Fabien Delage’s Cold Ground boasts a set of spirited performances and some nice special effects but the found footage horror is let down by plot contrivance, poor dialogue and a complete lack of scares.
Writer-director Fabien Delage’s debut feature film Cold Ground takes the found footage motif to land a pair of journalists in danger after trekking up a mountain on the French-Swiss border to investigate strange cattle mutilations. A number of ambiguous questions arise, not least the decision to set the film in 1976 which, like much of the film, becomes a pointless after-thought that’s only relevant as explanation for the faux film stock aging applied to the protagonist’s footage.
Delage’s uninspired approach and over-reliance on plot contrivance is lessened somewhat by the cast’s spirited performances (and the effort it must have taken to shoot on location in clearly freezing temperatures). But Cold Ground, a tired derivative of The Blair Witch Project and The Descent amongst others, is particularly hampered by a complete lack of scares. A snowy, isolated wilderness is wasted by uninventive set-pieces while poor dialogue and unnecessary ambiguity weighs heavily on its momentum.
Admittedly, Delage requires credit for making Cold Ground look like a more expensive found footage horror film. It suffered a failed Indiegogo funding campaign when it raised less than $3,000 of its $12,000 target to cover production costs but the writer-director assembles a decent group of gutsy actors who, to varying degrees, bear the hallmarks of actual talent.
They do their best making Delage’s words sound like something vaguely resembling the way real people speak. Sadly, this is a thankless task at times. I can almost hear actress Gala Besson gritting her teeth as her character Melissa starts reminiscing about her favourite foods in the wake of another member of the group’s savage death. It’s as artificial as her cameraman’s damaged ankle which is apparently agony to walk on one minute, propping up a 50-yard dash the next.
Indeed, there’s a number of fundamental problems that cause Cold Ground’s failure. The digital filter used to give the film a Super 8 aesthetic is just one of its missteps, adding not to the mystery of our protagonists’ ill-advised trek into the woods but why the filmmaker chose to set the events in the mid-1970s.
It’s a lot easier – and more understandable – to shoot video in the digital era when you’re not battling with loading new rolls of Super 8, constrained by the amount of film you have, or worried about storage before processing your shots. These things nor the bulk of carrying said equipment up a mountain seem to bother our camera operator who, instead of saving his efforts, and costs, on the supposed journalistic conceit that brought him here, is thankfully filming everything, including a softcore romance with his sweetheart.
There are things to admire in Cold Ground. Besson’s performance is one of them, the special-effects team and its assortment of gore is another. Yet, the location could have added to the sense of desolation but is wasted by a combination of cliché, bad dialogue and an under-developed plot that saps the energy from any suspense writer-director Delage musters. Derivative, ponderous and disastrously low on scares, Cold Ground’s overly manufactured aesthetic understandably leaves it out in the wilderness.
Written by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Fabien Delage
Written by: Fabien Delage
Starring: Doug Rand, Philip Schurer, Gala Besson
Released: 2017 / Genre: Found Footage Horror
Country: UK / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive
Top 10 Films reviewed Cold Ground courtesy of video-on-demand service Amazon Prime Video.