Lord of Tears, a Review

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Summary: Lord of Tears - written by Sarah Daly, directed/edited/produced by Lawrie Brewster, starring Euan Douglas, Lexy Hulme, and David Schofield - is a microbudget horror film combining elements from Lovecraft, Haunted House movies, Slenderman, cryptid lore, and religious myth structures. James Findlay returns to his old family home to find out why he left and, as is usually the case, finds he has made a grave mistake.

BLOT: (02 Mar 2014 - 08:50:54 PM)

Lord of Tears, a Review

gist. James Findlay's mother has died and he has inherited everything, including the house and lands to which his mother has informed him not to return. After finding a drawing of a strange bird-like horror in her things, though, he feels the need to investigate. Here he not only finds out that the house is part of a structure much older than itself, but he meets and starts to fall in love with Eve Turner, an American traveller stopping off on her way to Paris. The two of them prod deeper into the mystery, and start to uncover dark truths of themselves, and the even darker truths of James's past, while the Owlman shows up in James's dreams, and maybe his reality, and the clock seems to be ticking. Rather than turn, though, James decides to finish what he started, no matter what the cost.

review. Lord of Tears is pretty much exactly the sort of film to explore what is good and needed about microbudget horror. It mixes together disparate elements of horror movies and stories—haunted house movies, expressionistic horror movies like Carnival of Souls, Ringu-esque films, Lovecraftian/Jamesian tales—in a way that tends to be natural and structurally positive rather than clashing and at odds. Daly and Brewster have crafted a story about discovery and secrets right out in the open, dark but also sort of bright, blending hope and hopelessness. Even the parts that sound like they would grate on the nerves—a man returning to old family home, done so much, or a movie tapping into the Slenderman mythos1, which has not been done as much but has been done a lot just recently—work naturally enough, and are backed up by the photography and earnest acting (not always perfect, mind you) very well. The lore of the film is particularly interesting, combining disparate sources in a way that does not feel disparate, like it only makes sense that all of these things are the same thing. I could always use more shots of people wandering around in terribly old structures as owl-faced monsters stand in the shadows behind them. It starts to lose points, though, in certain technical areas. Most of the shots are tiny in length. Even as this later tones down, there are few shots in the movie that linger quite as they should. There are even those moments (e.g., the shot that introduces Eve) that feel more like videogame cutscenes that part of a movie whole. There's a tad too much digital post-processing, a few too many lines from the Owlman, an entire side-story that is mostly there for the ending. Perhaps the biggest issue is sound design, with effects and background music sometimes drowning the gentler, more naturalistic acting and scenery. The soundtrack, mind you, is generally excellent and works well, it just sometimes imposes rather than dances.2

final score. 5/8. +1 for those into doomed-by-investigation style protagonists you might find in a Lovecraftian/Jamesian story or into microbudget horror. -1 for those who nitpick behind the scenes moments or demanding blood-and-skin in their horror. The movie as a whole has rough edges but a clear vision and is sometimes effective because of its flaws [I've seen plenty that are simply too polished] and because of what it lacks [it avoids the easy jump scares set up by CG-faced children running through halls]. When it comes down to it, the only two things that really matter James and Eve, with even the Owlman being a backdrop to their humanity, and they work tragically and beautifully. The lore is a flavor, and adds a punch. For all the niggles, Lord of Tears combines traditional motifs with fresh takes, and some old ideas with a gentle re-imagining. It is a sign of film-makers with much promise ahead of them and much to add to the genre. Just hopefully they'll turn the gain down on the foley a tad.

additional info. The physical product, the "deluxe" package available on the Lord of Tears official site, includes some nice extas like the full soundtrack, commentary, and a sizable digital book that details the making-of.

1: Note, I'm bringing up Slenderman mostly because the Lord of Tears creators did to describe the movie. While there is overlap, I'd say the two mythos are far enough apart to be treated as separate things. Likewise, the Owlman as a piece of lore is different from how the movie uses it.

2: Perhaps strangest, and most imposing, was a coincidence of musical choices. In one scene, early on, they use Kevin Macleod's "Quinn's Song: A New Man" [scroll down to see it on that page], which was also used by the Fantasy Flight Games' digital product, Elder Signs: Omens, and while there is nothing wrong with the double-dip, there, it was a bit of a "Lovecraftian" product overlap that made it feel oddly out of place.


Written by Doug Bolden

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