Godforsaken opens with a riff on the old joke “Why do they call it a wake? They’d all shit themselves if the person did.” In this case, the person who has passed away is Lisa Harris (Mélie B. Rondeau, Hood and the Restless). Her friend Chad (Chad Tailor, The Face), an aspiring filmmaker has come back to his hometown for the funeral, when to everyone’s astonishment she rises from her coffin.
Well, something has risen from Lisa’s coffin. Something that acts a bit more animal than human. Something able to heal the sick, but fond of eating live animals. Chad rounds up his friends Dom (Domenic Derose) and Katie (Katie Fleming) and returns to film a documentary that tries to explain what has happened. They’ll soon wish that they had stayed in Toronto.
Being a found footage film, Godforsaken has some issues in its opening scenes which require Chad to be filming, I would assume on his phone, as he walks through the church talking to people. We hear at least one person tell him its inappropriate but nobody, not the priest or the deceased’s family, tells him to stop even as he’s zooming in on Lisa’s body in the casket.
On the other hand, the found footage format allows writer/director Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal (Zalus, Faceless) to get a lot more out of the scenes of panic at the church. The scenes in the car on the drive from Toronto to Harriston also give a good sense of just how isolated and rural the town is.
“Growing up in a religious community in the middle east, I always had a fascination with other worldly beings. As a child I would often hear things like “ You will burn for eternity if you commit a sin” or “ You will go blind if you question God”. All of which struck terror in my heart.Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal
Godforsaken runs a relatively short seventy-six minutes and, apart from an overlong and pointless scene of Chad scaring Dom with a rubber cockroach, gets down to business quickly. Unfortunately, Kamal starts out by having the trio just walk into the Harris residence and start looking around, which makes it a lot harder to identify with them. In many films like this, you’re meant to dislike the filmmakers but that doesn’t seem to be the case here and the scene feels more like a misstep than anything else.
Thankfully Godforsaken quickly recovers and gives us some creepy footage of Linda appearing in the night that ends with Chad’s friend Chris (Chris Kelly) able to rise from his wheelchair and walk. But what seems joyous soon turns sinister as, in gratitude, Chris feeds the family cat to her. Unfortunately, the follow-up scenes have a nice buildup, but the police and local priest Father Anderson (Dan Bieman) making a hasty exit from the house look more like something from a comedy than a horror film.
For the most part though, Godforsaken is fairly effective through the first two-thirds of the film. A cult springs up around the resurrected woman as she continues to perform what seem like miracles. The film records not just that but the division within the town between those who see it as a genuine act of God and those who see something sinister behind it.
This being a horror film you can guess which group is right and Godforsaken starts to build an effective sense of dread as the cult grows and its influence in the town spreads. And as it does the negative effects on non-believers also start to grow, eventually to Chad’s mother (Nicole Fairbairn).
After that though, Godforsaken’s final act is a bit of a letdown. It’s not bad in and of itself, but it feels like it was meant for a different film as more of the dead rise and the cultists themselves become murderous zombie-like creatures. It also suffers from the usual found footage issues of extremely shaky footage and why anyone would be filming this rather than just concentrating on staying alive.
Despite some clumsy moments and an ending that, while exciting, is overly simplistic compared to what led up to it Godforsaken is worth catching. Godforsaken will premiere on the Terror Films Channel on March 25th followed by a worldwide digital release on April 8th. You can check their website for more details, and if you’re looking for something similar in the meantime, FilmTagger has some suggestions.