Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Haunting of Borley Rectory


d. Steven M Smith; w. Steven M Smith, Christopher Jolley; p. Steven M Smith, Jon-Paul Gates; cast: Zach Clifford, Rad Brown, Sonera Angel, Garry Roost, Kit Pascoe, Jon-Paul Gates, Matthew Fitzthomas Rogers, Georgi Taylor Wills, Anastasia Cane

The late 2010s has brought us micro-genres dedicated to the ‘most haunted house in England’ and supernatural nuns. This latest title from Smith ticks both boxes and underlines his own steady improvement. Where The Howling had some fine moments, this genuinely spooky ghost tale is his first consistently good feature, easily eclipsing both North Bank Entertainment’s A Haunting at the Rectory and Proportion Productions’ The Bad Nun. Clifford (an Aussie) is excellent as an injured GI in 1944, assigned to monitor radio traffic from a country cottage. He has disturbing dreams and visions which he believes are connected with a nearby derelict rectory so calls in Borley expert Harry Price (Brown, director of unreleased 2016 horror feature Last Weekend). Excellent period detail – including some corking 1940s hairstyles – is enhanced by Peter Panoa’s terrific photography (but briefly let down by an anachronistically unshaven British officer). Shot in Devon and Essex in 2018.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Finders Keepers


d. Adam Evans; w. Neil Morris, Gary Smart; p. Neil Morris, Gary Smart, Christopher Griffiths, Adam Evans, Stuart Conran; cast: Mark Wingett, Stanley Rawlings, Bruce Jones, Oliver Smith, Kenneth Cranham, Simon Bamford, Neil Cole, Corin Silva, Ethan McKinley

The third entry in the Dark Ditties series is the blackest of black comedies, a 45-minute gory crime thriller which feels like someone cast the Chuckle Brothers in a remake of The Long Good Friday. Two gangsters are searching for a minor accomplice who jumped out of a car with a valuable briefcase chained to his wrist. Two bickering brothers doing a spot of poaching find the briefcase and body and set about seeing what they’ve got… This is a cracking film for sure, but what makes this series so successful? It’s partly the beautifully crafted scripts and adroit direction which introduce us to fascinating, distinctive characters and their thoroughly believable relationships. It’s partly the care that is taken over all the technical aspects: the photography, sound, editing as well as production design, costumes, make-up and of course the prosthetic effects. But mostly it’s the use of solid, professional, experienced casts who imbue these characters with life. On Amazon Prime later this month, DD3: Finders Keepers is unreservedly recommended. DD4: The Witching House is on the way.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

All the new British horror films released in 2018

My master list contains 89 British horror features released during 2018. This is slightly down from last year's round-up, which I announced 12 months ago. (It was 107 films at the time but currently stands at 105 as I have discovered prior releases for a couple of titles). We’re still on course to hit a thousand films (since January 2000) sometime in the coming year.

So: 89 feature films. How many have you seen? How many have you heard of? I've managed to catch 38 of these so far.

As ever, I define a film as 'released in 2018' if this year saw the first chance for someone to watch the movie - whether in a cinema, on DVD, on demand or just posted on YouTube - without attending a special event. Some of these films played festivals or had other one-off screenings in 2017 or earlier years.)

Please let me know of anything I've missed, or any other corrections.

  • Abduction 2: Revenge of the Hive Queen (Mol Smith)
  • Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail)
  • Apostle (Gareth Evans)
  • Assassin's Revenge (Richard Driscoll)
  • Attack of the Adult Babies (Dominic Brunt)
  • Aura aka The Exorcism of Karen Walker (Steve Lawson)
  • Await Further Instructions (Johnny Kevorkian)
  • The Bad Nun (Scott Jeffrey)
  • The Black Gloves (Lawrie Brewster)
  • The Book of Birdie (Elizabeth E Schuch)
  • Boots on the Ground (Louis Melville)
  • Calibre (Matt Palmer)
  • Cannibal Farm aka Escape from Cannibal Farm (Charlie Steeds)
  • Caught (Jamie Patterson)
  • Charismata (Andy Collier, Toor Mian)
  • Condemned aka God’s Acre (JP Davidson)
  • Conspiracy X (Sam Mason Bell et al)
  • Curse of the Scarecrow aka Scarecrow Rising (Louisa Warren)
  • Curse of the Witch's Doll (Lawrence Fowler)
  • Dark Beacon (Corrie Greenop)
  • Dark Highlands (Mark Stirton)
  • Dark Vale (Jason MJ Brown)
  • Darkness Comes (David Newbigging)
  • The Demonic Doll aka The Demonic Tapes 2: The Doll (Richard Mansfield)
  • The Devil's Doorway (Aislinn Clarke)
  • Die Gest: Flesh Eater (Tony Newton et al)
  • Dogged (Richard Rowntree)
  • Dragon Kingdom aka Dark Kingdom (Simon Wells)
  • Fanged Up (Christian James)
  • The Ferryman (Elliott Maguire)
  • Fever aka Mountain Fever (Hendrik Faller)
  • Fox Trap aka Don’t Blink (Jamie Weston)
  • Fractured (Jamie Patterson)
  • Ghost Stories (Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson)
  • Gore Theatre (Sam Mason-Bell et al)
  • Grim Places (Jason Impey)
  • Grindhouse Nightmares (Richard Driscoll)
  • Habit (Simeon Halligan)
  • Halloween Hell Night (David Black et al)
  • Halloween in Hertford (Michael Curtis)
  • Harvest of the Dead (Peter Goddard)
  • Haunted 2: Apparitions (Steven M Smith)
  • Haunted 3: Spirits (Steven M Smith)
  • The Hell of Ween (Tom Stavely)
  • Home Videos (Jason Impey et al)
  • House of Salem (James Crow)
  • The House of Screaming Death (Alex Bourne et al)
  • The House of Violent Desire (Charlie Steeds)
  • The House on Mansfield Street (Richard Mansfield)
  • Jurassic Predator (Andrew Jones)
  • The Legend of Halloween Jack (Andrew Jones)
  • The Little Stranger (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • Mandy the Doll (Jamie Weston)
  • Maniacal (Sam Mason-Bell et al)
  • Mara (Clive Tonge)
  • Mask of Thorn (MJ Dixon)
  • Matriarch aka Mother (Scott Vickers)
  • Monochrome (Tom Lawes)
  • Monster (Matt Shaw)
  • Old Blood (Denise Channing)
  • Paranormal Farm 2: Closer to the Truth (Carl Medand)
  • Patient Zero (Stefan Ruzowitzky)
  • Polterheist (Paul Renhard, Dave Gilbank)
  • Possum (Matthew Holness)
  • Psychomanteum: Tales of the Dead (Ray Brady et al)
  • Pumpkins (Maria Lee Metheringham)
  • Recovery (Marcus Scott)
  • Redcon-1 (Chee Keong Cheung)
  • The Redeeming (Brian Barnes)
  • The Revenge of Robert (Andrew Jones)
  • The Same Circles (Mark Garvey)
  • Shadow of the Missing (Jamie Lee Smith)
  • Sin (Self Induced Nightmares) (Dan Brownlie et al)
  • Slaughterhouse Rulez (Crispian Mills)
  • The Snarling (Pablo Raybould)
  • The Spawning (Simon Riley)
  • Tone Death (John Hickman, Roger Armstrong)
  • Toxic Schlock (Sam Mason-Bell, Tony Newton)
  • Trash Arts: Killers Vol.1 (Sam Mason Bell et al)
  • Twenty Twenty-Four aka It Lives (Richard Mundy)
  • Virus of the Dead (Tony Newton et al)
  • The Wasting (Carolyn Saunders)
  • Webcast (Paul McGhie)
  • Welcome to Essex (Ryan J Fleming)
  • Welcome to Hell (Sam Mason Bell et al)
  • Where the Skin Lies (Michael Boucherie)
  • White Goods (Bazz Hancher)
  • Winterskin (Charlie Steeds)
  • Writers Retreat (Diego Rocha)

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Morticia


d./w./p. Nabil Shaban; cast: Jenni Young, Karen Douglas, Ricky Callan, Nabil Shaban, Sofie Alonzi, Dolina Maclennan, Andrew Dallmeyer, James Tennant

Interesting and worthwhile, despite low production values, Shaban’s only feature is a character study of a 12-year-old goth. Kylie, who prefers ‘Morticia’, is regarded as the local weirdo by children and adults alike. An able and intelligent child, her poetic school essay about wanting to become a vampire causes chaos when read out in class. She steals a paperback of Dracula from the library and reads it in a churchyard, then steals a bat from Edinburgh Zoo. Her bumptious mother and long-suffering father, a disabled Gulf War veteran, don’t know what to do with her. Eventually her romantic view of death is cracked by overhearing her dad talk about the women and children he was required to kill in Iraq. Right at the end, Dracula himself appears, probably a hallucination. Disabled actor Shaban (still fondly remembered for a role in 1980s Doctor Who) plays a psychologist. Night Kaleidoscope director Grant McPhee pops up in the credits as colourist. Shot in 2009, this premiered at a vampire film festival in October that year.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Virus of the Dead


d./w. various; p. Tony Newton; cast: Mhairi Calvey, Nathan Head and many, many more

Virus of the Dead could very well be the ultimate found footage zombie film. The 102 minutes is split into 30-odd fragments telling 22 nihilistic stories, all of which start out unhappy and conclude not much later bleakly and/or suddenly. There’s no first act of scene-setting normality, no strained “let’s film everything” justification. Everyone is either vainly filming their life when the undead attack or making a video message for posterity as ghoulish hordes scratch at the door. As a representation of a global society suddenly splintering into chaos and the immediate, arbitrary destruction of people’s lives, this is bang on the money. Though most of the segments are American, the project was conceived, curated, edited and produced by prolific anthologiser Newton, creator of Troma’s Grindsploitation series and co-creator of much of Trash Arts’ output. British contributors are Christopher Jolley (Whisper), Keiron Hollett (director of the unreleased Blood Curse), Dan Brownlie (Serial Kaller) and Newton himself. Return of the Living Dead 3 scripter John Penney and German trash legend Timo Rose also contribute segments. 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Possum


d./w. Matthew Holness; p. Wayne Marc Godfrey, James Harris, Robert Jones, Mark Lane; cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb, Charlie Eales

The writer/star of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, the funniest British horror TV series ever made, makes his feature debut with an unremittingly grim and bleak tale of mental health problems and child abuse. Philip returns to the run-down house where he grew up with his uncle. Awkward, socially uncomfortable and probably with learning difficulties, Philip carries everywhere a leather bag containing Possum, a large, weird puppet combining a replica of Philip’s own head with long spider legs. Recurring attempts to destroy Possum come to nought, suggesting it might not be real (as may other aspects of the film). Short on dialogue and action, with long, semi-static sequences on featureless Norfolk beaches, this challenging feature is the unholy offspring of David Lynch and MR James. Holness adapted his own short story, written for an anthology of tales inspired by Freud’s essay on the uncanny. Shot in November 2017, this debuted in Edinburgh in June 2018. If you enjoy movies that no-one else you know likes, this could be for you. Music by the Radiophonic Workshop!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The House on Mansfield Street


d./w./p. Richard Mansfield; cast: Matthew Hunt, Kathryn Redwood, Daniel Mansfield

When Richard Mansfield upped sticks from London to Nottingham, he incorporated the move into this zero-budget found footager which is vastly better than most comparable films. Hunt is believable and likeable as Nick, a video maker who keeps his hand in with a documentary about his new house in the couple of weeks before starting his new day-job. The Victorian terraced cottage, which is Mansfield’s own (actually on Mansfield Street) has the curious bumps and creaks one might expect from any vintage house, but the weirdness on show gradually increases to moved furniture and eventually actual figures, caught on Nick’s motion-capture security camera. Editing the footage together, he looks for a rational explanation but can’t find one. A pleasant but slightly creepy tarot-reading neighbour doesn’t help. With excellent use of split screen and some nice location work around Nottingham city centre and on the city’s trams, this is another fine slice of James-ian horror from the Mansfield Dark label that will leave you genuinely creeped out.