After the disappearance of his troubled friend, American Chris Rivers travels to the remote Welsh countryside to investigate what happened, leading him to a dark apocalyptic cult. This is David A Roberts’ psychological horror Older Gods.
Older Gods throws us straight into the drama with an unsettling credits sequence involving what can only be a human sacrifice. Surrounded by flames, a man tied up writhes in pain as blood drips down his body. Around him are people dressed in long black cloaks and wearing skull masks; they rip and tear at his skin and the sound effects by Gerald Buckfield and Bennet Maples make our very own skin crawl. As openings go, it’s a good one. It doesn’t last for long but it’s enough to hook us in. Immediately we want to know what’s going on, who is being sacrificed, and how things got to where they are.
Written and directed by David A. Roberts, Older Gods follows Chris Rivers, played with a controlled intensity by Rory Wilson, an American man who is investigating the mysterious death of his best friend. His investigation leads him to a dark and twisted world of ritualistic killings and occultism. As he gets closer to the truth, Chris finds himself in danger from powerful forces that are trying to summon ancient evil. The newest entry into the recent folk horror boom, Older Gods is a well-made and atmospheric film.
Director Roberts manages to set his film apart by mining a lot of palpable tension from seemingly mundane everyday scenarios with his use of horrific imagery emphasising the dread of the situation. Thanks to his strong sense of control, this tension and unease build constantly through a really well-paced 80 minutes. It’s a good length for the material in Roberts’ well-written script, adding enough twists and turns to make it unexpected and fresh. Roberts manages to keep the tone of his film consistently mean, moody, and nihilistic throughout, helping Older Gods avoid the usual low-budget horror problems of campiness and unintentional humour – two things that often bring down independent films whose creators can’t seem to decide what type of genre film they are making.
The cinematography in Older Gods is also very good, with Director of Photography Shaun Bishop making fine use of the gorgeous-yet-foreboding Welsh countryside. The valley’s natural lighting in both daytime and nighttime shots creates some visually impressive images. Editing duties are shared between both director and his cinematographer and, thanks to their superb sense of timing, the majority of transitions and cuts between scenes meld seamlessly into each other, with only the occasional shift becoming jarring or a fade-in slightly too long.
The film is not without its flaws of course, due to the story being allowed to unfold at its own pace, there are a few scenes that are dialogue heavy, which tend to slow the film right down, especially towards the end. However, this is only noticeable because everything else in the story has been built up so well, so when these quieter moments of exposition do come in, they fall flat because we want to see more action. But these are just minor quibbles compared to the film’s many strengths.
Older Gods is a well-made and suspenseful horror film that defies its budget restrictions by managing to create a successful movie containing some strong performances from its cast. It’s not only sure to please fans of the genre but also casual movie fans looking for an interesting take on an old favourite.