Friday, 28 October 2016

10 hilarious British horror comedies you can watch instead of Shaun of the Dead

Don’t get me wrong. Shaun of the Dead is one of the best horror films ever made and one of the best comedies too. But if you’re looking for entertaining horror this Halloween weekend that you haven’t already watched 20 times, here’s some other bloody British rib-ticklers you could try.

Evil Aliens (Jake West, 2006)

A cheesy paranormal investigation TV show travels to a remote Welsh island after reports of extraterrestrial abductions – and finds they’re all true. The TV crew and three inbred brothers fight back against the hostile ETs using everything available, including (in the film’s most famous scene) a combine harvester. This uproarious ‘splatstick’ comedy is reminiscent of early Peter Jackson. With Emily Booth as the TV show’s host and Red Dwarf’s Norman Lovett as her producer. A realistic dead cow effect on set fooled a Government farm inspector and nearly got the location closed down! [Detailed review.]

The Cottage (Paul Andrew Williams, 2008)

This unjustifiably obscure black comedy starts out as a crime caper then turns into a backwoods horror. Reece Shearsmith and Andy Serkis are perfectly cast as bickering brothers who kidnap the foul-mouthed daughter of a strip club owner but are unprepared for how much trouble their victim can cause. When she escapes, dragging a panicking, handcuffed Shearsmith behind her, a nearby farm turns out to be the home of a hulking psychopath. The first half is stronger than the second but the whole film is howlingly funny. With Doug Bradley as a local villager displaying a fine Mummerset accent.

Strigoi: The Undead (Faye Jackson, 2010)

In this hugely entertaining, unjustifiably obscure dark comedy, failed Romanian medical student Vlad returns from Italy to his home village where something strange is happening that everyone is covering up. He suspects people are being murdered to steal their land but actually there are vampires – strigoi – abroad. Vlad’s rational refusal to believe in the supernatural contrasts with the villagers’ casual acceptance of strigoi and how to deal with them. Jackson’s observation of post-Ceausescu Romania, in both her drily witty script and her adept direction of straight-faced character actors, is as spot-on as it is hilarious.

Kill Keith (Andy Thompson, 2011)

A horror comedy about a serial killer targeting D-List celebrities? It sounds like a TV sketch but incredibly this is a real film which played cinemas. It’s also, against all expectations, hugely enjoyable and very funny. When an arrogant breakfast television host announces his retirement, a shortlist of possible replacements gets shorter as the ‘Breakfast Cereal Killer’ brutally murders the candidates. A romcom B-plot has a shy studio runner pining for the demure co-host and a vampiric quizmaster despairing of instructions to constantly dumb down his questions. Keith Chegwin, Joe Pasquale and Russell Grant all gamely lampoon themselves while Tony Blackburn plays his own lookalike. [Detailed review.]

Inbred (Alex Chandon, 2012)

Two social workers and four young offenders venture into the countryside for some character-building work and fun. After an evening in the local pub for local people, an accident the next day turns the villagers against the townies who find themselves forced to be part of a horrific ‘entertainment’. Crisp story-telling, glorious production design, hilariously straight-faced performances and unstinting gore combine to create a hugely enjoyable film. With American Horror Story’s Mat Fraser hammering some nails in, Emmerdale’s Dominic Brunt as a psycho butcher, and Emily Booth in a fun prologue. [Detailed review.]

Tuck Bushman and the Legend of Piddledown Dale (Chris Lumb, 2012)

Tuck Bushman, a hard-drinking, sexist, bad-tempered, Australian TV-naturalist-turned-monster-hunter has one last chance to sort his life out when the little Yorkshire town of Piddledown Dale advertises for help ridding the locality of a conveniently unspecified monster. With its parochial setting, over-the-top characterisations, and a small group of actors switching wigs, costumes and grimaces to play a wide range of eccentrics and grotesques, this deliriously daft monster comedy comes across as a cross between a Christmas panto and a sort of low-rent League of Gentlemen[Detailed review.]

Helsing: A Monster of a Documentary (Jamie McKeller, 2013)

This very funny monster-hunting splatter-mockumentary, edited from web serial I am Tim, features a descendant of the original Van Helsing. Working by day as a claims adjuster, Tim Helsing spends his evenings battling vampires, ghouls, goblins and monsters, assisted by his hirsute sidekick Poncho (who works 27 nights every month…). We also meet Tim’s long-suffering girlfriend, his nemesis the rakishly handsome Hannibal King, and a succession of not-long-for-this-world production assistants. Video game influenced graphics add to the fun and there is an on-screen ‘Documentary death count’.

Stalled (Christian James, 2013)

It’s Christmas Eve and the office staff are partying but building engineer WC is still at work, fixing something in the ladies toilet. When the zombie apocalypse hits, he’s stuck in a cubicle with a steadily increasing number of living dead between him and the door, many in festive fancy dress. This inventive and genuinely hilarious zom-com constantly heaps new ideas onto its simple premise, with WC making a Wile E Coyote-style series of attempts to retrieve his toolbox (and the stolen money therein). Cleverly constructed and adroitly directed: if you don’t watch it this weekend, save it for Christmas. [Detailed review.]

SOS: Save our Skins (Kent Sobey, 2014)

Two hapless British guys in New York for a sci-fi convention wake to find the entire world deserted. As they explore, they encounter a handful of other survivors: an old man with a dark secret, a crazy woman in a straitjacket, two conspiracy theorists and a paranoid survivalist. They also have to deal with a blue, troll-like monster on their tail. The story stumbles slightly in the final act as they encounter an alien who explains what is going on but this is very, very funny – and packed with fan-pleasing nerd references.

My Blood Banjo (Liam Regan, 2015)

Peltzer Arbuckle is saddled with an inferiority complex, a crap job in the accounts department of a paper manufacturing company and a cute ex-girlfriend who is now dating a swaggering American arsehole. The last thing he needs is his childhood imaginary friend Ronnie to reappear suddenly and wreak havoc in his life, causing mayhem and dismemberment that all gets blamed on Peltzer. A tasteless, outrageous hoot from start to finish, this uproarious comedy is a love letter to Troma films. With The Human Centipede’s Laurence R Harvey as a bullied co-worker and fan fave Dani Thompson as Peltzer’s mean girlfriend. [Detailed review.]

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Films that slipped out when no-one was looking: A Reckoning

I recently sat through some rubbish called SAS Black Ops (aka Slaughter is the Best Medicine) and recognised the name of one of the actors, AD Barker. A quick trip to IMDB confirmed I knew that name because he wrote and directed a British horror movie variously known as Straw Man or A Reckoning.

Shot back in early 2009, A Reckoning has been on my list of MIA British horror films for a long time. A few people saw it back in 2011, presumably from screeners, but some sort of dispute kept the film from distribution. So imagine my surprise to discover that A Reckoning slipped onto YouTube back in April, courtesy of Adam Krajczynski who was DP, editor and one of four producers.

Here’s AD Barker’s synopsis of his film from IMDB: “A lone man, trapped and imprisoned in a barren, desolate landscape. His only companions are a village of straw people with which he converses with as neighbours and friends; he even teaches straw children at the local school. Yet, this anchor, this way of habitual living, is about to become unravelled in frightening and disturbing ways.”

What makes A Reckoning particularly interesting is the cast. The lead role is played by Leslie Simpson, known for his roles in Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday and Beyond the Rave. And the woman he meets is played by Axelle Carolyn, known for roles in Blood + Roses, Centurion and Psychosis, and more recently director of Soulmate and Tales of Halloween. These two BHR names previously worked together in Tristan Versluis’ short I Love You.

I don’t know how or why A Reckoning has finally turned up – and I haven’t watched it myself yet – but it’s good to tick it off the MIA list after seven years in Limbo.