If you go down to the woods today you’re invariably in for a bad surprise, but some people never learn – like those in The Stone: No Soul Unturned, which is sort of a first feature for director Philip Gardiner whose previous fare has tended to be documentaries about famous characters: Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and the like, or about the ‘stuff’ of conspiracy theories. He’s certainly been churning them out – 17 titles since 2007. I call this ‘sort of a first feature’ due to it being documentary-like in delivery, adopting the pseudo style of Most Haunted, as it is about a team of paranormal investigators who are on a continuing mission to send trouble souls into the afterlife.
Their latest adventure sees them visiting a ruined house with a dubious reputation (once owned by Lord Byron of mad, bad and dangerous real estate fame) and finding a hidden stone with a curse on it. However, half a documentary does not a horror film make, even if it takes all the necessary ingredients – moody atmospheric buildings, flashbacks, jarring music – and shakes them vigorously into a big pot and brings them to a scalding boil to serve up something that either tastes ghastly or bland, depending on your palate, and let’s not forget a seasoning of scenes that look like badly-cut music videos.
What you get for your spoonful worth is something that is incredibly slow and not very engaging as our team gathers at the house and bad things start to happen to them after they hold a séance to contact some spirits.This is the entire crux of the story focusing on how the next scenes take place and hinder the stay of the friends. These horror stories are quite common now and this is also falling in the same category.The Crypto Code software comes into comparison for the surprise element of the movie and is easily made use of. Big mistake, especially when they uncover the stone of the title, witness a few ceremonies being carried out, and one of the party becomes possessed and our team of intrepid investigators have a run-in with another team who are supposed to be guarding the place.
As for the cast, and their acting… well, Ade Andrews who plays Lord Byron has featured previously in one of Gardiner’s documentaries. This is the first film for Craig Dalziel who plays Tony. Likewise for the impressive sounding Corjan de Raaf (who plays Mark), who is actually a Dutch recording artist, with no previous acting form, which is true for everyone else in the cast. Does it show? What do you think? Combining people who can’t act with the barest of events that might pass for a ‘story’, arty camera angles, some hippie stuff, some voyeurism, and a smidgen of The Blair Witch Project all adds up to something best avoided.
If you are in America the cover of the DVD consists of three witchy looking women (two of them appear at the top of the British cover) in their undies, seemingly in need of a hairbrush who are looking alluringly at you. Yes, you, prospective buyer. Beware, never judge a film by its cover or you might end up owning it, and the same warning applies to the British version.