The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

06/29/2019 11:54

Film: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

Year: 1988

Director: Vincent Ward

Writer: Geoff Chapple, Kely Lyons and Vincent Ward

Starring: Bruce Lyons, Chris Haywood and Hamish Gough



This was a film that I never heard of until it was selected for a Movie Club I participate in each month. This was one that was coming from New Zealand to finish out checking out some of the lesser known horror films from the country. I was warned that this isn’t horror per se, but there are definitely elements. The synopsis for this is men seeking relief from the Black Death, guided by a boy’s vision; dig a tunnel from 14th Century England to 20th Century New Zealand.

We start off with images that a boy, Griffin (Hamish Gough) is having. There is fire that is flipping over and over; we see a cross in the water, a church and someone falling from it. He comes to with those around him making sure he is okay. Linnet (Sarah Perise) his mother is concerned, but life is hard so she goes back to what she is doing. In this world, they are concerned with the Black Death that has been wiping out people all over Europe. Griffin’s brother Connor (Bruce Lyons) went to town and hasn’t returned. They are starting to believe he won’t.

To re-iterate, this is a time period where everyone has to pull their weight for a chance to survive. In this village there are two brothers Searle (Marshall Napier) and Ulf (Noel Appleby). Searle doesn’t believe Griffin and kind of mocks him. Ulf is a little bit slow as well. Also with them is Arno (Chris Haywood) who lost his hand for stealing and Martin (Paul Livingston).

Connor then returns to tell them that the Black Death is coming. They have until dawn before it gets to them. What I find interesting here is this is represented like a demon with wings that flies over them. Griffin reveals his dream and what they have to do. Connor believes him and they find a machine that will help them cut through the rocks in a cave. Everyone believes the world is flat and that there is a land that is free of the plague. They just have to get to a great church there to signal the rest of the village to come.

As they create the tunnel, the demon that is bringing the plague cries out and Griffin sees it. Their tunnel digging is hard work, but they punch through into a sewer. Just as the synopsis states, they end up in New Zealand, on the other side of the world in 1988. They are out of place, but they need to cast a cross, put it on the largest church before the plague infects their village.

If you know anything about my tastes in film, especially the older I’ve gotten, you know there are some aspects to this film I love. We get a glimpse into the life of this village in Northern England. Word has reached them of the plague that is killing most of Europe. What I find interesting here is these primitive people do not have any idea of bacteria, viruses and how it spreads. This is a time of Christianity, but they aren’t too far removed from more pagan religions where they thought there were gods and things would spread sickness like that. That is one aspect I really dug seeing these people, but even more for where they end up.

Most people on the world currently think that the Earth is round. There are some flat Earthers out there, who still think like the people in this film. Those in the film think that if they dig they can make it to the other side of the world, much like children do. I find this to be quite interesting, but going even farther, they find a time warp that sends them into the future. Normally we see this play out the other way, where we have people from our time going into the past. I thought this was an interesting aspect to do it the other way. What they are trying to do is interesting and seeing them interact with technology.

Now what I really love though is that this is a big allegory. I won’t delve too much into this, but around the climax of completing their mission we see what everything is really about. It actually gets kind of sad afterwards as well with the reveal of the truth. This film isn’t listed as horror and I can see why most people would agree. I don’t think this is necessarily a horror film, but it is quite close. We have the fear of this incoming death and them trying to find a way out of it. Plus the reality of their life is quite scary as well as trying to traverse a world that is far more advanced than theirs.

To the pacing of the film, I didn’t really encounter any issues here. I thought that it gets right into it and moves through the events at a good pace. It isn’t an overly exciting film, but I will say that as time continues on I did feel the urgency of them needing to get these things completed before the plague overtakes the village. I will say that I like how things play out as well, because at first I thought it was a bit too neat. The ending is actually somewhat bleak which I’m down for.

I thought the acting was also pretty solid. Lyons I thought was good as the leader of the group. He is looked to since he’s been out of the village and experienced the world a bit. His character is even more intriguing near the end of this film as well with a reveal. Gough I also thought was solid. For a child actor, he played his role very well. What is intriguing is that they’re expecting so much from him as he leading them with his visions. Everything is a bit overwhelming as he doesn’t have all the answers. This definitely helps with building the tension. Napier is good at applying that pressure. It is hard to fault him, but he also is a bit too hard on him. Haywood, Appleby and Livingston are all solid in support as well as the rest of the cast; they rounded out the film for what was needed.

To the effects of the film, there really wasn’t a whole lot and the film didn’t really need them. The big thing I need to comment on is that I love they had the world in black and white when they are in the past. We do get splashes of color here and there, but for the most part it is bleak just like their living situation. When they come to the present, it is in color which I thought was a good contrast, even though they’re in a gritty area of the city. The only other effect that stuck out was the demon like creature representing the plague, he looked low-budget, but it works for me. It is seen at a distance and just a representation.

The final thing to cover was the soundtrack of the film. There was a song when Connor first appears where it is choir like where they are chanting his name. I thought that was pretty funny. The rest of the score was definitely fitting for what they were going for. The music seems like it could have been from the era where the film takes place in the past. It for sure helps to fit the scenes like they needed it to.

Now with that said, this is quite an intriguing film for me. I really like the concept that we have here of these people wanting to avoid the plague that they think is coming their way. They don’t understand how things like this work and think a creature brings it at night. The allegory of the story they tell is interesting and something I can get behind. I think the pacing helps to move us along and build tension. The acting of the film is solid. I like changing from black and white to color depending on the time period. The score is also fitting for what they were going for. Even though I did enjoy these things, this film does have its issues. I will come in that this is slightly above average.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10