Dir: Douglas Kyle
Star: Josh Currie, Niall MacKay, Jane Fullerton, Douglas Kyle
According to the end credits, this is “based on the North-East folklore of Scotland.” Though I must confess, despite being born and brought up there, I’ve never even heard of the titular beasts. Googling tells me they are quite obscure, but that novelty makes them a fresh topic for a horror film. Based on the best article I found, they are “a subterranean porcine carnivore that lives in graveyards and burrows through the earth, feeding on the corpses it finds there.” Which explains why the residents of the rural Scottish village of Tarn-Na-hay are finding coffins dragged out of the local graveyard and scattered around the forest, which is also pitted with mysterious sinkholes. There have also been disappearances in the woods.
Into this mystery comes surveyor Archie (MacKay) and his apprentice Jack (Currie), sent to investigate the subsidence. But they find a community being torn apart over the situation. Some want to promote the weirdness for tourist purposes, like Loch Ness (I always felt, if Nessie did not exist, the Scottish plush toy industry would have invented her…). Others, in echoes of Jaws, seek to play down the whole situation. And some, like local hunter Munro (Kyle), want to kill whatever is responsible. It’s all kind of moot after the creature shows up to a local fundraiser in the village hall. Things escalate from there, as we eventually discover some residents were aware all along of the true situation.
This was made for, effectively, no budget and on occasion it shows. The performances vary from the entirely adequate to the painfully amateur, and the framing of shots is sometimes weird, for example with the tops of heads being cut off. The most obvious example of the limited resources is the swine itself, which resembles a walking shag-pile carpet with a Halloween pig mask. My first reaction on seeing it was a derisive snort, but I must admit, I did eventually warm to its inexpensive charms. The sequence where it attacks the fundraiser reminded me of a similar scene in The Creeping Terror, and is quite endearing. There’s also a rather good “dead and he knows it” scene near the end (top), and the way it finishes is effective and solid; good to leave the audience on a high note.
Naturally, this needs to be watched with an appreciation for the circumstances of filming, not least the impact of COVID-19. While the enthusiasm of the participants does carry things a fair distances, it must be admitted, it is a stronger suit than their expertise in some areas. The plot is also a little off; it seems to set up a number of threads, then abandons them in favour of a second-half that’s mostly running and screaming. Yet it manages to be different enough to sustain my interest, and it’s always a pleasure to see recognizable territory. You could almost feel the rain coming down on the moist Highland landscapes. Homesick, me?