Gather ’round for storytime dearies. A couple nights ago, I thought I’d check out an old BBC adaptation of M.R. James’s “A Warning To The Curious.” It’s about an amateur archaeologist who finds the last of three remaining crowns of Anglia. The legend goes that as long as one crown remains undisturbed, no foreign invader would be able to take England.
Two have been lost completely. The last one is watched over by a guardian who is the last male heir of the bloodline responsible for this guardianship over the centuries. The story starts off with someone looking for the last crown, and this guardian kills him. The final guardian, desperate and distraught that he has no heir, later dies apparently of tuberculosis.
Soon a new crown seeker comes along and actually digs the thing up. He is then pursued by the aforementioned guardian’s ghost. Don’t worry. I won’t give the ending away. My point is, I thought I’d have a look at this 1972 adaptation. Not great, but not bad overall. Clive Owen is in it. He was Hyacinth Bucket’s husband Richard on the old Keeping Up Appearances series.
But when I went looking for this on Prime, I found two features with the same title. The second is a 2013 movie, so I figured “Eh, in for a penny…” Based on the title, I was obviously expecting another adaptation. This is not what I got. To be fair, that becomes clear almost immediately, but by then I’d already rented it. Needless to say, I was a little pissed off. Still, it’s a found footage ghost hunting flick, so what the hell, right?
I don’t know if this is a 21st Century development in low-budget indie horror filmmaking, but here we’ve got yet another in a slew o’ these things where virtually nothing of consequence takes place for at least the first half of the movie’s run time. It happened with Blackwood Evil, Bleed, The Quarry, She Walks The Woods, One Remains, the unforgivable waste of time Documenting The Witch Path, and a whole host of others.
A Warning To The Curious is no exception. I’ll give ’em this much. At least they didn’t include that idiotic “wipe off the lens” shot that inexplicably shows up countless times in these flicks. Needless to say, after a half hour of no meaningful action, I was a little more pissed off. But again, already rented it, and by and large I generally won’t bail on a horror movie.
We meet 3 British lads who like to go out ghost hunting. They’re joined by two others who were mainly recruited because they have a some kind of special camera—not night vision, but thermal or something. I don’t remember, and I’m sure as hell not rewatching it to find out. The main-ish character is Ben, one of the original 3. There’s also a Tom and a Neal. The other two I can’t recall. That’s some memorable, top shelf character development right there.
As I mentioned, we spend 40 of the 80-minute run time watching conversations, the lads playing with their equipment. (no, the camera equipment you gutterminded lot, you), and roaming around in the dark watching nothing happen. They’ve been hired for 100 quid (total, not each) to check out a supposedly haunted hospital. They find zero. The guy that hired them says, “Well y’know, there’s also this other place…” Well now we’re off to the races.
Folks on Letterboxd fairly well trashed this movie. They’re not completely wrong, but there are some legit creepy little moments to be had from the movie’s second half. Sure, there’s a great deal of screaming, chaos, some cheesy Spirit Halloween level ghost eyes, and a fair amount of fleeing whilst holding the camera footage, but the ghost/demon thingies are still fairly effective, and the voice reciting a recorded curse on the ol’ victrola is surprisingly ominous.
In fact, it’s that voice in particular that lends A Warning To The Curious both some Lovecraftian and Evil Dead kinda vibes. What’s more, that Lovecraft angle gets played up nicely in the movie’s final act. So, is this one of the best found footage flicks out there? No. But if you can muscle past the first half, it’s really not bad, especially considering that it was done on, according to a couple of sources, a $6000 budget.