocent as a weekend stroll or as dark and disturbing as abduction and murder… but we continue to lose ourselves out there in the wilderness, away from our hectic lifestyles. But when children go missing, communities are forever changed… and forever haunted. This is what is at the heart of Cronin’s film.

Sophia La Porta as Claire

Influenced as much by Eastern as Western cinema — Don’t Look Now, Lake Mungo, The Ritual, Memories of Murder — there may be the odd cinephile who will also pay reference to Franco Rosso’s overlooked Nature of the Beast from 1988. Yet, in terms of this environment, other than David and Jack’s fate in An American Werewolf in London (albeit filmed in Wales), the Yorkshire Moors seem to have remained cinematically ‘uninhabited’, which only feeds into the environment’s reputation and mythology. It is therefore a film that makes every effort to avoid the true crime trend, yet doesn’t completely ignore the moor’s history — a “looming dark shadow over that place and the people who grew up around it…” — and so delves deeper, inspired by something more ancient; sacrifices, the peat bodies and Ilkley’s unusual standing stones. This is one of the film’s major strengths, lending an insidious nature to a ‘bad place’ and its bogeyman that taps into our inner childhood fears that builds more on history and folklore.

David Edward-Robertson as Bill

Another major influence is Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners which Cronin used as a reference during production. It is here, during the film’s ‘detective mode’ that the film remains as grounded as possible, drip-feeding the horror and a supernatural presence to create an unforgettable lurking atmosphere. As an indie feature, Cronin admirably riffs on Villeneuve’s sense of intimacy but also the bleak scale and often alienating atmosphere throughout. This is heightened all the more as the killer’s presence remains hidden… ghostlike… as though he may be something else entirely, merging with the landscape, as ‘unseen’ as the victims that lure the central characters to their fate.

No doubt there will be audiences who struggle with the South Korean pacing and (without spoiling anything) its subtlety. However, the film’s final moments stick with you and merge with the dreadful memories we all associate with a place that defies explanation, presenting an interesting study on the ghosts of the past.


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