Thursday, 31 December 2015

83 British horror films released in 2015, Part II

Welcome back to my run-through of every one of the 83 British horror films released in 2015. Yesterday I covered the first five months and the first 37 movies. So what came our way in June?

Well, there were two Andrew Jones films released that month for starters. Haunting at the Rectory was the first out of the stalls among several imminent features based on Borley Rectory, the supposedly ‘most haunted house in England’. And Poltergeist Activity was another haunted house tale, about a widower and his daughter trying to make a fresh start in Wales. Despite the implications of the title and the sleeve, this is not a found footage film. Nor should you pay any heed to the ghastly title and sleeve forced onto Corrie Greenop’s Wandering Rose by its US distributor. This is a sensitive, spooky, brilliantly acted, beautifully shot ghost story about a couple holidaying in Scotland before their baby arrives. The female character has only recently discovered she is pregnant, but some idiot decided to put a stock shot of a massive baby bump on the sleeve, photoshop an evil face pressing through the flesh, and call the whole thing Demon Baby. Ludicrous.

At least the synopsis on the back of the Demon Baby sleeve was accurate. Unlike Unhallowed Ground, a tale of six teenagers staying overnight in a posh school as part of their Army Cadet training, on the 350th anniversary of something awful happening. Directed by Russell England and written by teenager Paul Raschid (who also starred), this had a UK theatrical release in June then hit VOD, then DVD. Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment not only put a stock shot of a creepy cemetery on the front of the sleeve, they stuck some text on the back about friends seeking shelter from a storm in an abandoned building on the “wild and uninhabited moors.” Seriously, WT absolute F?

After several years in limbo, Mark Duffield’s gorgeous-looking Victorian horror Demon finally turned up on DVD in June, a rare example of Gothic in modern British horror. Aylesbury Dead is a self-released zombie picture which I only found out about as I was writing this, Set in the eponymous Buckinghamshire town, director William Axtell based it on his own self-published comics. There was a US release for 7 Cases, a crime/torture-porn mash-up from Sean J Vincent (The Addicted) starring Steven Berkoff, Samantha Fox and the lead singer of Republica; and also a US disc of Snuff Reel, the latest zero-budget sex'n'violence romp from Will Metheringham (The Photographer). But, by my own self-imposed rules (see yesterday’s post), all I can tell you about the UK disc of Warren Dudley’s The Cutting Room is that it’s more found footage crap.

July brought two disappointing war/horror hybrids with similar titles. Mark Nuttall’s Soldiers of the Damned had a squad of WW2 German soldiers exploring a Romanian forest for a mystical artefact. Lots of spooky things happen in the script by Nigel Horne (MD of distributor Safecracker Pictures) but none of them make any sense and the film suffers from careless anachronisms like a map that shows the Czech Republic. Bill Thomas’ historical zombie/war film Fallen Soldiers (filmed as Grist for the Mill) is set on the eve of Waterloo bit fails to do anything with its original premise. There are precious few zombies on show and the film isn’t helped by washed out cinematography that renders scarlet tunics a dull red.

Dark Night, an Evil Dead knock-off directed by Daniel Grant, had been stuck on the shelf even longer than Demon, unseen since 2006. In July 2015 Grant dug it out and Dark Night became the first British horror film distributed through BitTorrent! Ewan Gorman’s kidflick adventure Young Hunters: The Beast of Bevendean (filmed as Nightmare Hunters) had a VOD release and 88 Films put out a DVD of Steve Lawson’s old school dino romp KillerSaurus.

…Followed just one month later by a US release for Nocturnal Activity, a sexy ghost flick which Steve Lawson produced for ‘Georg E Lewis’. Check out the quote from me on this sleeve: "Plenty of nudity"! Andrew Jones was back yet again in August with his creepy doll movie Robert (filmed as Robert the Doll). Camera Trap, filmed on location in Nepal by nature documentarian Alex Verner, is probably really good, but when I make a rule I stick by it so I can only list its UK DVD release as more found footage crap. (See how unfair this is? You only have yourselves to blame.)

Neil McEnery-West’s Containment has a London tower block sealed off by mysterious figures in hazmat suits. Andreas Prodromou’s Eden Lodge doesn’t have any connection with Eden Lake except a copycat DVD sleeve; it has a young couple plus baby staying at a remote B&B when their car breaks down, and finding themselves surrounded by bloody murder. Both those titles had UK DVD releases in August, as did Thomas Daley's generic home invasion thriller Tiger House (set in Surrey but filmed in South Africa). And there was a very swift VOD release for All Above Board, a séance comedy directed by David Simpson (no relation) which was made, edited and released in 13 days!

Moving on to September, there were four British horror films released on US DVD. The Yanks got Luke Hyams’ X Moor - retitled as The Beast of Xmoor - a decently gripping tale of creature-hunters exploring Exmoor (filmed in Ireland) which scores points for not being yet more found footage crap. They also got Tom Wadlow’s terrific zombie feature Wasteland, plus Jeremy Wooding’s werewolf western Blood Moon (a UK disc followed in October) and a belated release for Three’s a Shroud, a fun anthology variously directed by David VG Davies, Dan Brownlie and Andy Edwards with a cast that includes genre faves Emily Booth, Dani Thompson and Suzi Lorraine.

Over here, we had our own moorland horror with a theatrical release for Peter Nicholson’s Dartmoor Killing, in which two female hikers have to deal with a charming psychopath. A limited cinema run too for David Blair’s psychic chiller The Messenger. And there was a British disc of Mark Murphy’s impressive Awaiting, in which a loon and his daughter take in a car crash victim and then don’t let him leave.

Nine films made their debut in October which is traditionally the busiest month, what with Halloween and all. The two high profile releases, which both played UK cinemas, were Paul Hyett’s disappointingly pedestrian Howl, which was touted as ‘werewolves on a train’ but made nothing of either the monsters or the setting. And Steve Oram’s unique, bizarre Aaaaaaah! in which humans act like apes. I saw Aaaaaaaah! at Leicester Phoenix and won a T-shirt!

Richard Johnstone’s vampire epic, filmed back in 2010, was variously called Bloodlust or Bloodless during production but eventually appeared on disc as… Vampires. Great work, DVD PR guys! There was also a UK DVD release for Adams Spinks’ zombie picture Survivors, while Bath-based film-maker David Gunstone self-released two micro-budget features, Vampire Dawn and The Doomsditch Demon. Matt Winn's The Hoarder, about a young woman stalked by a killer in an underground storage facility, had a German DVD release as Bunker. And there were three British titles in the first batch of Frightfest Presents VOD releases: Adam Levins’ Estranged (car crash victim returns to family and home she can’t remember), Robin Schmidt and Gez Medinger’s Afterdeath (five people wake up dead on a beach in Hell) and the aforementioned Aaaaaaaah!

Way back in 2009, my mate Tristan Versluis (who has done prosthetic effects for some of the best British horror of recent years) directed a chiller called Not Alone. In November 2015 this finally appeared on UK DVD as The Haunting of Ellie Rose, but I’m not sure this is the version Tris wanted. There was a theatrical release for Corin Hardy’s Anglo-Irish The Hallow (originally shot as The Woods) in which a conservationist and his family have to deal with ‘zombie fungus’ (it’s better than it sounds!). Flaminia Grazidei's psychological chiller The Final Haunting popped up on VOD this month. And David VG Davies, making his third appearance this year, finally released his psychotic take on the WIP genre Monitor, with Dani Thompson and Suzi Lorraine among the prison staff.

And so we come, at long last, to December – traditionally a quiet month. Dominic Brunt (off of Emmerdale) followed his zombie film Before Dawn with a gripping horror-thriller The Taking, which was retitled Bait by the time it hit UK DVD. (I’ve got a T-shirt of this too!) There was an American disc of Tony Jopia’s lycanthropic comedy Crying Wolf with a nice cameo by genre legend Dame Caroline Munro. Jopia previously brought us rock'n'roll horror Deadtime and is still hard at work on the Critters-esque Cute Little Buggers.

And to round off the year in a festive way, there was a VOD release for Steve Davis’ Santa-slasher romp Christmas Slay. Ho ho and indeed ho.

Eighty three feature films released in one year - crikey. Some in cinemas, some on DVDs you can buy in shops, some on foreign DVDs, some on DVDs you can only buy from the film-maker, some on VOD and at least one on BitTorrent. This is why keeping track of the British Horror Revival is such a massive job. But I do my best. If you're interested in British horror films, follow me on Twitter @BritHorrorRev for news and updates.

Here's a complete alphabetical checklist of all 83 movies. Let me know in the comments of anything you think I've missed.

[Addendum 1: Well, that was predictable. No sooner do I post this than I discover a January 2015 German DVD relwase for Marcus Warren's horror/football mash-up Kick. Make that 84.]

[Addendum 2: Zombies in Hertford, an amateur feature directed by Michael Curtis, uploaded to YouTube in July. That makes 85.]

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