Desolate is a 77 minute film made on a shoestring budget by director Rob Grant, using a single DSLR camera and some borrowed sound equipment. It is also surprisingly good, though needless to say you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it to appear at your nearest multiplex. I saw this film at the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival, and I daresay the festival circuit may well be your best chance to catch up with it if you are a sci-fi fan.

The story concerns Chad (Jez Bonham), who has recently broken up with his girlfriend Annie (Teagan Vincze). Consequently, he has hit the bottle, believing that Annie is having an affair with his best friend, Devon (Justin Sproule). Whilst Chad and Devon are arguing about this up in the hills, there is a huge explosion in the town below. Chad returns to his apartment where the rolling news coverage reveals that the devastation may have been a UFO crashing, and that witnesses have reported seeing “creatures”. Creatures there turn out to be, and they don’t want to make friends.

Given the lack of budget, director Grant cleverly relies on the viewer’s own imagination to create an atmosphere of fear.  It’s a horror movie technique as old as the hills to use the sight of a door to make us afraid of what might be on the other side, but it works with great effect here. I was genuinely gripped throughout. Of course, given the limitations that Grant is working within, there are lots of shaky camera shots deployed, with people and objects going in and out of focus. Although these techniques are fairly obvious to the viewer, Grant at least does not attempt to pad the film out, and I thought the film was just about the right length. It kept my attention until the rather Shakespearean ending.

Perhaps the weakest aspect was that the central character of Chad was not especially likeable. He starts out as rather self-pitying and selfish, and I can’t say that he seemed much different at the end. On the other hand, he isn’t a bad character, so I was still able to root for him against the monsters – I don’t know if all viewers would be as tolerant as me in this regard!

Rating: 6/10

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