Saturday 31 December 2016

Andrew Tiernan's 'UK18' - horror?

Andrew Tiernan is well-known as an actor  (The Bunker, Snuff-Movie, Quatermass Experiment remake) but also dabbles in directing. His first feature, Dragonfly, is on my masterlist of 21st Century British Horror. It's a police procedural thriller which sounds somewhat borderline but this review mentions "As DS Blake becomes more involved with the Corrine Grosvenor case, his life descends into a world of conspiracy and human sacrifice via a website named ‘Dragonfly’." Human sacrifice sounds like horror so ut's on the list until I either watch it or get more information.

Tiernan's second feature, UK18, was released on Vimeo on Demand on 23rd December. The IMDB lists it as 'horror' but on the film's Facebook page the genre is cited as "Independent Arthouse Thriller Drama Documentary" - which covers almost every cinematic genre except horror (and musical).

The synopsis reads: "2018: neo-fascism has taken over. The Government implements a program to chip the population of the UK. Eloise (Shona McWilliams) a documentary film-maker suspects she is being brainwashed by a secret Government organisation."

To me that doesn't sound like a horror film so it's not going on the masterlist just yet. Hence the 2016 list is staying at 78 films for now. Well, actually 79 - I've found another one since I posted Part 1 this morning.

However, if UK18 turns out to have horror content, or gets covered by horror film media, I might yet add it to the masterlist.

All the British horror films released in 2016, Part 1: January-June

To the best of my knowledge, 78 British horror films were released in 2016. Since there are usually about five to ten films whose releases only become apparent later, we’re really talking of 83-88(-ish) films. This is about average for recent years, although it’s slightly down on 2015 when I listed 83 movies in my year-end round-up, subsequently expanded to 89 on my master list.

January kicked off with a DVD release of The Blood Harvest, the fifth feature from Northern Ireland director George Clarke. Though not without its problems, notably a disconnect between the main serial killer story and the sci-fi resolution, this was a distinct improvement on most of his earlier films. There was also a DVD of The Carrier, directed by Anthony Woodley (Outpost 11). Escaping a deadly plague on an airliner bound for Greenland, a group of survivors find the contagion is aboard with them.

Fergus March’s The Trap ran for three nights at a cinema in Islington, which is about the minimum that can be considered a theatrical release by my house rules. It’s a comedy horror in which two groups – “professional cat burglars” and “young, misfit jobseekers on a team building exercise” – negotiate deadly traps set by an overzealous security guard. It has since played some festivals but there’s no home release as yet. There was a US disc of Dan Brownlie’s Serial Kaller about a group of models trapped inside a recording studio, hunted down by a mentally unstable fan. The all-star cast includes Dani Thompson (also co-writer), Suzi Lorraine, Debbie Rochon and Stuart Brennan. Also, two films popped up unexpectedly on YouTube this month: Justin Carter’s Devon-set found-footager TORN: A Shock YOUmentary and Andy Dodd’s impressive study in psychopathy The Apostate: Call of the Revenant (featuring Terry Dwyer from Loose Women as a cop).

February saw a limited theatrical release, courtesy of Film Volt, for Steve Lawson’s cracking cat-and-mouse horror-thriller Rites of Passage, retitled as Survival Instinct. When it arrived on DVD in June the title had changed again to the meaningless Footsoldier. Another East Midlands film-maker, Anthony M Winson, saw his latest ghost story House of Afflictions (filmed as Ominous) released on US disc. There were British DVDs of Evil Souls, a fine Anglo-Italian shocker from the del Piccolo brothers who previously brought us The Hounds, and Cryptic, a gangsters/vampires mash-up from the team who gave us the awful World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen. The strong cast included Robert Glenister, Ray Panthaki and Vas Blackwood.

At the microbudget end of the scale, there was The Sheltered, a curious 2013-shot feature about werewolves running a homeless hostel, and Devil Dog Shuck Returns, the latest crazy epic from Paul TT Easter. Both of those were on YouTube. And there were VOD releases for two significant films: Ruth Platt’s acclaimed The Lesson, with two schoolkids pushing a teacher too far, and Hangman, the first British film since 2007 for Adam Mason (The Devil’s Chair).

March was a busy month for British horror fans, not least because the complete works of the late Michael J Murphy were released to YouTube, including two features never seen before. ZK3 and Nekros are strictly for Murphy fans, of which there are a surprising amount. I don’t think there’s actually more than about 15-20 of them, truth be told, but you know, even that many is surprising. But not as surprising as the American DVD release, after a mere eight years on the shelf, of Harold Gasnier’s 2008 feature The Demon Within (as 666: A Demon Within). Up to now I think I was the only person who had ever seen this. Who knows, perhaps I still am.

Johannes Roberts’ Indian-set Monkey’s Paw-style chiller The Other Side of the Door played cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic in March, with a US disc following in June. There was also a limited theatrical release for David Farr’s creepy The Ones Below, about new parents and their downstairs neighbours. Tom Paton’s ambitious scifi-horror Pandorica didn’t actually play cinemas until April but is listed here because of a March VOD release. There were also VOD releases for Eugene McGing’s paranormal investigation found-footager The Unfolding (via Frightfest) and Matt Cruse’s “psychosexual chiller about one woman's descent into hell” The Watcher Self.

A priest, a Vatican investigator and a possessed housewife could be the set up for joke but is actually the principal cast of The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund, the March disc of which was the first of two releases this year from Andrew Jones North Bank Entertainment. Another prolific name in modern British horror, Sir Jason d’Impey, saw a US DVD release for his amazingly powerful and transgressive three-hander Fluid Boy. There was also a US disc of Michael Anderson’s The Hatching, a creature feature about a ravenous crocodile prowling the Somerset Levels. Potential croc-food includes Andrew-Lee Potts, Thomas Turgoose and (please let it be him) ‘comedian’ Justin Lee Collins. German and Japanese releases followed but nothing in the UK yet.

Another British film that was without honour in its own country was Steve (Outpost) Barker’s  ‘Jurassic Park but it’s zombies’ romp The Rezort aka Generation Z. This played Spanish cinemas in April with a Spanish disc in July but won’t hit UK shelves until January 2017. There were more zombies in Immune, directed in Coventry by Steven Taylor and released on VOD. Blink and you’ll miss brief appearances by Yours Truly and The Boy. Equally post-apocalyptic – but zombieless – was AD Barker’s A Reckoning aka Straw Man which finally emerged onto YouTube. Fans of Neil Marshall movies will be interested in this long-awaited indie, shot back in 2009, as it stars Leslie Simpson and Axelle Carolyn.

There was a theatrical release (and much acclaim) for Gareth Bryn’s The Passing aka Yr Ymadawiad, the first British horror feature shot entirely in Welsh. Rising star Holly Jacobson (currently in post on her own short film Harry and Grace) was frighteningly intense as creepy twins in Mumtaz Yildirimlar’s My Guardian Angel, out on US disc this month. There was also a disturbing child central to (and staring from the poster of) Rebekah Fortune’s Deadly Intent. Finally for April, Michael Munn of Martello Films makes the first of an impressive three entries on this list with his self-released debut feature Once Upon a Haunting.

May brought us Benedict Mart’s feature about a woman luring a man to his doom on a little island. Originally entitled Siren (when I wrote an early treatment) this was shot as Siren Song to avoid confusion with Andrew Hull’s 2011 BHR film but was released on US DVD as Blood Lust (which could have caused confusion with Richard Johnstone’s 2015 BHR film Bloodlust if that hadn’t been retitled Vampires – try and keep up). In Germany it was called #Cannibal Island (yes, with a hashtag). C Thomas Howell was the token Yank providing name value.

Neil Marshall lent his name value as executive producer to haunted radio station saga Dark Signal, the long-awaited second feature from Infestation director Ed Evers-Swindell (who provided all the Crawler voices in The Descent). Hour-long YouTube video The Search Ends was, I guess not unexpectedly, the sequel to a half-hour short called The Search Goes On. Directed by Daniel Franks, it’s something to do with a missing boy and an evil spirit. Not sure if there’s a first film called The Search Kicks Off. And there was a VOD release for Preternatural, a recursive tale of film-makers getting spooked, directed by Gav Chuckie Steel (The Shadow of Death).

Three UK DVDs of UK films released this month were: Oliver Frampton’s The Forgotten (spooky goings-on on a semi-derelict council estate); Mark Evans’ Transylvania-set found footager The Devil Complex aka The Devil Within; and Steve Gomez’s scifi/action/horror mash-up Kill Command.

June was a bit quieter with only two British horror films released. There was a US disc of Vampires: Lucas Rising, the second feature-length re-edit from Jason Davitt’s LGBT shirtless serial Vampires: Brighter in Darkness. And a VOD release for Alex Lightman’s bleak story of post-apocalyptic sibling rivalry, Tear Me Apart.

Stay tuned for July-December, posting tomorrow along with an alphabetical checklist.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

My top ten British horror films of 2016

In January I will do my annual round-up of British horror releases, once again totalling more than 70 films. For now, here are the ten (well, eleven) best that I’ve seen among this year’s releases, listed in chronological order.


dir. Steve Lawson
Gripping horror-thriller about an enraged hunter chasing a young woman through a forest after a tragic accident. Shot as Rites of Passage. Theatrical release (as Survival Instinct) in February. UK DVD with third title in June.
  • My review: “Helen Crevel is simply awesome in the lead role, capturing the confusion, realisation, horror, hope and determination of an ordinary person suddenly facing an extraordinary, potentially lethal situation.”

The Other Side of the Door

dir. Johannes Roberts
Spooky ghost story set and shot in India, with echoes of The Monkey’s Paw. British theatrical release in March, US disc in June. Watch out for Jo Roberts’ shark film 47 Metres Down in 2017.
  • My review: “Without going into detail, things get worse and worse, deadlier and deadlier. Jo does a great job of twisting the knife, showing his years of horror film-making experience.”

Fluid Boy

dir. Jason Impey and Wade Radford
Disturbing, transgressive three-hander in which an actress auditioning for a zombie film is abused by her potential co-star while the director does nothing. Echoes of Fight Club, maybe? DVD in March.
  • My review: “Even by Jason Impey’s standards, Fluid Boy is a nasty piece of work: a brutal, unpleasant, unbelievably misogynist film which is as simple and stark as it is violent and revolting. … It bolsters Impey’s position as an important name in the British Horror Revival.”

Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown and Hollower

dir. MJ Dixon
Two prequels to Slasher House, both released on DVD in August. Cleaver is a stylish Halloween homage, Hollower is a disturbingly creepy police procedural.
  • My review: “What appears at first to be a straightforward coulrophobic slasher turns out to have layers that are revealed in the third act. Not everyone is who we assume they are, or doing what we assume they’re doing. Plus of course there’s plenty of blood, decapitation and screaming.”
  • My other review: “Stylish, spooky, slick and seriously disturbing in its finale, Hollower is an accomplished piece of film-making that shifts the Mycho team of MJ Dixon and Anna McCarthy up a gear.”

Video Killer

dir. Richard Mansfield
A woman receives mysterious VHS tapes showing crudely animated, disturbing cartoons and brief glimpses of real violence. US disc released in September.
  • My review: “The result is genuinely creepy, a fascinatingly unnerving tale of justified paranoia (helped by an absolutely cracking central performance, full of credibly wide-eyed terror).”

The Girl with All the Gifts

dir. Colm McCarthy
Superlative zombie film with intriguing, original premise and great cast headed by Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close. Played UK cinemas in September.
  • No review from me. It’s running at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Under the Shadow

Dir. Babak Anvari
Awesome supernatural horror film set in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War. A woman struggles to protect her daughter from a djinn as Iraqi missiles rain down. Won three BIFAs and could seriously get an Oscar nom. In UK cinemas in September, US theatres in October.
  • I didn’t review this one, but 98% on Rotten Tomatoes says it all.

Plan Z

dir. Stuart Brennan
Impressively bleak zombie feature centred on a man who has planned ahead for just such an eventuality. American DVD in October and a UK theatrical release in November.
  • My review: “As dour and unforgiving as a Scotsman’s postcard: everything is terrible, life is empty and hopeless, almost everything we know has gone, the rest of our days will be a struggle for existence, if we’re lucky it may be short, weather fine, how are you?”

My Bloody Banjo

dir. Liam Regan
Hilarious, Troma-esque feature about a man whose invisible childhood friend returns to wreak chaos. Originally titled Banjo. Released on VOD in October, US DVD in November.
  • My review: “Banjo is a tasteless, outrageous hoot from start to finish. It’s great that someone in the UK is carrying the Tromatic torch so proudly.”

Zombie Women of Satan 2

dir. Warren Speed and Chris Greenwood
Insane sequel to notoriously insane film chronicling the further adventures of Pervo the Clown. Released on UK DVD in October. Next year’s US disc will be retitled Female Zombie Riot.
  • My review: “Just like its predecessor, Zombie Women of Satan 2 is a sort of three-way bastard stepchild of Rocky Horror, Dawn of the Dead and Viz comic. It takes no prisoners, doesn’t give a wet slap what people think, and has no truck with concepts such as good taste or restraint.”
This is a personal selection. Agree? Disagree? What was your favourite British horror film this year? Leave a comment below.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Press release: Templeheart Films partner with The London Bridge Experience to bring The Tombs to life

UK production company Templeheart Films head into principal photography on The Tombs: Rise of the Damned, a horror movie set in The London Tombs, The London Bridge Experience’s year round horror themed tourist attraction.

Officially classed as the UK’s scariest tourist attraction, The London Tombs at the London Bridge Experience, is about to get scarier as Templeheart Films begin principal photography this week on a movie designed to bring the attraction to life.

A publicity stunt, promoting the sequel to the cult box office hit 'The Tombs', turns horribly wrong as an evil spirit trails the "celebrity" guests through the claustrophobic halls of the famous maze of terror.

Written by Michael W Smith and directed by Dan Brownlie, The Tombs: Rise of the Damned, is set entirely in the London attraction and stars Jessica Ann Brownlie (Valley of the Witch), Jess Impiazzi (The Only Way Is Essex), Marcia do Vales (Ibiza Undead), Akie Kotabe (Humans), Anthony Ilott (Wrong Turn 6), Ayvianna Snow (Heretiks) and Devora Wilde (Rush).

“Horror fans are some of independent film’s most loyal audiences, so to partner with The London Bridge Experience makes for a perfect brand partnership”, says producer Rachel Gold.  “With the success of attractions like Secret Cinema, the growth of interactive theatre shows and the explosion of VR, its obvious that audiences are crying out for new immersive experiences. So it seemed obvious to create a movie where the actual film location is open to the public to experience for themselves what our film’s characters are going through.”

Director Dan Brownlie said "As a director, I feel incredibly privileged to be filming inside the London Tombs considering this is the first time that the attraction has ever allowed third party photography of any kind to take place in this sought after location despite numerous requests including high profile production and television companies.  This is an opportunity not to be missed and I feel honoured to be trusted with the secrets of this highly protected location.  I cannot thank team at The London Bridge Experience enough."

Producers, Templeheart Films, are one of the UK’s most prolific production companies having produced 30 features including The Seasoning House, The London Firm, Ibiza Undead and most recently Heretiks.  Templeheart’s first US production, the supernatural horror movie Quail Hollow, goes into production in early 2017.

The London Bridge Experience is a tourist attraction in Southwark, London, England, on the south bank of the River Thames where actors lead guests on a tour through the 'dark' moments of London's history.  The Experience’s sister attraction, the multi-award winning The London Tombs, is a scare attraction built in the remains of a former plague pit.