New To Blu: Lord of Tears

Chris Jordan reviews the cult horror film, Lord of Tears.

"Tis but a feather. A flea
infested, disease ridden
grotesque feather."
Every now and then you discover a new horror film that reminds you why you love the genre, and that restores your faith in it amid a sea of forgettable and formulaic flicks. A film that puts aside too-often-repeated genre conventions and cheap scares, and genuinely gets under your skin with originality and powerful filmmaking. The 2013 Scottish indie Lord of Tears is one of those all too rare films. And after originally being available only as a very rare, out-of-print limited edition, Lord of Tears is coming back as a special edition Blu-ray/DVD/soundtrack box set this summer, and there are some cool rewards offered for anyone who pre-orders.

Part ghost story, part love story, part rumination on grief, and part Lovecraftian tale of ancient evil, this film is absolutely spellbinding. On the one hand, it is the story of a man trying to come to terms with a traumatic past, and find closure so he can discover love in the present. On the other hand, it is the story of a foreboding, isolated mansion in the Scottish Highlands, filled with dark secrets and tied to local legends of a demon known as the Owl Man. What makes Lord of Tears so special is that it handles both of these sides so well, with each complimenting and amplifying the other. It is a film of great emotional power – quite poetic, in fact – which also happens to be very, very creepy. And it is so creepy precisely because we are so emotionally invested.

The film unfolds with a very deliberate slow-burn approach: it is not interested in shocks so much as emotions, ideas, and atmosphere that gradually build up to get under the viewer's skin in a highly unsettling way. As the mysteries of screenwriter Sarah Daly's script unfold, it draws the audience under its spell as surely as it does our haunted main character, with the ethereal, hypnotic feel of a dream. On top of all that, the film has a very memorable supernatural mythology surrounding the Owl Man – the title's Lord of Tears – who is a bit like a combination of the Slender Man and one of H. P. Lovecraft's elder beings.

In addition to its strong approach to horror storytelling, the thing that stands out most about Lord of Tears is what an incredibly well-shot, visually fantastic film it is. Director Lawrie Brewster and cinematographer/art director Gavin Robertson have very talented eyes for beautiful, haunting images; this is the sort of movie where any number of shots could be made into art prints and hung on your wall (if you wanted to give your house a pretty spooky atmosphere). It's so rare for indie films to look this gorgeous, let alone indie horror films. Brewster and Robertson make fantastic use of the richly atmospheric remote setting, filled with twisting, leafless trees and crumbling old buildings silhouetted against a perpetually overcast sky. And they must have carried cameras with them wherever they went to be able to capture the perfect yet clearly spontaneous shots of nature that fill the film: a spider weaving its web in intense close-up, birds taking off en-mass from a tree, a deer standing in a perfectly-composed shot like an actor. This naturally moody atmosphere helps give life to the Owl Man, who already makes a very effective demon thanks to the excellent creature design. Simple and stylized, yet highly effective, this creature is the stuff nightmares are made of.

"Your face is like a baby's bottom;
soft and covered in crap.
Let me kiss you."
A true indie, Lord of Tears used Kickstarter for funding, and its Blu-rays and DVDs are self-released with great love and care by Lawrie Brewster and company. The original, now very rare, limited edition Blu-ray and DVD sets came hand-signed and hand-gift-wrapped by the filmmakers; a very personal thank-you for supporting their work. The film is now coming back to Blu-ray and DVD in its first non-limited-edition form, and they are taking just as much care to make it something special the second time around. The special edition Blu/DVD/soundtrack box set is due out this summer, and will include new special features and a new, freshly remastered cut of the film itself. And continuing Brewster's philosophy of maintaining a personal relationship with horror fans, he's offering something pretty cool to anyone who pre-orders at the film's web site, all pre-order customers will be personally thanked on a video featurette on the disc, and will get a personal thank-you on the film's Facebook page. And yes, even though it is a UK web site that lists the price in pounds, they are making both NTSC and PAL variations on the box set. If you can't wait til summer (and you shouldn't; you should watch this film as soon as possible), the Hex Media web site also sells a digital copy for just $10.

Lord of Tears is definitely essential viewing, for horror fans and lovers of independent film alike. It deserves the sort of attention that other genre-rejuvenating hits like The Babadook and House of the Devil have gotten; I suspect the only reason it hasn't is because it remains truly indie in distribution as well as production, and hasn't benefited from a marketing push by a larger studio. Which is all the more reason why it should be supported: this is exactly the sort of filmmaking we need more of.

-Chris Jordan