Written and directed by David A. Roberts, Older Gods is a 2023 horror feature that stars Rory Wilson, Ieuan Coombs and Lindsay Bennett-Thompson.
Chris Rivers is a young man whose best friend has just committed suicide. As he is compelled to investigate his friend’s death, Rivers comes across a horrific network of ritualistic killings across vast swathes of the UK. With all the fingers pointing to the work of an apocalyptic cult hoping to summon dark forces from the past, Rivers will find himself in the crosshairs of this network as he battles against time to save everything he holds dear.
The best thing about Older Gods is how different it is to the rest of the genre. Rather than relying on cheap makeup and cheaper jump scares that become tedious after a while, the creators behind this project try to truly unnerve the audience through palpable tension, horrific imagery and an underlying story that becomes more disturbing the more you think about it. Roberts has written a story that stays clear of all the cliches and narrative pitfalls of the horror genre and instead tries to carve a new niche. Whether Roberts ends up succeeding in this regard or not is up for debate, what is clear is that Older Gods ends up being an original, potent horror feature that manages to leave its competition in the dust.
While the plot is something that we have all seen before in one form or another, Roberts adds enough new twists and turns so that the story turns out both unexpected and fresh. As for the cast, they bring their A-game to the table. Horror films rarely have good acting, but Older Gods knocks it out of the park in this regard. Almost everyone manages to impress and there are several standout performances that really make you take notice.
Rory Wilson as Chris Rivers is the heart of the story. Not only is he the conduit through which the audience dives into the story, it is Wilson’s earnest performance that humanises the plot for us and makes us root for him as he takes on an evil that seemingly has no limits. Equally fantastic are Ieuan Coombs and Lindsay Bennett-Thompson who add much needed depth to the script. The chemistry between the actors is impressive and they bring a level of depth and emotion to their characters that elevates the entire story.
In terms of cinematography, Older Gods is beautiful to look at. Utilising the vast natural beauty of the UK, the creative forces behind the film have made a terrific looking horror film. Part of the art in any horror film is visualising terror and uneasiness and it is here that the film truly excels. There is some truly disturbing imagery in here which will sear into your brain long after the film has ended. In addition, most of the film takes place in the evening or night with just enough shadows to add a bit of mystery and obscurity.
Visualising the secrecy and the octopus-like reach of the cult in a proper way massively adds to the terror exhibited and it is in this aspect that the film manages to surprise. Dialogue based exposition is kept to a minimum and just like the protagonist Chris Rivers, the audience is allowed to struggle to uncover the mystery of the group as well as its true intentions.
Whilst some may find the pacing of the film oddly slow, it has a specific purpose. Slow burn horror films are all the rage these days and it is good to see Older Gods utilising this for maximum narrative effect.
The story is allowed to properly develop, and it is in these slow moments of exploration and self-reflection that tension simmers underneath. Therefore, when the twists and moments of evil do come, they are more impactful as the crescendo of silence is suddenly broken by sinister imagery or an unexpected act of evil. Since the cast is relatively small, the protagonist has a lot of screen time which enables us to identify with his struggles as takes on an adversary far more superior to him in all aspects.
Therefore, to summarise, Older Gods is a film that should be at the top of their viewing lists for all horror aficionados. With so much substandard product in the market, it is great to see a film that subverts expectations and manages to impress in all categories. The film is a rare gem that manages to mix excellent storytelling, brilliant acting, and stunning visuals to create a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.