Friday, 13 November 2015

Across the River (2013)



This Italian movie was recommended to me by author Steve Duffy, and - as usual - he was right. It's a simple horror flick that exploits, but doesn't depend upon, the found footage approach. It's one of those films that manages to achieve all it sets out to do - create disturbing world of shadows, mystery, and terror within a fairly familiar landscape.

The premise of Across the River is very simple. A naturalist (Renzo Gariup) sets out to conduct a wildlife survey in northern Italy, near the Slovenian border. He drives an RV into a fairly desolate, hilly, forested region and sets up night vision cameras to monitor deer, wild boar, and other fauna. He also captures a fox and attaches to it a camera plus GPS tracker. He watches as the fox ventures into a deserted village, not marked on his map, where it is attacked by an unseen beast. His curiosity piqued, he ventures across the river.

Most of the film is set in the lost village, which is a character in itself. The scientist becomes aware that some large predator, or predators, are at work. He finds relics that hint at some untoward events many decades ago. At first he seems safe enough, as he's secure in his vehicle and has the equipment, and skills, to survive in the wild. And, after all, this is Western Europe. But writer-director Lorenzo Bianchini deftly deprives his protagonist of everything that keeps him warm and safe. The naturalist realises that he has become nothing more than another prey animal.

Meanwhile, an elderly couple living nearby are kept awake by strange cries in the night. When the authorities become concerned about the missing expert, the husband tries to alert them to the menace that haunts the village and the woods that surround it. This involves, perhaps inevitably, old film footage that reveals just enough about the nature of the threat. Those who like a big chunk of exposition may be disappointed, of course.

This is a quiet film for much of its length, with an emphasis on often beautiful images of wild country. It's also a damp film - torrential rain traps the naturalist by raising the river level, and dripping water keeps him awake. Thus the powers of Nature - often deadly but never malign - are set alongside the threat from a paranormal intelligence. One with very sharp claws.

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