When a group of affluent student cadets spend the night patrolling the respected Dhoultham School they discover that there are sinister supernatural forces present, as well as a couple of human enemies who are intent on causing trouble.
As Unhallowed Ground began I was found myself surprisingly intrigued; the set-up is quite interesting and I found of a lot of potential lying within the idea of a haunting being linked to the bubonic plague of London. Sadly, this creative concept at the film’s core is not enough to prevent Unhallowed Ground from sinking in to the never-ending abyss of dull and uninspiring modern horror films. It never stoops to truly terrible lows, but, just like the silly school kids we’re journeying with; it never does reach its full potential and fails to deliver anything particularly memorable.
It all starts to go downhill fast when you realise you’re watching yet another supernatural spook-fest with a bunch of irritating teen characters. Not a single person in the film offers anything worth saving and perhaps that’s the point. They’re selfish and spoilt, frequently reminding us of how disinterested they are in pursuing careers in the army and are just doing this to get in to university. It’s such a cynical and sad look at the youth of today, showing them as two-dimensional figures who are devoid of any personality. Thus it becomes impossible to invest any interest or care about any of them. They become tormented and afraid and, but as an audience, we become increasingly bored and frustrated at what we are being presented with. We’re happy they’re getting a bit of a fright, but these are scares at their most tame. The only horror the film is able to muster up is meagre and very boring. There is not an ounce of creativity or originality within any of the scares, and even the most easily frightened will find little here to be truly afraid of. There are shadows walking passed doors, doors slamming and unexplainable off-screen noises; Unhallowed Ground successfully ticks every box as it follows a familiar horror formula and refrains from trying anything different.
In a dire attempt to prevent the character’s from being wholly morally corrupt, the film desperately tries to promote a sense of loyalty and “never leaving a man behind” sensibility. The repetition of this phrase fast becomes too annoying for its own good and loses all meaning. It becomes a robotic sentence they all must say once, to remind us how morally good these people are, deep down anyway. Without spoiling the ending, by the time the climactic finale ensues, the film throws the entirety of these moral values out the window anyway, rendering any previous reference to friendship or commitment entirely void. It’s a shame, I really thought they were true pals.
There is an ounce, albeit a pointless and unnecessary ounce, of originality here. Or, at least, an attempt to try something a bit different. Not only are there supernatural forces lurking in the shadows, there’s a couple of thieves who are trying to break in to the school. So, our characters have to fend off humans and ghosts, interesting. Again, the opportunity to do something engaging is squandered. They are another couple of boring additions, not really adding much to an already yawn-inducing feature. They work well as comedic relief for a little while, but the idea of stupid villains fits more in Home Alone, rather than Unhallowed Ground. The tone shifts all over place and the film can never decide if it wants to have fun with its concept or provide something serious. This inability hinders the film entirely, rendering it far more of joke than it probably intended.
All in all, Unhallowed Ground is extremely unsatisfying. Plenty more could have been done with its premise and it’s a shame that it decided to follow a route that is all too familiar for horror audiences, rather than stepping in to new territory. What could have been a creative, spooky story is nothing more than an unrefreshing and uninspiring adventure.
Words: Jessy Williams