A film crew, upset that the farmer who they have based their documentary on isn’t really interesting, find themselves in grave danger when they attempt to uncover secrets behind his hidden life in the feature film Damien.
It seems mockumentary/found footage films are again making a little bit of a resurgence. We reviewed Camping Fun recently, and now we had the pleasure of watching this horror from Ireland entitled Damien. Now, the name Damien is already synonymous thanks to the infamous 70’s horror movie The Omen, but this movie from writer/director/actor Bobbie Marno has nothing to do with that movie nor the coming of the Antichrist.
A team of bearded film crew members arrives at a remote farm in Ireland, looking to make a documentary on its owner, the titular Damien (played by Damien Seed). Once the filming begins, Damien looks to be a rather ordinary guy, albeit with long ginger hair and beard. Looking to make their film as interesting as it can be, the director (played by the actual director Bobbie Marno) asks his subject about his daily life. Only, it seems Damien’s daily life is not as exciting nor documentary worthy.
We get to see Damien showing the crew around his farm. He talks about the livestock – cows, and how he doesn’t like naming them as he will grow too attached. Weirdly, Damien is a vegan, yet he breeds his cows to be slaughtered for food, which is rather strange. Damien also spends a quality chunk of time talking to the crew about his 3d printer which he uses to make a variety of things like a model airplane, and spare parts for his 3d printer in case it breaks. He also builds parts for his tractors. Following that there is a chat about how a nearby mountain is actually classed as a mountain and not a hill, even though it’s the same size of that of a hill. Riveting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Wanting something juicier to capture in film, the crew demand Damien to take them to the old family farmhouse. He agrees and they start to trek through the woods. It’s only when the journey takes two hours, that the tired crew becomes rather rude to their host, even though they asked him to take them. The house is in disrepair, and Damien bars any of the crew from going upstairs, stating that it’s too dangerous. They do manage to get an old gramophone working though, and with it getting late, Damien invites the crew to stay at his house.
The next day, The director wake up to a text message from one of the crew members. He has decided to go home. This leaves the sound engineer Andy (Andrew McClay) irate and argumentative.
When looking back at the dailies from the day before, the crew notices a strange symbol on the wall of the old farmhouse and realise they have seen the same symbol before, on Damien’s front door. After a spot of research on the old Google, they come to find out that the symbol is that of an old Celtic fire God. Looking to improve the documentary even more, they decide to go back to the old farmhouse to investigate, whilst Damien is working away on his farm.
This is where the film picks up and turns to horror.
The issue I have is that it took fifty whole minutes to get there. With smart editing, pacing issues could have been sorted and we could have reached the horror elements by the start of the second act, roughly twenty minutes in. Instead, we get fifty minutes of getting to know the boring aspects of Damien’s life, and then thirty minutes of the kind of stuff that the audience will want to really watch.
Filmed on a DSLR and GO Pro, Damien has a realistic feel to it. There are camera shakes throughout, due to the camera being mounted on a shoulder rig, but that adds to the charm. There is also a real tongue-in-cheek effect too, with hints of humour throughout. After all, this is a film that states that “you can never really know a ginger”. You can tell from the performances that most, if not all, of the movie was made up of improvisation, with a rough outline of what the scene is to consist of. This is a smart move by Bobbie Marno, as I feel the audience wouldn’t buy into it being a documentary if all the dialogue was scripted and performed.
Overall, I enjoyed Damien, but I feel it could have been a lot punchier if the first fifty mins were trimmed down and then focussed a lot more on the horror aspect than the “getting to see what life is like on an Irish farm” side of things.