Monday 30 April 2018

Fear2000 Powerpoint and handout

A few weeks ago I delivered a presentation at the Fear2000 academic horror conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

My paper, 'Horror Beyond Measure: The Exponential Rise of British Horror Cinema', was a statistical analysis of UK horror cinema production and release since January 2000. I can't deny: I was very pleased with how well it was received, especially as everyone there were clever academics and I'm just a marketing dweeb/ex-journalist.

I have recorded an audio version of the Powerpoint, which is now available to download from Scribd, along with a PDF of the handout I produced.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Dark Matter

d./w./p. Mol Smith; cast: Dominic O’Flynn, Gina Purcell, Jamie-Jodie Shanks, Sharon Lawrence, Mel Mills

This creepy, trippy sci-fi horror was the promising directorial debut of the writer-producer behind Tainted Love. Scientist James, taking time out to recover from losing his wife in a car crash, finds a meteorite in his garden and receives strange downloads on his PC. Using these – and a bathtub of hot water – he somehow creates a mysterious young woman who must be taught from scratch like an infant but learns very quickly. His friend and former colleague Valerie has some secrets of her own, including a teenage abortion. A blue guy later appears from the same bathtub while James experiences horrifying visions of his wife’s death and frequent ‘timeslips’ to other realities, including one where he and Valerie are married with kids. There are CGI spaceships in orbit because ‘dark matter’ has destroyed their home galaxy, or something. Frankly, if you can figure out the mind-scrambling third act you’re doing better than me. Smith acknowledged his debt to A for Andromeda, which is more than the makers of Species ever did.

Friday 20 April 2018

Ghost Stories

d./w. Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman; p. Claire Jones, Robin Gutch; cast: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Ghost Stories was a popular success based on a name cast, the reputation of Dyson and Nyman’s West End play, and a massive marketing budget. When finally watched however, it’s an embarrassing disappointment: a swirling morass of clich├ęs and jump scares belaboured with a staggeringly terrible score and topped by the most underwhelming, unimaginative ‘twist’ since The Others. Touted as an Amicus-style anthology, it’s nothing of the sort. Nyman (co-writer of much of Derren Brown’s work) plays Goodman, a professional sceptic challenged to solve three ‘unexplainable’ cases (by a heavily made up actor we’re not supposed to recognise). He interviews three people and we see their stories as flashback vignettes, but since there’s no material evidence to any of them there’s nothing unexplainable. The last act goes off on a tangent about Goodman’s own childhood traumas before ‘explaining’ everything (or rather, showing nothing needs explaining) with a revelation that is at least 98 years old. Shot in Yorkshire, it premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2017. Sigh.

Sunday 8 April 2018

The Ferryman

d./w./p. Elliott Maguire cast: Nicola Holt, Garth Maunders, Pamela Ashton, Shobi Rae Mclean, Frank Mathews, Azz Mohammed, Philip Scott-Shurety

Bleak and miserabilist (in a good way), The Ferryman is the sort of dour, oppressive horror that the UK does so much better than anywhere else. After her mother’s death, Mara attempts suicide and subsequently finds herself living with the father she never knew whom she initially hates (and who confusingly only looks about ten years older than her). Two further bizarre deaths – one off-screen, one very gory one on-screen – shatter Mara’s already fragile mental state, a situation compounded by necessary police questioning. She’s being stalked (or thinks she is, at any rate) by a personification of the Greek ferryman Charon, although it’s not really clear why. Well-directed and acted, the photography and lighting give no clue that this was shot on an iPhone although the sound suffers occasionally. Maguire boosted his on-screen production values by blagging access to a TV studio in Manchester via his day-job as a security guard on the Coronation Street set. Not to be confused with the identically titled 2007 Anglo-Kiwi sea-bound soul-swap psycho shocker.