“Dartmoor is the star” – so says Dartmoor Killing director Peter Nicholson, in his introduction to tonight’s showing at Plymouth Arts Centre (18/9/15). He is not wrong.
Nicholson is a BAFTA-winning director of impressive pedigree in both film and television. Having grown up in nearby Dartington (and being a Pilgrims supporter no less) he decided to turn his attentions to the immediate locale for his latest project. Dartmoor Killing was filmed on “modest money”, apparently following the current trend for obtaining funding for the project from various smaller backers, rather than a large studio.
Dartmoor has provided ample inspiration over the years for stories in film and literature, from The Hound of the Baskervilles to War Horse, although for all that it still feels somehow underused as a location. So Nicholson is to be applauded for bringing this stunning part of the world to the attention of the movie-going public once again.
Describing itself as a psychological thriller, Dartmoor Killing is the story of two hikers, played by Gemma-Leah Devereux and Rebecca Night, who come across the mysterious Chris (Callum Blue) on their way across the moor. He offers them refuge in his nearby cottage for the weekend and, in so doing, draws them deeper into a web of suspense and horror.
As the title suggests there is, naturally, a recipe of murder, betrayal, treachery, deceit and lustiness going on in the cottage. Yet for all the mysticism and dark shenanigans on display it is the real character of the moor that shines through. I, personally, was very pleased to see Sharp Tor and its magnificent surroundings committed to film here (or digital memory as I suppose was the case). I was also pretty sure that was Lydford Gorge and the surrounding woods I spotted (in a skinny-dipping scene amongst other places). And some magnificent aerial shots gave a glimpse of the stunning views of the way along the East Dart.
Yet this is not to detract from the film itself, which is certainly an atmospheric spectacle for anyone as willing to soak up the scenery as well as the shocks. Tonight’s performance was part of a simultaneous release in 20 screens across the region, and for those that missed it there are apparently more to come over the coming weeks in various nearby locations as well, for those keeping an eye out.