Saturday 26 May 2018

The Howling

d./w. Steven M Smith; p. Steven M Smith, Paul G Andrews; cast: Maria Austin, Jon-Paul Gates, Tiffany-Ellen Robinson, Hans Hernke, Tony Fadil, Eirik Knutsvik, Elizabeth Saint, Jeremy Hill

Though it still has faults (not least the ridiculous, distributor-mandated title), this Universal homage is easily Smith’s best feature to date with moments that are genuinely impressive. Three friends searching for legendary mad scientist Rathbone and his rumoured coterie of monsters find what they’re looking for and soon regret it. Though promoted as a Frankenstein/werewolf mash-up this owes more to Dr Moreau. Its biggest strength is Alex Harrison’s corking monochrome photography (with occasional well-judged colour moments), evoking the post-Universal, pre-Hammer Euro-style of Freda or Franju. A superb sequence of Rathbone re-animating his disfigured wife then dancing with an idealised fantasy version of her leads into a brief but beautiful Bava-esque nightmare as an accidental witness (Robinson, who is just fantastic) runs past caged experiments. On the downside, the script is full of narrative gaps and unexplained motivations, and Gates’ accent provokes unintended giggles, wobbling between Bela Lugosi and Colonel Klink. End theme by Dr and the Medics, with a cameo by lead singer Clive Jackson.

Friday 25 May 2018

Home Videos

d./w./p. various; cast: Jason Impey, Jessica Hunt, Martynna Madej, Martin W Payne, Donna Hamblin, Luc Bernier, Kieran Johnston, Daiane Azura, Dean Allem, Clare Crumpton, Simon London, Suzy Weatherall, Adam Jones

This found footage flatpack anthology from Trash Arts is distinguished by Jason Impey’s contribution ‘Case 019684’ which takes up most of the first half-hour. Stock footage of Impey as his ‘Jack Hess’ snuff film-maker character is combined with clips from his parents’ home movies, documenting Jason/Jack’s life from baby to boy to accomplished and busy indie horror film-maker/psychopath. The result is an extraordinary quasi-auto-biopic, structurally somewhere between Boyhood and The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, which deserves to be extended to feature length. The remaining 60 minutes is the usual mishmash, the highlights being Sam Mason Bell’s ‘Scratchy Eyes’ (which uniquely manages to misspell its own title!), an effective silent, fake super-8 film of an 8th birthday with a creepy supernatural clown lurking at the back of shot; Stephen Longhurst’s ‘The Watcher’, a short, rural take on The Last Horror Movie; and Adam Jones’ vampire sketch ’The Interview’. Other contributions either drag on far too long or are barely there at all.

Monday 7 May 2018

The Shadow of Bigfoot

d./w./p. Philip Mearns; cast: Ben Shockley, Joe Simmonds, Keith Eyles, Hugo Myatt, John Rackham, James Payton, Kirsty Cox, Maria Thomas, Lindsay Groves

True to the title, this micro-budget chiller sensibly restricts the eponymous cryptid to ominous shadows and the occasional glimpse of fur. Two believers and one sceptic head into the forests of North Carolina where the most obsessive of the trio shoots a sasquatch, determined to claim its carcass as proof, after which the humans are prey to a tribe of vengeful hominids. Although the forest exteriors could be anywhere, the opening scenes in an ‘American’ university are so obviously UK-set as to be borderline surreal. A brief glimpse of a US police car is the only clue (apart from some distinctly variable accents!) that we’re supposed to be in the States. The film’s strength lies in the performances as personal bonds break down in the face of imminent brutal death. Ostensibly intended as ‘tongue in cheek’ – which doesn’t really come across – you’ll either enjoy this as a solid cryptozoology adventure or mock its cheapness, although there are many far, far worse bigfoot movies than this. Shot in Kent in 2012. You can watch it for free on YouTube.