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‘The Moor’ review: Dir. Chris Cronin [FrightFest 2023]

On the Saturday of every year’s August FrightFest event, one screen is dedicated to the First Blood strand. Films within this selection all champion new voices in the horror genre and this year’s line-up gets off to a fantastic start with Chris Cronin’s The Moor

Opening in Yorkshire 1996, The Moor begins with a chilling tale of innocence lost. Claire (Billie Suggett) and Danny (Dexter Sol Ansell) head to their local newsagent with the goal of stealing some sweets. The plan is simple – Danny intends to distract the owner whilst Claire fills her bag. Danny however, doesn’t make it out of the shop. It is an incredibly uncomfortable start to what will become a complex and haunting story. The short scenes capture the spirit of being a child in the nineties. It was perhaps the last generation of kids who were left to their own devices all day, but as The Moor immediately proves, the world was not always safe. With this opening segment, Cronin instantly demonstrates a talent for tension, camera angle fake-outs tricking the viewer about The Moor’s intentions. 

Once the viewer has been unbalanced, the opening titles begin. Whilst many films use a credit sequence as either a break or excuse to throw some pretty images onto the screen, The Moor demonstrates a more practical approach. Cronin uses the titles as a bridge to the next chapter of the story, casting key information about Danny onto the screen. Newspaper clippings explain how Danny was one of several child victims in a time known as the ‘summer of fear.’ Although his killer was caught, Danny’s final resting place was never revealed. It’s a familiar story that eerily mirrors the crimes of Ian Brady, but this is not the focus of The Moors.

As the titles end, the story moves beyond 1996 to twenty-five years later. Here the viewer is introduced once again to Claire (Sophia La Porta). Although grown, she still carries guilt for her part in Danny’s abduction. It is this guilt that spurs her to meet with Danny’s father, Bill (David Edward-Robertson). Having recently lost his wife, Bill is adrift in his grief. In dire need of closure, Bill has resorted to an unorthodox means to find Danny’s remains and bring him to peace. He wants Claire to help with the investigation as well as document the endeavour on her podcast. Claire reluctantly agrees, joining Bill, park ranger Liz (Vicki Hackett), and psychic Alex (Mark Peachy) on the Yorkshire Moors. 

Cronin captures the vast and oppressive danger of the misty Yorkshire Moors via the use of drone photography. Overhead shots highlight just how expansive the location is as well as the futility of Claire and Bill’s task. Recovering Danny will genuinely be like finding a needle in a haystack. With the help of Alex they try to pinpoint a better location, but soon turn to Alex’s daughter Eleanor (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips) for extra help. Once all the team has been assembled The Moor can properly begin. Until the introduction of Eleanor, The Moor plays as a solid crime drama, analysing the trauma of grief and the plight of those left behind. The addition of Eleanor spins the film on its head and suddenly The Moor is in familiar horror territory. 

As the group traverses the moor, the spookiness sets in. Not just in terms of the plot, but the setting also builds substantial unease. The mist masks hidden dangers and the very real threat of peat bog lurks in wait all around them. Death hangs in the air and the chilling quiet of the landscape begins to fray the nerves. It is then that Cronin introduces communing with spirits from beyond the veil. Their words are cause for concern and soon the group are consumed with fear, never knowing who or what is real. The scenes on the moor are truly spectacular, making it all the richer for making the viewer wait for them. The Moor takes a slow and soft approach to the horror, carefully weaving in elements gradually. Although closer to a drama at the start, by its end The Moor’s feet are firmly in fright city.  

The scares themselves are expertly handled. Cronin sticks closest to the Poltergeist formula with a touch of imagery from The VVitch. Both of these inspirations suit the tone, story, and setting of The Moor, and sneak up on the viewer, catching them unawares. Smart use of camera techniques further ramps up anxiety levels. Whilst Cronin primarily sticks to traditional camera work, he does also include the use of Claire’s own head camera. Footage of Claire wandering through the moors is captured in this way. This angle injects an important intimacy into the situation with Claire’s laboured breaths feeding the viewer’s anxieties. The sound design plays a key role and as the wind howls and whistles, the atmosphere builds. A stunning scene set within the team’s tent really lets the sound design shine as it unleashes the viewer recoils in fear. 

What makes The Moor whole, are the performances. As Claire, Sophia La Porta captures survivours’ guilt perfectly. She blames herself for Danny’s disappearance and it has clouded her whole life ever since. It is David Edward-Robertson that is the most remarkable though. In every scene you can see the grief painted on his face. To outlive a child is a terrible fate, but under these circumstances they are utterly heartbreaking. Edward-Robertson wields the anguish of parental bereavement expertly and will have the viewer on the brink of tears almost every time Bill is on screen. 

Though long, The Moor needs that time to let the melancholy and horror seep in; like a good cup of Yorkshire tea The Moor needs time to stew. The end result is an emotional, haunting, and upon occasion, harrowing, tale of grief, guilt and ghosts. An exceptional feature debut, The Moor places Chris Cronin to the forefront of burgeoning genre voices that we can’t wait to see more of. 

The Moor

Kat Hughes

The Moor


Cronin’s soft and slow approach to the horror aspects works to make them more startling. With lush misty landscape in abundance, The Moor is a feast for the eyes, but also provides plenty of terror for your nerves.


The Moor was reviewed at Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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