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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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!
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.
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.