Friday, 25 May 2018

Home Videos

d./w./p. various; cast: Jason Impey, Jessica Hunt, Martynna Madej, Martin W Payne, Donna Hamblin, Luc Bernier, Kieran Johnston, Daiane Azura, Dean Allem, Clare Crumpton, Simon London, Suzy Weatherall, Adam Jones

This found footage flatpack anthology from Trash Arts is distinguished by Jason Impey’s contribution ‘Case 019684’ which takes up most of the first half-hour. Stock footage of Impey as his ‘Jack Hess’ snuff film-maker character is combined with clips from his parents’ home movies, documenting Jason/Jack’s life from baby to boy to accomplished and busy indie horror film-maker/psychopath. The result is an extraordinary quasi-auto-biopic, structurally somewhere between Boyhood and The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, which deserves to be extended to feature length. The remaining 60 minutes is the usual mishmash, the highlights being Sam Mason Bell’s ‘Scratchy Eyes’ (which uniquely manages to misspell its own title!), an effective silent, fake super-8 film of an 8th birthday with a creepy supernatural clown lurking at the back of shot; Stephen Longhurst’s ‘The Watcher’, a short, rural take on The Last Horror Movie; and Adam Jones’ vampire sketch ’The Interview’. Other contributions either drag on far too long or are barely there at all.

Monday, 7 May 2018

The Shadow of Bigfoot

d./w./p. Philip Mearns; cast: Ben Shockley, Joe Simmonds, Keith Eyles, Hugo Myatt, John Rackham, James Payton, Kirsty Cox, Maria Thomas, Lindsay Groves

True to the title, this micro-budget chiller sensibly restricts the eponymous cryptid to ominous shadows and the occasional glimpse of fur. Two believers and one sceptic head into the forests of North Carolina where the most obsessive of the trio shoots a sasquatch, determined to claim its carcass as proof, after which the humans are prey to a tribe of vengeful hominids. Although the forest exteriors could be anywhere, the opening scenes in an ‘American’ university are so obviously UK-set as to be borderline surreal. A brief glimpse of a US police car is the only clue (apart from some distinctly variable accents!) that we’re supposed to be in the States. The film’s strength lies in the performances as personal bonds break down in the face of imminent brutal death. Ostensibly intended as ‘tongue in cheek’ – which doesn’t really come across – you’ll either enjoy this as a solid cryptozoology adventure or mock its cheapness, although there are many far, far worse bigfoot movies than this. Shot in Kent in 2012. You can watch it for free on YouTube.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Fear2000 Powerpoint and handout

A few weeks ago I delivered a presentation at the Fear2000 academic horror conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

My paper, 'Horror Beyond Measure: The Exponential Rise of British Horror Cinema', was a statistical analysis of UK horror cinema production and release since January 2000. I can't deny: I was very pleased with how well it was received, especially as everyone there were clever academics and I'm just a marketing dweeb/ex-journalist.

I have recorded an audio version of the Powerpoint, which is now available to download from Scribd, along with a PDF of the handout I produced.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Dark Matter

d./w./p. Mol Smith; cast: Dominic O’Flynn, Gina Purcell, Jamie-Jodie Shanks, Sharon Lawrence, Mel Mills

This creepy, trippy sci-fi horror was the promising directorial debut of the writer-producer behind Tainted Love. Scientist James, taking time out to recover from losing his wife in a car crash, finds a meteorite in his garden and receives strange downloads on his PC. Using these – and a bathtub of hot water – he somehow creates a mysterious young woman who must be taught from scratch like an infant but learns very quickly. His friend and former colleague Valerie has some secrets of her own, including a teenage abortion. A blue guy later appears from the same bathtub while James experiences horrifying visions of his wife’s death and frequent ‘timeslips’ to other realities, including one where he and Valerie are married with kids. There are CGI spaceships in orbit because ‘dark matter’ has destroyed their home galaxy, or something. Frankly, if you can figure out the mind-scrambling third act you’re doing better than me. Smith acknowledged his debt to A for Andromeda, which is more than the makes of Species ever did.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Ghost Stories

d./w. Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman; p. Claire Jones, Robin Gutch; cast: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Ghost Stories was a popular success based on a name cast, the reputation of Dyson and Nyman’s West End play, and a massive marketing budget. When finally watched however, it’s an embarrassing disappointment: a swirling morass of clichés and jump scares belaboured with a staggeringly terrible score and topped by the most underwhelming, unimaginative ‘twist’ since The Others. Touted as an Amicus-style anthology, it’s nothing of the sort. Nyman (co-writer of much of Derren Brown’s work) plays Goodman, a professional sceptic challenged to solve three ‘unexplainable’ cases (by a heavily made up actor we’re not supposed to recognise). He interviews three people and we see their stories as flashback vignettes, but since there’s no material evidence to any of them there’s nothing unexplainable. The last act goes off on a tangent about Goodman’s own childhood traumas before ‘explaining’ everything (or rather, showing nothing needs explaining) with a revelation that is at least 98 years old. Shot in Yorkshire, it premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2017. Sigh.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Ferryman

d./w./p. Elliott Maguire cast: Nicola Holt, Garth Maunders, Pamela Ashton, Shobi Rae Mclean, Frank Mathews, Azz Mohammed, Philip Scott-Shurety

Bleak and miserabilist (in a good way), The Ferryman is the sort of dour, oppressive horror that the UK does so much better than anywhere else. After her mother’s death, Mara attempts suicide and subsequently finds herself living with the father she never knew whom she initially hates (and who confusingly only looks about ten years older than her). Two further bizarre deaths – one off-screen, one very gory one on-screen – shatter Mara’s already fragile mental state, a situation compounded by necessary police questioning. She’s being stalked (or thinks she is, at any rate) by a personification of the Greek ferryman Charon, although it’s not really clear why. Well-directed and acted, the photography and lighting give no clue that this was shot on an iPhone although the sound suffers occasionally. Maguire boosted his on-screen production values by blagging access to a TV studio in Manchester via his day-job as a security guard on the Coronation Street set. Not to be confused with the identically titled 2007 Anglo-Kiwi sea-bound soul-swap psycho shocker.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

White Goods

d. Bazz Hancher; w. Bazz Hancher, Richard Robotham; p. Bazz Hancher, Michael Walcott; cast: Bazz Hancher, Richard Robotham, Adam Woodhouse, Mark Lee Jones, James JT Taylor, Vicki Clarke, Tom Rutter, James Underwood

This decidedly non-PC, sub-Troma, amateur horror comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but among the tired jokes about queers, trannies and toilets are some genuinely clever moments that will make you spit out your tea with delight. A dim-witted cowboy electrician becomes possessed by a demon when he helps a TV psychic (punk legend turned Brit horror regular Jones) stage a séance. Everyone he subsequently visits is killed by electrical equipment, most notably an impressive death-by-tumble-drier. The acting is as bad as the wigs but there’s a cheesy charm to the picture and surprisingly acceptable production values including some basic CGI. Hancher previously made numerous shorts (collected on DVD as Blast from the Past and Films from a Broken Mind) and a documentary feature about a local pub. With Feast for the Beast director Rutter as one of the séance participants, a fourth wall-breaking narrator, and a demonic clown at the end. Filmed in Kidderminster in April 2016.