Calibre – Review
A shocking deed turned their weekend trip into a nightmare. Now their only hope is to swallow their paranoia and act normal.
Knockout I suppose, technically, I shouldn’t review Calibre. I find it hard to class as a horror movie. It really is more of a thriller. Despite this, I think it ticks enough boxes to class it as something of a horror, at least in spirit. The tension and mood would be very fitting in any horror movie. I can’t turn down an opportunity to review a decent Netflix original horror movie, either. They are so rare, so, here we are.
Before we start. I should point out that Calibre is a fairly slow paced thriller movie. It has a decent length runtime of 101 minutes. If you don’t enjoy slow paced movies, this may not be for you. I felt as though the pacing was fantastic. If you are expecting a ton of action, however, this is probably not for you. You may find yourself a bit bored.
Calibre Ending Explained
Obviously this review is as spoiler free as you can get. You don’t have to worry about having the movie ruined if you read on. I have, however, put together an Ending Explained article for Calibre. We do this every now and then if there appears to be enough demand for it.
Whereas the ending for Calibre is pretty straight forward. I think it is worth a little discussion and that is what I do. If you have arrived at this review after searching for Calibre Ending Explained, click the link. Obviously that article will have spoilers so please keep that in mind.
We Do Things a Little Different
As always here at Knockout Horror, we are just presenting a review of a movie. We want to take the pretention out of the horror review scene. I don’t get into the philosophical aspect of movies. I, also, don’t analyse the director’s intentions or vision. Loads of horror movie review sites do this already.
We want to do things a little different. We offer reviews up as if we are two people in a room chatting. For full disclosure, my partner picks the movies I review. I find this helps me to not go into a movie with any preconceived ideas. We watch a movie and we tell you if we thought it was worth your time, nothing more. Hell, we’ll even help to explain the ending if we can. If that’s your thing, stick around. Check out some more horror movie reviews and support indy horror review sites.
Despite being Welsh, I have never been a particularly big fan of British horror. Sure, there are plenty of old classics that I absolutely love. British horror of the 2000’s / 2010’s, however, just hasn’t done it for me. I find British horror to be particularly grim. Not so much in the themes and subject matter. Just the general greyness of the environment. Some of the filming techniques employed don’t exactly help with that. It’s all just a bit depressing.
Take fellow Netflix movie No One Gets Out Alive for example. This is a movie based on a British novel and directed by British producers. The novel is set in Birmingham in England. Imagine watching the events of No One Gets Out Alive set in Birmingham. The sheer thought genuinely makes me shudder. Britain is just a bit of a depressing place and everyone here knows it, deep down. I am pretty sure this is where our sarcastic, self deprecating, humour comes from.
I know we have some fiercely proud people in the UK. With that in mind, I am just getting in before the people who might say “You just don’t live in a decent part of Britain. Where I am currently is lovely and not depressing at all. I live in a stunning, rural, part of North Wales about a half hour drive away from some of the most amazing parts of the UK. I have the privilege of getting in our convertible, dropping the top and driving to Snowdon. Grabbing a coffee and then cruising back down along the Welsh coast. Britain is stunning in parts but it is also a bit grim and the generally awful weather doesn’t help.
Where British horror does shine, however, is with its small, independent horror productions. I could reel off a decent sized list but movies like St Maud, The Borderlands and Exhibit A are all worth a watch. Calibre is another example of the UK’s ability to put out fantastic, thoughtful horror.
Stalking Gone Wrong
Calibre follows the story of friends Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann). They are taking a short retreat in Northern Scotland to go stalking (hunting). Vaughn has recently found out that his partner is pregnant. He will soon be a father so this trip is something of a final hurrah. The free spirited Marcus is unlikely to settle down. This is one last trip before Vaughn has to focus on his responsibilities.
Marcus picks Vaughn up in his Jeep and takes him to a village he used to frequent, with his dad, when he was a kid. They check into their hotel and head off to the pub for a night of drinking. This probably isn’t the brightest idea seeing as firearms and alcohol don’t mix. Don’t people normally leave incredibly early for hunting, as well? Like….. 5am. Anyway, the guys meet a couple of girls on their night out. Marcus takes an obvious liking to a particular girl but is warned off by a local who claims she is trouble. Vaughn spends time with the other girl but informs her that he has a partner. He leaves the girl before returning to his hotel room.
The next morning, Marcus bounces into Vaughn’s room. Vaughn is hungover and somewhat out of sorts. It turns out that Marcus is taking cocaine, hence his energy levels and enthusiasm. The pair drive to their hunting location. Vaughn realises that, in his hungover stupor, he has forgotten to bring his gun. Rather than drive back, Marcus hands his other gun to Vaughn to use. The two head into the forest and spot a deer. After lining up his shot, Vaughn pulls the trigger and from here on out everything goes wrong.
Obviously I won’t spoil the movie and tell you what happens. Marcus and Vaughn return to the village. All the while, knowing what happened in the woods. They have to keep their cool so they can return home. It’s a gripping story that keeps you interested throughout.
Shit Goes South
Calibre is a thriller with some serious horror themes. The plot is fairly simple but not in a derivative manner. It’s a believable scenario with realistic responses. The movie is presented from an interesting perspective. You and the characters know what happened in the woods but nobody else does.
The escalation of the events surrounding Marcus and Vaughn is fascinating to watch. They attempt to act normal and see out the rest of their trip. Their interactions with the locals become increasingly strained.. Everything spirals in such a chaotic way. You are genuinely waiting with baited breath for the next scene. Matt Palmer’s writing and direction keeps you constantly wondering what will happen. Can it be a bit predictable? Sure, but never in a manner that gets in the way of the suspense.
A Believable Scenario
Matt Palmer, with Calibre, creates a very real world. The events of the film feel like something that could happen, and, in fact, it has happened in real life. Nothing about the plot is too far out of the realms of possibility. The response to the events from the main characters seems very believable. There is a little stretching of normal reactions here and there. Not in a way that would have you seriously questioning the writing, though.
Considering the fact that both Vaughn and Marcus are hungover. The fact that Vaughn forgot his weapon and the fact that Marcus is taking cocaine. The actions of the characters make a lot of sense. There are plenty of small twists to the story to keep you guessing as to what will happen next. This really adds to the excellent pacing. I never felt myself losing concentration or interest. This is despite the, fairly lengthy, 101 minute runtime. I constantly wanted to see what the two would do next and how they would deal with the situation.
So Many Positives
Calibre is a legitimately great movie. It is a fantastic feature length debut for Matt Palmer who, in fairness, does pretty much everything right. There are plenty of things to praise the movie for. Picking out specific elements is a little tough. It’s just a genuinely solid movie.
First and foremost, acting is brilliant throughout. Jack Lowden, as Vaughn, and Martin McCann, as Marcus, are both fantastic. This is important as you will be spending a lot of time with them. They are both extremely convincing. Jack Lowden’s range of emotion throughout the film is exceptional. A real stand out horror performance. He had me convinced from the beginning to the end. There isn’t a particularly bad performance in Calibre. Everyone is fantastic. The mostly Scottish cast does a great job of creating a believable village community.
That leads me onto another point. If you are expecting a backwards Scottish village ala The Wicker Man, you will be surprised. This is a mostly welcoming community that is suffering from the same issues as the rest of the UK. They are reeling from hits to business and tourism. Like many of us, they are just trying to build themselves back up. Sure they have their typical village inward tendencies. Despite this, the community is genuinely representative of many communities in this country.
The village’s social group and attempt to rebuild their economy plays into the story. This is a village just trying to survive. They are responsive to anyone who can potentially help them. Their reactions to Vaughn and Marcus are different from what you might expect. Their reactions to the events surrounding them are also unexpected. All of this adds up to an ending that feels unique and very creative.
Cinematography is Excellent
Cinematography in Calibre is brilliant. It is really nice to look at. There are some incredible locations, interesting shots and amazing lighting. The forest is imposing, especially at night, and very atmospheric. The village is quaint and the indoor scenes are all fantastic. This all sets the mood perfectly. There are also plenty of creative shots used to maintain the tension.
Don’t expect any jump scares here. Calibre is not that type of movie. It aims to kill you with suspense and does a good job. Sound mixing is really good. You never feel shocked by any unexpected loud noise which is a nice change from most recent horror.
There is something of a message buried in here. Calibre aims to point out the economic impact on small village communities and small economies. The message never gets in the way and the film isn’t at all centred around this. The movie really just aims to point out that life can be tough for rural communities. They get little help from the local authorities and have to deal with problems within their own groups.
A Fairly Long Runtime
Calibre runs at a fairly lengthy 101 minutes. That is a decent amount of time for a character driven thriller with a notable lack of action. You are really relying on excellent character performances to keep things chugging along. Luckily, Calibre has that in spades. In my opinion, the pacing is perfect and I never found myself to be bored or mentally switching off.
It really doesn’t feel as long as it is. I think that is the best compliment I can give a movie with a 101 minute runtime. I think most people will find themselves engrossed in what happens next. Hopefully you will be too invested in the actions of the main characters to worry about how long the movie has been running.
I do think the length and pacing will put a few people off, though. I think there was a number of scenes that could have been shortened right down. A few parts could be cut altogether to keep the runtime a little shorter. Perhaps that may have made the pacing even better? The pub scene is altogether too long. I think the scene between Vaughn and his partner could have been skipped, as well. We still go through a bunch of exposition in the car so it felt unnecessary. There are a few more scenes that could have been trimmed a bit, here and there. Overall, given all of the above. I still think the pacing was fine and if you don’t mind a slow pace you will do just fine.
Just a Fantastic Thriller But… a Warning
Fantastic acting, suspense and cinematography make Calibre a technically great movie. The urge to find out what happens next makes the film even better. Fans of suspenseful thrillers with some horror trimmings will love this. Calibre will scratch that tense, atmospheric, itch.
There are some uncomfortable scenes that you should be aware of. While not particularly gory, the themes of Calibre are uncomfortable. The thought of some of the actions is pretty gnarly and wince inducing. It doesn’t compromise on its themes. It presents things in something of a cold, matter of fact manner. Most horror vets will be just fine but some people may feel a bit irked at times. All in all, though, Calibre is a fantastic movie and essential viewing.
Is it a Knockout?
Calibre is absolutely a knockout, in my humble opinion. Whilst not a traditional horror and more of a thriller, horror fans with an appreciation for a slow paced suspense based story will find a lot to enjoy here. The acting is incredible throughout, Jack Bowden is a name to watch and does an amazing job. Calibre keeps you guessing throughout and, whilst fairly predictable, the story takes you on a journey full of twists and turns.
Cinematography is really great with amazing locations and fantastic lighting. Calibre is a long movie with a runtime of 101 minutes. The pacing, to me, was absolutely fine but this movie may be a little slow for some people so worth keeping in mind. There are a few scenes that might be upsetting and the theme, itself, is a little unsettling but that is what gives it its horror leanings.