Following an apparent suicide attempt, Audrey (Anna Walton) decides to retreat from her life and move for some time into a remote country cottage. Upon her arrival in the cottage's sleepy, picturesque village, she's greeted by caretaker Theresa (Tanya Myers): a chatty, nosy old mare with good intentions at heart. She brings Audrey provisions - a skinned rabbit and some odd-looking herbs.

Brushing off Theresa initially, it's made very clear that Audrey - still wearing bandages around her wrists and prone to hallucinations involving her late husband - is seeking solitude. Her time is spent alone in the cottage: playing the violin, crying over photographs of her past life, following the bumps she hears coming from upstairs ... you know the kind of thing.

When quizzed about the locked room at the top of the cottage stairs, Theresa and her husband (Nick Brimble) dismiss it as a box room filled with the previous owner's unwanted belongings. Any noises coming from there, the husband rather unconvincingly tells Audrey, are likely to be made by mice.

They�re not the only villagers strangely reluctant to speak to any great extent about Audrey�s new abode, the increasingly creepy Talbot Cottage.

But then, as stubborn Audrey refuses to let those troublesome noises in the night drive her out, the truth behind the cottage�s unusual activities comes to light � as does Audrey�s past �

SOULMATE is the feature directorial debut of Axelle Carolyn, wife of Neil Marshall (THE DESCENT; DOOMSDAY etc). Eschewing her hubbie�s proclivity for splatterific action, Carolyn has crafted a slow-moving and Gothically tinged ghost story, focusing more on intangible atmosphere in its first half and an unorthodox romance in the latter.

The bilateral story � that of the cottage�s mystery and Audrey�s own vague past � run well alongside each other for a while, helping keep events intriguing even when not much is going on. It�s when both come together in the second half that the film�s problems really begin, and Carolyn�s corny script can no longer keep the sagging pace and ropy regional performances afloat.

On paper, a full synopsis of SOULMATE would no doubt read like a retread of THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR. In practice, this film really isn�t that involving. The build-up of quirky characters and emphasis on Audrey�s fragile state of mind are never exploited to horror genre proportions and, consequently, many viewers will be left wondering when it�s all going to get going � and will still be wondering that, after the closing titles have played out.

Performances are so-so; dialogue is often forced and unconvincing. It�s always weird seeing actors from TV dramas such as "Midsomer Murders" in features too. The film�s best attribute is its visuals.

SODA Pictures presents SOULMATE in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, enhancing the picture for 16x9 televisions. The picture quality is excellent: pin sharp, warm and true. The film is, however, cut: the BBFC required snips to a scene detailing the vertical slitting of wrists on the grounds that it was "instructional" - the filmmakers decided to remove the rest of the scene for continuity purposes, resulting in the film losing just over 2-and-a-half-minutes of footage.

English audio comes with choices of 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. The latter provides good channel separation and some really nice atmospheric resonance in all the right places. Both are clean, clear propositions throughout.

The disc opens with trailers for ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, THE DISAPPEARED and OMAR.

From there, we get a static main menu page and an animated scene selection option which allows access to SOULMATE via 9 chapters (including one designated purely to the closing credits).

Extras begin with an audio commentary track from Carolyn and Marshall. It's a good listen, filled with information and approached in a fluent, affable style - despite opening with an anecdote that literally translates as "fuck the BBFC". Carolyn has a lot to say, naturally, and Marshall wisely effectively acts as her moderator, prompting with pertinent questions here and there.

Alan Jones proffers a triptych of video interviews next, all of which were recorded for FrightFest TV. Walton is quizzed first, explaining over the course of 7 easygoing minutes about how she became attached to the project, working with a female genre director, getting into character and so on.

Carolyn is afforded 10 minutes of chat with Jones, in which she speaks of her motivations for writing the script ("I hadn't seen a proper British ghost story in quite some time" ... er, did THE WOMAN IN BLACK pass you by, perhaps?) and how she favoured a psychological approach to the film's direction.

Marshall also speaks with Jones, chewing the fat for 8 minutes and this is a lighter conversation, punctuated by giggles from both men. Marshall discusses having two directors in the same household, and how he reacted to SOULMATE's script initially. He's modest enough to rebuke Carolyn's claims that he gave her a few creative ideas during production.

Next we get two earlier short films from Carolyn.

The first, "The Last Post", is an 11-minute exercise in restraint starring the graceful Jean Marsh as an elderly lady in a hospital ward visited by a strange man that only she can see. It's well-produced and understated in a manner which evokes the classic 'Ghost Stories at Christmas'.

"The Halloween Kid", at 7 minutes long, is just as stylish visually but takes on a more fantastic approach, complete with rhyming narration and fairytale-type music. Look out for Walton as the titular lad's mother.

SOULMATE starts off rather intriguingly but soon stalls in terms of slow pacing and a total lack of suspense. The romantic angles are ham-fisted, and genre fans will soon find their interest ebbing away as Carolyn loses sight of what makes ghosts scary.

The DVD package is a solid one, though � crucially � the film is missing that 2-and-a-half-minutes of footage thanks to the BBFC�s ongoing ignorance �

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by SODA Pictures
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review