Saturday, 14 August 2021

The Ghosts of Borley Rectory

d. Steven M Smith; w. Steven M Smith, Christopher Jolley; p. Steven M Smith, Louisa Warren, Paul G Andrews; cast: Toby Wynn-Davies, Reece Putinas, Leila Kotori, Louisa Warren, Lee Hancock, Colin Baker, Julian Sands, Christopher Ellison, Toyah Willcox

The Haunting of Borley Rectory was one of the most successful DTV features of the 2010s so it was only natural that Steven M Smith would return to ‘the most haunted house in England’ for this unrelated prequel. The bigger budget is evident in a tighter script, less rushed production and name cast including Baker and Toyah (who have several British horror credits apiece), The Bill’s Ellison, and Sands who is a veritable Borley regular, having narrated Ashley Thorpe’s animated dramadoc. The strong cast orbits around Wynn-Davies (DoggedNefarious), marvellously dynamic as Harry Price. The prolific Smith (15 horror features in as many years, plus several hooligan films) teams here with another key figure in the British horror boom, Louisa Warren (only 14 features but all in the last 3-4 years!) for what should be another big hit. Adroit direction of scare scenes creates a genuinely spooky and gripping feature that demonstrates how far Smith has come since his early work.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

A bumper Richard Driscoll update!

I don’t know what’s going on with Richard Driscoll. Nothing new there. But this time things have got really weird.

My thanks to Paul Tanter who spotted this in The Film Catalogue and thought it smelled a little like a Driscoll joint. And he’s right

No-one else makes films ‘starring’ Michael Madsen, Tom Sizemore, Bai Ling, Robin Askwith and Colin Baker. That’s Driscoll’s stock (footage) company. But it’s directed by ‘Ross Fall’. Is that a pseudonym for Richard Driscoll?

Interestingly, the credit block on the poster doesn’t mention a director, but does list Ross Fall as producer (and DP) and Chris Newman as writer. The production company is MAHA Films, funding by Red Rock Entertainment.

This took me down an extraordinary rabbit hole. Ross Fall and Chris Newman have an extensive slate of movies in ‘production’ or development, some of them on the IMDB. Now, Ross Fall is a real person. He has credits on a bunch of British (or British-ish) horrors including Chemical Wedding, Book of Blood, Dread, Surviving Evil and World War Z (although the credit for The Devil’s Music on his IMDB page is not the Pat Higgins film of that title).

Chris Newman was (according to IMDB) the editor on Driscoll’s Highway to Hell, Conjuring: The Book of the Dead and Evil Calls, this last under the pseudonym ‘Gideon Quin’, which is a name that Driscoll has used in the past.

My apologies to Chris Newman if he is a real person, but for now I’m assuming he’s Mr D. And, as we shall see, there is plenty of other evidence to support that assumption. But one of two things is for sure. Either Richard Driscoll is collaborating, under a pseudonym, with Ross Fall. Or Richard Driscoll is collaborating, uncredited, with Ross Fall and someone named Chris Newman. Whichever way you slice it, MAHA Films’ slate is pure Driscoll. And MAHA Films’ website is pure Driscoll too. No-one else could possibly have written something as incoherent as this:

“MAHA films Ltd was set up by Writer, Producer, Director, Cinematographer & Editor, Ross Fall. After 40 years in the film industry, Ross decided to set up a production company that deals with all forms of Content in this new & exciting time. Dealing with content that could be feature films, documentaries, Live events, Series, including Youtube content. Ross have also taken the view that MAHA films will look at anything that arrives on their doorstep, to help produce or distribute if it fits into the MAHA criteria. As a production company, MAHA can offer various facilities and services to other filmmakers. Maha various equipment. They have their own lighting rig plus generator, camera’s, Panther dolly, Jib arms & a Tulip Crane as well as a post-production facility.”

Here's a photo of Ross Fall, a man who hopefully knows what he’s letting himself in for:

This is from and there’s a bio of Mr Fall on there too which seems entirely legitimate, as well as obeying the basic rules of grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling.

Let’s see what MAHA has ‘in production’, shall we? 

First up is a 12 x 30min series, Linnea Quigley’s Paranormal Truth. This was apparently produced and directed by Linnea herself (whose relationship with Driscoll goes way back, of course). It also says ‘Directed by Jeff Sheldon’ and ‘UK Producer: Ross Fall’.

Jeff Sheldon seems to have no credits beyond the MAHA films slate so may be a real person or may be Richad Driscoll/Chris Newman/Steven Craine/Gideon Quin under yet another name. However, if you click on the ‘episode guide’ link on the MAHA Films website the credits are: “Edited by Chris Newman; Directed by Jeff Sheldon & Victor Huesca; Produced by Linnea Quigley & Ross Fall.” 

That’s also the set of names in a press release that appeared a few weeks ago on various horror sites, which promised “The 12-episode first season premieres soon on DRagonFLIX!” What is DRagonFLIX? That’s Richard Driscoll’s online channel, which he has been threatening to launch for years but which has never got further than a YouTube channel of public domain titles.

There’s a 90-second trailer on YouTube and a different 90-second clip/trailer that was sent to Rue Morgue which says the series will be “available on all good platforms from April 2021”.

<checks calendar>

Incidentally, don’t bother clicking on any of the video links on the MAHA site as you’ll just get this:

Mr Driscoll and Ms Quigley have also collaborated on a ‘completed’ feature called Zombie Games:

“A cross between The Hunger Games & World War Z. When a virus destroys the planet only a small amount of humans exist. Out of those they need to fight to get into the special facility and be safe. So the Zombie Games was invented.”

Starring Driscoll, Linnea and Donna Wilkes from Jaws 2. Produced by Ross Fall, directed by Jeff Sheldon (according to this artwork) and/or “co-produced and directed by Linnea Quigley” (according to the website).

The History of the Beatles from A2Z
(‘3 x 60 mins’, ‘completed’) will be one of Driscoll’s stock footage fests. (There’s a Driscoll Beatles doc floating around on YouTube which hilariously centres on an interview with the current caretaker of the church hall at which John and Paul first met.)


Then we come to the good stuff. Buckle Up (‘feature film’, ‘currently in production’), the film that Paul Tanter spotted, has this alternative artwork and synopsis:

“The story of ex-banger racer Jack Elger who has to honour his brothers gambling debt by picking up a rare diamond necklace from an Arab prince off the coast of Cornwall and bring it back to London before he his killed. The trick is to stay alive as they race through the streets of London’s Westend dodging bullets in the process.”

Now here’s a classic Driscoll idea if ever there was one: Sherlock Holmes and the Murder on the Orient Express! ('90 min Pilot for series', 'in production. 2nd unit filmed waiting to schedule main shoot after COVID19')

“After Sherlock Holmes tracks down Jack the Ripper he ends up on the Orient Express where another murder is committed by his deadly foe, Professor Moriarty.”

The credits are: a cast of Craine, Madsen, Sizemore, Ling and Clive Shilson (who you undoubtedly remember from his award-winning performance as ‘first detective’ in the 1986 pilot of London’s Burning). DP and producer, Ross Fall. Edited, written, produced and directed by ‘Chris Newman’.

Or perhaps you’d prefer… Kill Like Hitchcock (‘feature film', 'in production. 2nd unit filmed waiting to schedule main shoot after COVID19' – damn, that 2nd unit’s good).

“After years of trying to find the serial killer Max Boden he is finally trapped and killed on the roof of a warehouse overlooking the San Francisco bridge but in the process, his last victim Louise Linn, Whose boyfriend is the leading policeman on the case is also murdered. Now retired Police Officer LB Jefferies still can’t get that night out of his mind and the other victims Boden murdered.”

This stars Craine, Madsen and Ling of course plus… either Denzel or Denzil Washington, depending on which part of the poster you’re glancing at.

Once Upon a Time in Hollyweird (‘feature film’, ‘in production. Main unit filmed waiting to schedule second unit shoot after COVID19’) has been floating around for a while. What has changed is the credit block. Where once it said ‘Edited by Mark Brindle, written produced and directed by Richard Driscoll’, now it’s ‘written, produced, directed and edited by Chris Newman’.

The production company has changed from ‘DRagon and House of Fear’ to ‘MAHA Productions’ and we have some cast changes. Out goes Jason Donovan; in comes the aforementioned Donna Wilkes plus Virginia Madsen and “archive footage of David Carradine, Dennis Hooper and Harry Dean Stanton”! How much do you think the archive footage of David Carradine will get paid this time?

Oh, and I checked just in case there was anyone on IMDB actually called Dennis Hooper but no, he definitely means Dennis Hopper.


It’s... Legend. Isn't it? No, it’s The Book of Nightmares (‘feature film’, ‘in production. Main unit filmed waiting to schedule second unit shoot after COVID19’) being promoted with a risibly copyright-ignoring image of a world famous actor in an iconic make-up.

This is more of Driscoll’s Crowley festish: “An interlocking anthology of stories in the style of “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” about a Diary written by Occultist Aleister Crowley called The Book of Nightmares which gets sold at auction. Each owner who possesses the Diary ends up dying in the most horrific way before the book returns to the original owner, who then sells it AGAIN…”

Craine, Sizemore, Ling, Madsen and Lysette Anthony head the cast. ‘Written for the screen’ by Chris Newman Produced by Ross Fall, And frankly, given Driscoll's inability to proof-read anything he writes, I'm amazed it's not about Aleister Crowley's dairy.

But wait, there’s more: “The Book of Nightmares is a Psychological Fantasy Horror movie in the tradition of Hellraiser and Angel Heart

But wait, it gets even better: “Based on the Novella & audio book ‘The Book of Nightmares’ read by Colin Baker (Dr Who) to be released 2021” Well, we're all waiting for that.

By way of a change, how about “A Magical Children's feature film in pre-production” - Charlie and George Save Christmas. Produced by Ross Fall, music by Aled Jones, starring Brian Blessed as Santa. No mention of Chris Newman or Steven Craine (or Madsen etc.) so this might be a Ross Fall thing that Driscoll’s not involved with.


Then we have another Linnea Quigley gig, The Lost Tapes (‘feature film’. ‘in production’): 

“A group of students discover an old box of VHS tapes at their school which is about to be thrown out. As soon as they view the tapes they discover footage of the missing student’s everyone thought was dead. With a couple of cameras the group goes to investigate.”

This is either produced by Quigley and Fall, directed by Quigley (website) or produced by Fall, written, produced and directed by Jeff Sheldon (artwork).

Or how about Craine, Ling, Madsen and Sizemore – together at last for the first time! – in Shark Attack (‘feature film’, ‘in production. 2nd unit filmed waiting to schedule main shoot after COVID19’). 

“When a heist involving stolen diamonds goes wrong it is not the Police you have got to worry about.” 

Not to be confused with the 1999 Casper Van Dien classic Shark Attack.


And finally (for now) we have The Long Night (‘90 min Pilot for series’, ‘in production. 2nd unit filmed waiting to schedule main shoot after COVID19’). 

“When a stranger comes to the Great Wall pulling along a stretcher with what looks like a dead man, it only becomes time when the Zombie King pays a visit.”

This classic will feature “actors from the award winning tv show Game of Thrones. Kristan Nairn. James Cosmo. David Bradley. Written Produced & Directed by Chris Newman. Produced by Ross Fall.” This may be related to the Game of Thorns idea that Driscoll was kicking around while he was in prison.

MAHA Films also has some titles ‘in development’, in other words even that mythical ‘2nd unit’ hasn’t started shooting.

There’s Beyond the Door: 

“Evil grows beyond the door in this 2021 remake of the 1974 classic which made $17 million dollars in the US alone in 1974 Now MAHA films brings you this remake which starts production 2021.”

There’s Dinado, starring Linnea Quigley and Debra Lamb: 

“When 2 scream queens decide to take a short cut to their next convention they get caught in an earth quake which causes their truck to be swallowed by the road beneath them. When they wake up they find themselves in a world full of Dinasaurs.”



There’s Call Me Joker, the idea which was previously floated around as Jester, probably based around footage from Assassin’s Revenge, although this version has a completely new synopsis: 

“The dreadful nightmares of John Hardcastle when he was in Afganistan never go away, they just form into a living hell.  Now the retired soldier just drives his taxi through the night. He has lost everything, family, friends and loved ones. Nobody or nothing matters anymore…”

And there’s Mata Hari

“As World War One starts the German’s recruit the exotic dancer Mata Hari as a spy to help them win the war. When the Americans hear of the outbreak they hire the illusionist Houdini to help them.” 

This ‘stars’ Bai Ling, whose unrelated character in Conjuring: Book of the Dead was called that. And it just occurred to me: this could be where MAHA Films gets its name.

So there you are: that’s anything up to 15 ‘new’ Richard Driscoll/Chris Newman(/Jeff Sheldon?) productions in the pipeline. Interestingly, all mention of films in production/development at DRagon Studios has disappeared from that website at about the same time that this one has launched.

Will we ever see any of these ‘films’? There’s literally no way to tell, although I would say Once Upon a Time in Hollyweird and Call Me Joker are the front runners – those could turn up some day in some form under some title.

For now, let’s just enjoy a bumper crop of Driscoll-ian weirdness, be it unauthorised use of a still from Legend, or Sherlock Holmes solving an Agatha Christie mystery, or just an inability to spell ‘Denzel’. God bless you, Mr D. It’s good to see you’re still making films, and determined to stick at it until you eventually get it right.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing

d./w./p. Steve Lawson; cast: Mark Topping, Charlie Bond, Tom Hendryk, Joe Street, Helen Crevel

The latest feature from Lawson’s Leicester-based Creativ Studios (funded and distributed by High Fliers) is based on Dracula, or at least the part of Dracula after the Demeter arrives but before the Harkers return from Budapest. Reigning British horror princess Bond has a ball as the ailing Lucy who goes from simpering coquette to full-on monster. Topping is subtle and restrained in the title role, dealing with Lucy’s illness and the jealousy between fiancĂ©e Arthur and spurned John (there’s no Quincy). Neither V-word nor D-word is mentioned, and the Count is seen only briefly as a faceless figure. Steve says that he treated this sub-story as analogous to The Exorcist and it’s a refreshing take, although the film is distinctly short on action. The overly talkie second act drags somewhat but things perk up when Lucy starts flying to London to attack street whores (not part of the novel!), murders which The Times credits to Jack the Ripper. Creativ regular Crevel pops up at the end as Mina, teasing a possible sequel. Filmed in 2020 at Pipewell Hall, Northants and against a variety of effective digital backgrounds.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Broken Spirits

d. Steven Hines; w./p. Geoff Harrison; cast: Amy Littler, Ryan Leadbetter, Alec Walters, Graham Bridges, Steven Hines, Alex Labelle, Ashley Riley, Paul Wilkes, Paul Malone

Produced by staff and students at Cowley International College, St Helens (30 years after it served as a location for Chariots of Fire) this amateur feature does a surprisingly good job of maintaining its central mystery. A trouble-making student clashes with a strong-willed teacher but when things get out of hand, he swears he has actually backed off and blames the ghost of a former pupil. Unknown to all but a few colleagues, this teacher was involved in that boy’s accidental death. As her mental state deteriorates, she struggles to cope with the pressure. Camera-work and sound are nothing to write home about but the film does a good job of walking an ambiguous line between ghost story and psychological thriller until the final revelation. A subplot about a ghost-hunting TV show filming an episode on the premises is a red herring. Rugby international James Roby has a cameo. There was a single local screening in December 2011 and a DVD the following year.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

The Nights Before Christmas

d. Paul Tanter; w. Simon Phillips, Paul Tanter; p. Simon Phillips, Paul Tanter, Ken Bressers; cast: Simon Phillips, Sayla de Goede, Kate Schroeder, Marc Gammal, Keegan Chambers, Shannon Cotter

This sequel (with prequel flashbacks) to Once Upon a Time at Christmas functions as a stand-alone film. One reason why that enjoyable 2017 slasher stood out from the crowded psycho-in-a-Santa-suit subgenre is because it was structured as a police procedural, and the same trick works here. Schroeder is terrific as the FBI agent searching for a link between the new victims (which turn out to be not quite as fun – or obvious – as last time). At 104 minutes this is a tad too long and could probably have lost a few of the numerous times when Schroeder deduces “It’s an actual list.” Nevertheless, it’s good festive bloody fun with Phillips and de Goede hamming it up gleefully and plenty of production value on screen. Tanter pops up in the stand-out scene, a boardroom massacre. Originally announced as Twice Upon…, this was shot in Canada in January 2019 and premiered 10 months later in Toronto. A third outing for Santa and Mrs Claus, One Christmas Night in a Toy Store, is in development.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Saint Maud

d./w. Rose Glass; p. Oliver Kassman, Andrea Cornwell; cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer

A rare theatrical release during lockdown, Saint Maud consequently received a level of promotion – and hence hype – that it doesn’t really warrant and cannot possibly live up to. It’s a well-crafted psychological horror with powerful religious motifs and a superb lead performance by Clark. But it’s not the great white hope of British horror and certainly not the scariest film of the year. Maud/Katie is a home carer employed by an agency apparently unaware that she lost her nursing job after something appallingly bloody happened (glimpsed in a momentary flashback). A devout Catholic, Maud is sure God has a purpose for her, which might be saving the soul of her charge, a disabled, bisexual, wine-swigging ex-dancer. As her grip on reality dissipates – God literally speaks to her (in Welsh!) – our concern for Maud’s fragile mental health increases. But despite some wince-inducing moments of self-harm, there’s no real horror till the end when debut writer-director Glass suddenly throws in blood, violence and unnecessary VFX. A FilmFour/BFI production, Saint Maud feels very mainstream and restrained, lacking the punch of a true low-budget indie.

Thursday, 8 October 2020


d. Rory Kindersley; w. Rory Kindersley, Drew Sherring-Hill; p. Matthew Cook, Tony Cook, Drew Sherring-Hill; cast: Rachel Warren, Christine Marzano, Andrew Lee Potts, Jonathan Forbes, Elizabeth Healey

This stylish horror-thriller benefits from terrific photography by ace DP Douglas Milsome (Full Metal Jacket) and an extraordinary principal location. Alex is a successful actress living with her glamour photographer boyfriend (the always bankable Potts) in an ultra-stylish, split-level luxury apartment. It has a bathroom bigger than your living room and a slide between floors! But an AirBnB guest (who, oddly, they make no attempt to trace) has smeared fake blood everywhere. Eve is a well-produced, enjoyable flick with some seriously creepy ‘someone’s in the house’ moments, but … I would be lying if I said I knew what was going on. It’s something to do with duality (mirrors are a recurring theme) but is it a Fight Club thing? A Jekyll and Hyde thing? An evil twin? Even as the credits rolled I was none the wiser. Reading other reviews, some claim the basic plot is quite prosaic and straightforward, but they are misreading things. Which is understandable; the stylish nature of the film (and the casting of two very similar looking actresses) does somewhat obfuscate the story. I would probably have understood this if I’d read a synopsis – but that’s something I never do, on principal, for precisely this reason: a film must stand or fall on its own and require no pre-knowledge. Worth watching, but if you read other reviews than this beforehand, don't necessarily believe them.