Directed by Luke Hyams
“Keep off the moors.” It’s a solid piece of life-saving advice that has become common parlance since the early ’80s and the release of one particularly legendary werewolf movie. Well, people don’t listen. They just don’t.
The latest group to ignore this cinematic sage advice is comprised of young American documentarians Georgia (Kreiling) and Matt (Blood), who set off to England in order to track and film the fabled Beast of Bodmin – a big cat that allegedly stalks this particular slice of the Cornish wilderness. Accompanying them is a professional animal tracker and old family friend of Georgia named Fox (Bonnar). He’s a rough and tumble tough guy, actively resistant to Matt’s American wisecracking and complaints, and unafraid of waving a highly illegal automatic weapon around the British countryside.
What awaits them up on the moors isn’t quite what they’re expecting. Instead of discovering the lair of a wild big cat, they instead find the gruesome den of a serial killer – littered with the bound bodies of dead women. At Fox’s insistence, the plan changes – rather than stalk furry prey, the trio will set up their camp and place hidden cameras around the area in the hopes of trapping the killer when he returns to his handiwork, before subduing him and handing him over to the authorities, making them all instantly famous.
Yeah, it’s a dumb idea which of course goes awry when it turns out that this isn’t a dumping ground. A girl wakes up and runs screaming into the woods, and not long after the killer himself arrives for his nightly hunt. This is his own personal preserve – a hunting ground that he knows far better than any of them, and he doesn’t take kindly to the intrusion.
Besides the premise, there isn’t a whole lot on offer to elevate X Moor beyond generic horror fare. Once the killer shows up, the film sets out on the standard setup of victims running screaming through darkened woods while the knife-wielding attacker occasionally pops out to either stab or scare them. Leads Kreiling and Blood do share a suitable amount of chemistry to make their personal tragedy work, but there’s little more to be discovered of the main pair besides that revealed in the early scenes (hell, Kreiling ends up pretty much defining herself by her shaky American accent), while Fox’s motivations for catching the killer become the most interesting part of the story, especially given Bonnar’s solidly intimidating performance.
Director Hyams has trouble maintaining the tension throughout X Moor once the killing begins, leading to a slip into disinterested familiarity and repetition as the various characters race about the woods, seeking to hide or escape. An attempt to flesh out the nature of the human beast falls flatter than expected, with his ultimate comeuppance being a very ill-advised and laughably realised moment that almost begs for a Wilhelm scream or some kind of hilarious parting voiceover for that full comedic effect.
It isn’t awful, or even entirely bad by any means – there’s a neat premise and a palpable mean streak, not to mention the use of some nice locations and occasionally impressive lighting – but X Moor wallows far too happily in the trappings of run-of-the-mill slasher fare to take it anywhere beyond the average.
2 1/2 out of 5