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EIFF 2018: Calibre (2018) starring Jack Lowden and Martin McCann

N.B. This film is not on wide release in the UK at present. It is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd and Saturday 30th June 2018.

A hunting trip goes awry

Vaughn (Jack Lowden) is about to get married. His best friend, an investment broker named Marcus (Martin McCann) has decided to treat him to his last days of freedom by taking him to the Scottish Highlands to go deer stalking. They check in to a village guesthouse and decide to visit the local pub for a few drinks. They get talking to a friendly local named Logan (Tony Curran) and a couple of local girls, Anna (Olivia Morgan) and Iona (Kate Bracken) who are seeking to chat them up. Some of the other bar regulars, however, seem rather less cordial.

Calibre starring Martin McCann and Jack Lowden


The following day, the pair of them go out hunting in the nearby game wood, where the more experienced Marcus gives Vaughn the first shot at a deer. After some hesitation, he opens fire. Unfortunately, the animal moves its head a split second before he pulls the trigger, resulting in him accidentally shooting a child who happened to be standing behind it. When the horrified Vaughn walks over to the boy, he can see that he had shot him in the head, thus killing him instantly. The boy’s father comes over and grieves while cradling his corpse - before picking up Vaughn’s gun and aiming it at him, evidently contemplating whether or not to take revenge. At that moment, Marcus decides to shoot the father dead.

Thus begins a tense and gruelling ordeal as Marcus persuades Vaughn to attempt to cover up the incident so that they can escape before arousing suspicion.

Watch a trailer:


A high calibre of backwoods thriller

Calibre is the feature-length screenwriting and directorial debut of Matt Palmer, who is best known as the programmer of the British horror movie roadshow All Night Horror Madness, a celebration of various gore-splattered cult movies from the fondly-remembered 1970s and 1980s era. Surprisingly, however, this film is modelled more on backwoods don’t-cross-the-locals thrillers like Straw Dogs, Deliverance and Southern Comfort, which only fit tangentially into the field of horror. Accordingly, here’s more of an emphasis on agonising, slow-burning suspense than there is on self-conscious references, monster prosthetics and drenching the screen in gallons of blood.

It’s a film that’s all the better for its lack of reliance on lazy pandering. While it occasionally reminds viewers of its influences (not least during the scenes in that dismal local pub with the “you’re not welcome around these parts” vibe), it provides enough in the way twists and variations on its own cinematic niche to feel like something fresh. For one thing, the film paints its characters in varying shades of grey rather than simply dividing them along the lines of good and evil. There are definite echoes of the scheming and manipulative Tom Ripley to Marcus but, at the same time, we never quite get the impression in Martin McCann’s performance that he’s a pure Mephistophiles. He’s just trying to protect himself and his friend. Logan, meanwhile, functions as something of a patriarch in the eyes of the locals. However, he comes across more like a level-headed order-keeper than any kind of psychopathic de facto cult leader. Rather than falling towards broad stereotypes, the performances and characterisations remain recognisably on the human register throughout.

Cinematographer Márk Györi (Katalin Varga) also brings a great visual atmosphere to the film as he imbues the woodland landscapes with plenty of foggy desolation. The night-time driving sequences, featuring car headlights amid pitch darkness, are also suitably eerie. Director Palmer also maintains an impressively solid grasp on the suspense throughout a relatively long 110-minute runtime. There are one or two slight missteps: the overuse of shaky-cam during a dog attack and a somewhat overstretched climactic sequence but, nonetheless, this is a very promising debut indeed.

Runtime: 110 mins

Dir: Matt Palmer

Script: Matt Palmer

Starring: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Tony Curran, Ian Pirie, Kate Bracken, Olivia Morgan

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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