I don’t relish being personally insulting towards any piece of indie cinema, but in the case of The Stone: No Soul Unturned I genuinely feel that the filmmakers are being personally insulting towards horror fans; that is, if they think that this is in any way a passable effort. So, the chips are down. With respect, this is how not to make a horror film.

I had no idea what to expect from the screener I was sent as it didn’t carry any blurb, and I make it a point not to look films up beforehand, so my first impression of The Stone was that it was going to be a lowbrow documentary of sorts. The film opens with some talking heads (including Ufologist Nick Pope) discussing the ritual use of meteorites down through the ages. Meteorites, we are told, have soul-destroying capabilities. Course, Ancient Man knew this and also knew you had to pay homage to Elementals and spirits, but silly old Modern Man knows nothing of the sort.

At this point the film changes tack and departs from its documentary style into a normal movie format. We witness a ritual before one of the witches addresses the camera (hang on - is this a documentary again, or what?) to say something about people tending to ‘stay away’ from a certain ruined hall (actually Annesley Hall in Nottinghamshire).

Cue carful of paranormal investigators turning up to camp in the grounds; prepare to be amazed at the snazzy camera effects as we get a lengthy dose of speeded-up footage while they set up their tents, and then some slowed down footage of them in a magic circle, picking daisies, that sort of earthy stuff. As they’re doing all this, a photographer pops his head through the window and announces that the place is extremely haunted. He also mentions there’s a connection between the hall and Lord Byron, and although this pertains to nothing in particular in the plot, it does allow even more camera effects in the form of a ghostly Byron. The photographer’s work now done, he gets menaced by a ghost - and an evil ghost at that, which you can tell by its echoey voice and distort-o-vision point of view. More camera effects! I imagine this is all intended to create a surreal mood piece, but instead it all felt like it was trying to mask defects rather than form part of its qualities.

The four investigators carry on with their Most Haunted style antics meanwhile, and we find out what they are here for - saving souls. There are other people in the vicinity with similar ideas, too, judging by the ritual which one of the party accidentally stumbles upon when he goes for a walk. Another day, another round of holding hands and spouting New Age stock phrases…dark forces…one of the group, Alistair, goes a bit funny during a trance…a tarantula haunts a woman’s arse…finally, after an hour - an HOUR - of this, they go off together and discover a mysterious, polished black stone being stored beneath the ritual space of the nearby coven. Dark forces, running about in the woods, the end…

Almost nothing happens in this film and I’d hazard a guess that the director knows it, stretching things out to an ‘eclectic’ feature rather than refining it down to a serviceable film. There are reams of filler throughout, with endless long shots of the hall and its grounds, footage slowed down to a crawl, repetition and irrelevance. Time which could have been spent building character development is replaced by time lapse footage of people putting their socks on. The hall itself is an attractive, quintessentially English location which does look good on camera, but we don’t need relentless static shots of its exteriors. A little would have sufficed. Then there would have been room for a script, even.

Furthermore I can only assume that we’re meant to hate the four main characters we’re given as they either mumble or overact their way along. We get no sense of who they are, where they’ve come from or what they’re doing (at least until the soul-saving motif). In lieu of any of this, we get them shouting each other’s names, as if this establishes anything except just that, their names. A lot of the dialogue seems to be ad lib, and this might explain the distinct lack of dialogue in the film - if it was put together on the hoof with a limited number of takes, then I can understand, if not forgive, the reason for the long pauses or awkward interactions. It’s not as if you can really make out that much of the dialogue in any case, due to the abysmal sound quality here. A good boom mike would have worked wonders, as would have toning down the almost continual, overpowering accompanying soundtrack which at times actually drowned out the actors. I can only imagine the reason for this decision, but it’s yet another bad call in a film full of bad calls - a film which is one vast, musically-overpowering, dialogue-lacking, visually-indistinct, characterless, derivative mess.

Receptive New Agers content to ignore the many issues while filling in the numerous blanks themselves may see something in this film. As a horror movie however, this categorically does not work well.

Review by Keri O’Shea

Released by Chemical Burn
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review