Sunday 1 January 2017

All the British horror films released in 2016, Part 2: July-December

So here’s Part 2 of the 2016 British horror retrospective, covering July to December. If you missed it, here’s Part 1. And here’s a full alphabetical list of all 78 (wait: 79!) movies released this year.

2016 saw the release of several films that seemed to have been lost in limbo for several years including Angie Bojtler’s Jacob’s Hammer. Filmed back in February 2011 (as Jacob) this ‘evil child’ shocker unexpectedly popped up on American DVD in July 2016 after five and a half years down the back of the distribution sofa. Edward McGowan’s entry in the small ‘stag weekend gone wrong’ subgenre, Bachelor Games, was more recent, having been shot (in Argentina, as The Rules of the Game) in 2013. This had a VOD release in July with a US disc following in November.

Three other releases for July, all on British DVD. Michael Munn’s Demons, his second release of the year, was an entry in the even smaller ‘hen weekend gone wrong’ subgenre, with a bride-to-be and her friends forced to stay in a creepy house when their car breaks down. Zombies in tha Hood was a zero-budget zomcom by Leon Mitchell and Ross Strowthers. Whereabouts in Britain is ‘tha Hood’, you ask? Why, Peterborough of course, ma homie. Fo shizzle. Or something. Olympic gymnast Louis Smith has a cameo in that one. And Worst Fears was a flatpack anthology of recent-ish shorts all written by the legendary David McGillivray. Keith Claxton directed these/this, with a release through Jake West’s Nucleus Films.

August saw not one but two films from the always watchable Mycho Pictures stable. Director MJ Dixon and producer Anna McCarthy (who are scheduled to get married any day now, I believe – congratulations) are gradually building up a distinct fictional universe centred on their first release, 2012’s Slasher House. New to the ‘Mychoverse’ on UK DVD thus month were Hollower, a spooky murder investigation/flashback with Nicholas Vince as the detective, and Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown, a coulrophobic homage to Halloween. Slasher House 2 will be out next year.

Nick Gillespie’s Tank 432 (originally Belly of the Bulldog) was a claustrophobic military horror about some soldiers and their prisoners taking shelter inside an abandoned military vehicle. Michael Smiley and Gordon Kennedy were recognisable faces among the cast, That was released on UK disc in August, as was Dan Pringle’s modern take on Sweeney Todd, K-Shop. If you’ve ever wondered precisely what sort of meat goes into a kebab… well, don’t. There was a US disc of David Hinds’ The House on Cuckoo Lane, about a Satanic video nasty. And there was a VOD release for Martin Owen’s ‘augmented reality’ horror Let’s Be Evil, about gifted kids being studied in a research facility.

September brought us the two most high-profile British horror releases of the year. It’s a sobering thought that, despite the vast number of BHR films being made and released, most remain unknown to most horror fans and almost all are unknown to mainstream film-watchers. Of last year’s crop of 89 British horror movies, the only two that might score some degree of title recognition with the average person browsing Netflix or Amazon would be The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and, just possibly, Monsters: Dark Continent. In both cases, that’s because they were sequels to very successful films. To find the last good, non-sequel British horror film that achieved any sort of mainstream awareness one has to go back to the release of Under the Skin in March 2014.

Is it any wonder then that Mark Kermode, a mainstream film critic who admits to being a horror fan but whose job watching endless mainstream movies means his  knowledge of the genre is solidly conventional, saw the near-simultaneous theatrical release of The Girl with All the Gifts and Under the Shadow as some sort of resurgence of UK horror cinema. Because mainstream film media measure a movie’s success by cinematic box office receipts and newspaper column inches, so 99% of UK frightflicks simply don’t exist as far as they are concerned.

Anyway, rant over. British Horror Revival was the first website to run a still from Girl… last December (when it was still called She Who Brings Gifts) and I’m delighted to say the film didn’t disappoint. Shadow was set in Tehran, filmed in Jordan with dialogue entirely in Farsi, which shows how varied British horror can be. A big winner at the BIFAs, it is the UK’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Both UK DVDs are due on 23rd January.

Also out on UK disc in September was the year’s second Andrew Jones film, a sequel to last year’s creepy doll feature Robert, entitled The Curse of Robert. (Could be a new franchise in the offing there. Coming soon: Bride of Robert, Son of Robert, Robert Must be Destroyed and Robert Meets the Wolf Man. Or maybe not.) And there was a US disc of Video Killer, the latest creepily effective low-budget shocker from Richard Mansfield (The Mothman Curse).

Three films emerged onto VOD this month. There was Warren Badenski’s Simon, a simple, tense cat-and-mouse thriller about a serial killer and an investigative journalist. In contrast, there was Alexander Fodor’s Dead and Awake, in which a woman who has killed her husband and stuffed him in her car boot breaks down near a house where a gang of criminals are holding a psychic girl they have kidnapped. Yes, that hoary old premise again. You can also buy this on DVD via eBay. And Clement Ofoedu’s The Attachment is… something to do with possession and exorcism or something. I’ve not seen it myself and the synopsis is kind of vague but there’s definitely some sort of evil paranormal entity in there somewhere.

And thus we come to busy October (eleven films) and sparse November (just three), the annual distortion cause by films being shuffled forward for Halloween. Highlights for me were Stuart Brennan’s impressively bleak zombie feature Plan Z (on US DVD, with a limited UK theatrical release in November); Liam Regan’s uproarious love-letter to Troma Banjo (released on VOD as My Bloody Banjo); and Warren Speed’s insane sequel Zombie Women of Satan 2 (on UK disc, with a retitled US release scheduled for February).

A slew of October VOD releases included The Darkest Dawn, Drew Casson’s sequel to his end-of-the-world found footager Hungerford. Shaun Robert Smith’s acclaimed Broken (originally The Myth of Hopelessness, not to be confused with the 2007 Adam Mason Broken) centred on the relationship between a British tetraplegic and his French carer. Carl Medland’s The Spiritualist (produced by Mumtaz Yildirimlar) has a woman seeking escape from the ghost of her mother. Mol Smith’s The Lorelei is ostensibly a serial killer movie set in Oxfordshire but, as the title suggests, there’s more to the tale and it’s something spooky and aquatic. Probably.

Directed by Spencer Hawken, Death Walks is a community-made zombie film which was temporarily available free online via the Terror Film Festival. You’ve missed your chance to see that for now, but one film you can watch free online is I was a Teenage Merman, the latest from Twit Twoo Films. You won’t find any half-human, half-fish creatures in Chris (Panic Button) Crow’s The Lighthouse though there is a lot of water. Based on a true incident in 1801 when a freak storm left two lighthouse keepers cut off for months, it’s billed as a “tale of death, madness and isolation.” Finally this month, at the other end of the 19th century we have Jack the Ripper, who so rarely gets a look-in on screen nowadays. Jointly directed by Ian Powell and Karl Ward, Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper concerns an aspiring screenwriter who believes she has found the knives used by Saucy Jack all those years ago. The US disc was released in late October but actually preceded, by a couple of weeks, by a wide theatrical release in Brazil. No, honestly.

November’s films included Adam Starks’ big cat horror comedy The Beast of Bodmin Moor (free to view on the Tube that’s You) and Michael Munn scoring a 2016 hat-trick with The Haunting of Maria Marten. Homage to Tod Slaughter? I do hope so!

What’s that you say? I claimed there were three British horror films released in November so what’s the other one? I’m glad you asked, for it was a VOD release of the action-horror-comedy-grindhouse classic The Wrong Floor, directed by Mr Marc Hamill. The title has been changed to Toxic Apocalypse (there’s no apocalypse, but there is toxic stuff) and the awesome poster by The Dude Designs featuring a wee image of Yours Truly has been replaced by a generic design that makes this look like a zombie film (there are precisely zero zombies). But the film itself remains the same incredible, genre-busting, take-no-prisoners epic that Marc and his brother Carl (in the lead role) have spent the last four years making at their dad’s shoe warehouse in Coalville (other locations include Spain and the University of Leicester). As I may have mentioned once or twice, this is my first major role in a feature and, while I won’t be troubling the BAFTAs anytime soon, it was enormous fun and I’m available for work. The Boy has two small roles in the film, one of which always gets a laugh.

Which just leaves time to round up December’s releases. The Autopsy of Jane Doe, directed by Andre Ovredal (Troll Hunter), which played US theatres, is listed by some sources as a UK film and by other as American. It was entirely funded by the reborn Goldcrest Films of London so by my reckoning if someone British paid for it, then someone British owns it and that makes it a British film. Stuart W Bedford’s Good Tidings is a festive slasher about three escaped mental patients in Santa outfits slaughtering a community of homeless people, while The Slayers, about two naïve young men mixed up in a vampire-hunting racket, was the sophomore effort from Stoke director John Williams (The Mothertown). The former was released on VOD, the latter on UK disc; both screened at the first Grindhouse Planet Film Festival here in Leicester organised by Wrong Floor director Marc Hamill.

And we finish Part 2 of this look back on the British horror releases of 2016 as we began Part 1: with a George Clarke film. Partly shot in Norway, and predating The Blood Harvest, Onus starts with two men waking up, chained together, with loaded guns fixed to their hands. Left Films brought the year to a close by releasing this on UK DVD on Boxing Day.

That’s it. Those were all the new British horror films given their first commercial release in 2016. Or were they? Know of something I missed? Spotted something I’ve got wrong? Or just want to offer your opinion on one of these 78 movies? Please leave a comment below.

Stop press. Just discovered that Nirpal Bhogal's FirstBorn, written by Sean Hogan (The Devil's Business), which is about evil forces attacking a baby - which I had listed as a January 2017 release - popped up on iTunes on Boxing Day. So that's actually 79.


  1. First off, Happy New Year, Mike!

    And the start of the year seems a good time to let you know that your splendid efforts in publicising the ongoing BHR are much appreciated. I know it's easy to lose heart when one receives little feedback or encouragement, but rest assured that your site has become THE place for BHR news and views and following your recommendations (both on the site and in Urban Terrors) I have sought out as many of these films as possible. Obviously I don't always agree with your appraisals (though I often do, and I can at least usually see where you're coming from) and consequently have enjoyed many titles which would otherwise have passed me by - Dark Vision, Lord Of Tears, Dark Signal, Judas Ghost, Soldiers Of The Damned, Let Us Prey, X Moor, Fallow Field, Invisible Atomic Monsters From Mars, Outpost 11, Dense Fear/Dense Fear II: Bloodline and a great many more.

    So keep up the good work and I look forward to checking out the site throughout 2017.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Mike. I do get relatively little feedback on this stuff but I suppose that's a consequence of writing about things that people generally don't know about so can't comment on!

      At the very least, I'm hopefully recording this stuff for prosperity. It's amazing how many post-2000 British horror films have already disappeared completely. So catch 'em while you can.