The Moor Poster

The Moor (2023) Review – FrightFest

The Moor opens in 1996 as young Claire (Billie Suggett) convinces the even younger Danny (Dexter Sol Ansell, The Midwich Cuckoos, Christmas on Mistletoe Farm) to distract a shopkeeper with a story about getting separated from his father while she steals some candy for them. It all goes according to plan until a strange man claims to be the boy’s father and takes him away. A suspect is caught and convicted, but neither Danny’s body nor those of several other missing boys was ever found.

Twenty-five years later Danny’s father Bill (David Edward-Robertson, The Lost Generation, Unkillable) contacts Claire (Sophia La Porta, Censor, Into the Mirror) He plans to find his son’s body to help keep his killer from being released, and he wants her to use her podcast to help document it. Out of her sense of guilt, she agrees.

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Bill’s method of finding the body is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. He’s hired a dowser named Alex (Mark Peachey, Art is Dead, Legally Blonde: The Musical) and his daughter Eleanor (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, Off the Rails, Fortitude) who claims to have psychic powers. Along with their guide Liz (Vicki Hackett, Tyrannosaur, The Selfish Giant), they set out to search the moor.

Director Chris Cronin (Oscar’s Bell, Skye) and Paul Thomas (Sophie’s Fortune, Hail of Bullets) have collaborated on several shorts, but this is the first feature for either of them. Despite that lack of experience, they neatly show the scope of Bill’s quest early on when Claire is talking to Thornley (Bernard Hill, Lord of the Rings, The Scorpion King). He points to her map and asks, “You think that is the moor?” before rolling up the carpets and laying out maps until the floor is covered.

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While not to the same degree as Enys Men, The Moor is a very quiet and restrained piece of folk horror. Much of the film’s effect comes from the desolate atmosphere of the moor itself. A bleak, foggy expanse hiding peat bogs and other natural threats as well as the implied supernatural ones.

“My aim with this story was to create an original horror film set in my home county of Yorkshire. Instead of delving into the fictional murders themselves, I focused on the aftermath and how something so terrible affects lives and relationships. What happens when so much grief and guilt are left unresolved?”

Chris Cronin

We also see interviews Claire conducts with the parents of the missing children and others involved in the investigation. This expands the sense of grief and loss beyond simply Billy and herself and gives the moor more of a sinister aura, as though it played a part in motivating the killer’s actions. The cinematography by Sam Cronin (Wraith, June and the Baba Yaga) emphasizes what a vast, cold, and empty place it is. The kind of place you would expect to find evil lurking.

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At a couple of minutes over two hours, this may be a bit too much of a slow burn for some viewers, and I can understand that. There’s very little in the way of overt threats or jump scares, and things really don’t push into the supernatural until well into the story. If you’re really not into more atmospheric and emotional horror, you may be ready to tap out before the film picks up for its final act.

However, between the cast’s performance, the previously mentioned cinematography in combination with the editing by Pawel Pracz (Bad Blood, Polterheist) and Nir Perlman’s (Can I Hug You?, Toxica) score most viewers should find enough to keep them around until the effective, and disturbing, ending. It may take a bit of effort to get through some of The Moor’s slower moments, but the final will reward that effort. Whether what happens after the fade to black is meant to be real, a nightmare or the delusions of a shattered mind are left deliberately ambiguous. Either way, it made my skin crawl.

The Moor made its world premiere as part of this year’s FrightFest, screening as part of their First Blood program showcasing first features.

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