Thursday, March 17, 2016

Neither Heaven Nor Earth aka Wakhan Front (2015) New Directors New Films 2016

(Note: the films title was changed after this review was written from WAKHAN FRONT  to NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH.) 

NATO soldiers fighting in Afghanistan find that there is something much more terrifying then the Taliban in THE WAKHAN FRONT a military horror film about things that go bump in the night.

Not long after witnessing a night time ritual on a mountain side soldiers begin to disappear. Whipped into a frenzy the soldiers are sure that the Taliban is behind it, but they soon find out that whatever is out in the dark isn't taking sides and their enemy is losing men as well.

Another film in a long line of military horror films (THE BUNKER, THE TRENCH, THE OUTPOST, GP 506) where the unknown proves to be much more dangerous than the enemy. Here the evil is such that merely stepping away for a minute to pee will result in a man disappearing. Its a scary thought that the soldiers can't seem to fully comprehend.

WAKHAN FRONT is a mixed bag film. Its a very tense story that kind of peters out toward the end. Blame writer director Clément Cogitore who has more on his mind than just scaring the bejesus out of his audience. Cogitore strives a bit too hard to tweak the allegories that can be found all through a story like this rather than going or the fright nerve. There are no real scares in this film, and that would be fine I've run across a number of really good horror films that did that, but they held you knotted to the end, here things kind of peter out and the tension dribbles away, even if the unease remains on a low level.

To be honest I know I'm coming at the film from the wrong perspective- the film's French title is NI LE CIEL NI LA TERRE which roughly translates as a Neither Heaven nor Hell, which is a soldier natural state. Clearly the film is supposed to be a grand allegory about the state of soldiers in war, and Afghanistan in particular. It's obviously only using horror movie tropes to reveal the thematic elements. But for me the allegory is the least interesting thing here. Yes we have metaphysical questions and existential quandaries but they don't break any new ground here.

And that is the problem here, the film, despite being good on it's own terms, WAKHAN FRONT is far from exceptional. While the film would score on technical levels over some of the horror films I mentioned above, it doesn't quite break any new ground and in it's way simply repeats themes we've seen in those other, better horror films. Forgive me but I kind of lost the real connection when I started to say out loud what the next bit was going to be and I was right. If you are a horror film fan you are going to have seen this film before. If on the other hand you haven't seen any of the horror films above I suspect you're going to be rapturous.

WAKHAN FRONT plays at New Directors New Films on March 19th and 20th.  For tickets and more information go here

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