Animated 'Borley Rectory' Movie Review

By Steve Higgins
October 16, 2019 6:00 AM ‐ ParanormalMovies

This article is more than four years old and was last updated in October 2020.

Borley Rectory

The wait is over, finally fans of the paranormal get to see Ashley Thorpe's supernatural masterpiece. 'Borley Rectory', which tells the story of England's most famous paranormal case of all time, is now available to watch at home on Blu-ray.

The animated feature film, which is a must-see for any fan of ghost stories, stars Reece Shearsmith as Vernon Wall, a journalist from The Mirror who was the first interested party to visit the haunted rectory in 1929. His article dated June 10th brought a great deal of attention to the house in Essex, and eventually led to the arrival of Harry Price (Jonathan Rigby) who investigated the property's paranormal claims for more than a year. It was Price who labeled Borley as "the most haunted house in England."

Reece is best known for his work on 'The League Of Gentlemen' and 'Inside No. 9'. He came across the project on Twitter and was instantly impressed by the idea and began tweeting Ashley, who before long asked Reece if he's like a part in the film.

Advertisement ‐ Content Continues Below.

I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, it wasn't what I expected. I thought it would tell the story of one particular era of the haunting, perhaps during the tenure of the Bull or the Foyster families. I expected a scripted plot that was merely based upon the events from that time. Instead the one and a quarter hour long movie tells the whole story of the haunting, from before construction of the rectory through to the fire that consumed it. Presented in more of a docudrama style, Julian Sands' fitting narration provides historical context to animated re-creations of the house's ghostly goings on.

Stylistically, the movie is in its own class. I've never seen a feature film with the same painstaking level of obsession to giving a picture a unique character. Every shot in 'Borley Rectory' is constructed from the background up to the foreground. Characters are shot against a green screen and composited into the frame. The result is a flickering, black and white stylised look, with a unique mix of live action and old-looking cartoon.
Borley Rectory Rotoscope & Green Screen

Ashley used a technique known as rotoscoping, which involves shooting actors in front of a green screen and then transferring them digitally into a 1920s-style, eerie, reconstruction of the haunted Borley Rectory. This approach to film making works on so many different levels for this project.

Firstly, it has allowed Ashley to plan and build scenes within an exact digital replica of the house which was demolished in 1944. The 3D model was put together by a team in New Zealand based on plans which were hand drawn by Harry Price. It also meant that the filmmakers could get all the actors in for a shoot in one day without having to worry about the logistics of moving between locations.

But where this method of movie making comes into its own is in its ability to effectively tell a story, especially in the supernatural genre. We all know that it's the unknown that drums up the biggest sense of fear and anticipation in horror films, but when we see a ghost in a movie it often looks unreal and the fear instantly diminishes. This is especially problematic in a lot of horror movie's third acts when the supernatural activity builds to its most intense point, but this often involves revealing some big CGI monster - and the moment is gone.

However in 'Borley Rectory' the highly stylised look creates a fictional world where anything can happen. Nothing is jarring and nothing looks out of place because Ashley's able to create any element in his world, from fluttering butterflies in the garden to pipe smoke - but also the many ghosts and spectres that stalk the corridors and grounds of the rectory, including the infamous phantom nun and the spectral horse-drawn carriage with its headless horseman at the reigns.
Borley Rectory

'Borley Rectory' made with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, which smashed its £3,000 target and ended up raising almost £10,000. The project is clearly the product of pure passion having been directed and written by Ashley, and animated over a six year period.

It really is a must-see film for any fans of British ghost stories. The finished product is interesting, unique and in places frightening.

The Blu-ray release of the film was closely tied together with the re-publication of the classic Usborne children's book 'World Of The Unknown: Ghosts', a book that Ashley says inspired the film, "the subject of Borley Rectory seized my imagination as a child after stumbling across the legend in the 'Usborne Book of Ghosts' in the Exeter Library in the late 70s."

We're all a bit over Blu-ray extras nowadays, but actually the additional features on this release are well worth watching, including the excellent 30 minute documentary, 'Haunted Generation', in which Reece and Usborne's Anna Howorth examine the legacy 'World Of The Unknown' series. There's also an hour-long history of the rectory, making the Blu-ray great value for money.

We're sure thee film will make it on to many people's Halloween movie playlists this year, and just like Usborne's 'Ghosts' book, would be the perfect stocking filler for any paranormal lover this Christmas - both are available to buy now.
Borley Rectory

Borley Rectory

When Daily Mirror journalist V C Wall (Reece Shearsmith) calls upon the services of famed paranormal investigator Harry Price (Jonathan Rigby) to investigate supernatural 'goings on' at a Victorian mansion in Essex, little does he realise that he will set into motion a story that will fascinate and confound the world. 'Borley Rectory' is the true story of Price's investigation and the legends that came to haunt all those involved. Borley Rectory is an animated documentary chronicling what came to be known as 'The most haunted house in England'. The legends attached to the rectory and famed paranormal investigator Harry Price's subsequent investigations of them, caught the public's imagination during the 1930's in time becoming one of the world's most notorious ghost stories influencing Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House' and Richard Matheson's 'Hell House.'

Buy It Now

Daily Horoscopes


You may feel like you are grasping at straws trying to pull your finances together at the moment but things are not as bad as your mind chatter makes them out to be. In fact, soon you will get some... Read More