Directed by: Gene Fallaize
Starring: Hannah Jacobs, Tony Cook, Edward Elgood, Michael Parr, Ben Mansbridge, Jason York, Phil Martin
A small crew of documentary film-makers head to the infamous Cain Hill, once a notorious insane asylum, now a derelict building. It is also the site of a number of mysterious disappearances mostly attributed to one of its inmates, Chester Lockhart. When they eventually arrive and set about filming, they soon discover that the local legends about the place might just be true after all...
Cain Hill is a fairly successful horror film, but at times you wonder if it's interests and focus aren't on the scares.
The film opens with what seems to be a case of "in-media res", a trope that I really don't like (starting the film with a key scene then jumping back in time to show how they got to that point). However, in this case it's a bit different as we are watching a film within a film, this one based on the events we're about to see unfold.
Its one of the things Cain Hill does very well, the blurring between what is "real" and what is "fiction". Having Alex Zane appearing as himself gives the opening section an air of authenticity, and the photo shown at the end also gives the whole real/based on real events idea a new twist.
One of the aspects about the script which sets it apart from other horror films is that there is no conflict within the group of protagonists. These are professional people (for the most part - more on that in a minute) and have a clear purpose. They gel as a team and get on with things - until the kills start occurring. The film spends a long time letting the audience get to know the characters to try and develop a level of empathy with them before they start to meet their demise. This is commendable, but it is unfortunately at the expense of the scary part of the story. It takes quite a long time to get the crew to Cain Hill itself, and even longer before the spooky stuff kicks in. If you're not a fan of Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), this may be a problem!
Even though I personally enjoyed their company, I do wish the scenes in the pub (set the night before the crew head on to Cain Hill) were cut shorter. There is a particular scene where the director, Richard, tries to seduce Mary, the actress who will be giving the documentary its human focus. The scene is well acted by Edward Elgood and Hannah Jacobs (on her first film shoot and doing a heck of a job), but arrives in a tumultuous time where scandals of sexual coercion in Hollywood and other walks of life are hitting the headlines. Even though Richard doesn't force the issue when she politely turns him down, it's still going to resonate with a lot of people.
The film finds its feet when we finally get to Cain Hill. Given a rather frosty reception by Elizabeth (Gemma Atkinson) , who hands them the keys along with some dire warnings about the place, the crew finally get to explore the location they've been talking about for the first half of the film. And, it has to be said, that the location lives up to its reputation and provides a suitable spooky atmosphere.
Once the Threat reveals itself and the killings begin to occur, Cain Hill maintains a good momentum right through to the conclusion. There are some quite gruesome kills occurring and the make-up and special fx guys do a great job of presenting some nasty looking wounds etc. Leonard, the producer (Tony Cook) get a particularly grizzly end which is well handled.
My favourite moment in the film comes when the crew are actually filming a scene of Mary walking down one of the corridors, a pensive look on her face - likely to have narration over-dubbing it in the finished documentary. We are watching a professional documentary crew at work - and it occurred to me that actually, there's the film's "real" film crew, filming the "movie" film crew at work. It's almost its own version of Shakespeare's "audience watching a play in which an audience is watching a play" from Hamlet, and it's another great moment of the film blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
Cain Hill is a well-made film however it is likely to frustrate parts of its audience with the amount of time spent waiting for the horror angle to kick in. However, if you can stick with it, it will reward you with a fast paced, tense finale.
6 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)