Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Gerard Johnstone.
Starring Alison Williams, Violet McGraw.
Horror, US, 102 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in cinemas in the UK 13th January by Universal Pictures


There are ambitious debut features then there is THE ORIGIN. A survival horror thriller set 45,000 years ago with an unknown cast speaking in an entirely invented language filmed in the highlands of Scotland in all its dreich glory at the height of COVID. Scottish director Andrew Cumming, co-writing with Ruth Greenberg, certainly has not made things easy for himself here with his first film but this is a satisfying exercise that succeeds with its original and well realised vision.


The plot follows a small bunch of travellers who have made their way across the seas in search of a new land that will provide them with food, shelter and warmth. Led by the dominant Adem, this small band of followers includes pregnant partner Ave, his son Heron, the seemingly wise Odal, the mild mannered Geirr and the “stray” Beyah. Despite their hopes the small knit band find a harsh and unforgiving land that will provide no sustenance. Adding to their woes they soon find themselves being stalked by a mysterious presence that quickly makes its threatening presence felt in increasingly hostile and lethal ways.


The premise at the heart here is a simple and familiar one that benefits in a big way from its unfamiliar trappings. Adding an extra dimension to proceedings is the smart script that makes the most of its limited resources. These limits however are not immediately apparent thanks to the involving period details that seemed to carry a degree of accuracy to my admittedly untrained eye and the surprisingly feminist edge that soon springs forth from the character of Beyah as she soon faces threat not just from the stalking, otherworldly presence but from within the group itself, a plot thread that soon unravels in a number of increasingly interesting and exciting ways.


Cumming exhibits a stylish flair throughout here, immediately marking him out as an interesting director. With large swathes of the film taking place in the dark of night in a vast forest he manages to provide a visual aptitude that stops the film from looking or feeling repetitive or familiar. One nightmarish sequence illuminated only by the Northern lights being a particular highlight that promises more striking stylings from him in the future.


That he elicits such impressive performances from his unfamiliar cast is also another promising talent of this director making his feature debut. Safia Oakley-Green in particular making the biggest impression with the well written character of Beyah. The writing also impresses here, especially with plot revelations that provide much sub-textual fodder in the way of female subjugation, xenophobia and ancient cultural traditions.


While the familiar edges of its premise somewhat hold the film back from achieving true greatness, THE ORIGIN still manages to pack a satisfying punch. Its widescreen landscapes and the intentions of its mysterious enemy provide more than enough here to warrant a visit to the biggest screen you can find to experience its familiar yet fresh genre trappings.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans