Wednesday 23 January 2019

Point of Death

d./w. Steve Stone; p. Lionel Hicks, Alan Latham; cast: David O’Hara, Isabelle Allen, Lisa Gormley, Toyah Willcox, Neil Pearson, Bill Fellows

Stone follows the impressive but generic Entity and (frustratingly unreleased) psycho-thriller Schism with this relentlessly creepy nightmare. O’Hara is superb as Alex, a busy businessman who comes home to his wife and 12-year-old daughter in a state of high tension. A weird-looking storm is rolling in across the countryside, a rowan tree in the garden has died, and Alex is hearing his family say inexplicable things that they haven’t said. It’s fairly clear early on that nothing is real and the resolution was obvious and expected even before the original title, In Extremis, was changed to this clangingly unsubtle new one. Nevertheless a brilliant lead performance, Stone’s unerring direction and some great visual effects make for a thoroughly satisfying movie. Name-value actors Willcox and Pearson cameo as a patient and a doctor in the third act; Toyah also sings over the credits. Fellows is a homeless man near the start. Shot in 2015, this premiered (under its shooting title) at the East End Film Festival in June 2016.
  • Released on VOD platforms on 11th February.

Monday 21 January 2019

Crucible of the Vampire

d. Iain Ross-McNamee; w. Iain Ross-McNamee, Darren Lake, John Wolskel; p. Amanda Murray; cast: Katie Goldfinch, Neil Morrissey, Brian Croucher, Larry Rew, Babette Barat, Angela Carter, Lisa Martin, Phil Hemming, John Stirling

Enjoyable gothic potboiler of the sort they don’t make anymore, from the director and producer of The Singing Bird Will Come. Assistant curator Isabelle (Goldfinch, who is startlingly good) is despatched to a country house where building work has uncovered half a cauldron, apparently the missing 50% of one held in her university’s collection. In a monochrome 17th century prologue we saw this cleaved in two by witchfinder John Sterne. The resident family – dad, mum and adult daughter who couldn’t more obviously be a lesbian vampire if her name was an anagram of Carmilla – are all creepy, gradually transforming from eccentric into dangerous. With Morrissey as the expository gardener, 29 years after he bought a vampire motorcycle (also written by Wolskel!) and Croucher in the prologue as the cauldron’s original owner. Filmed in Shropshire in September 2016, this had a single screening in January 2017. In May 2018 Ross-McNamee edited frame-grabs into a photonovel.

Crucible of the Vampire hits cinemas on 1 February, and arrives on Dual Edition (Blu-ray & DVD) and Digital on 4 February.

Saturday 12 January 2019

The Haunting of Borley Rectory

d. Steven M Smith; w. Steven M Smith, Christopher Jolley; p. Steven M Smith, Jon-Paul Gates; cast: Zach Clifford, Rad Brown, Sonera Angel, Garry Roost, Kit Pascoe, Jon-Paul Gates, Matthew Fitzthomas Rogers, Georgi Taylor Wills, Anastasia Cane

The late 2010s has brought us micro-genres dedicated to the ‘most haunted house in England’ and supernatural nuns. This latest title from Smith ticks both boxes and underlines his own steady improvement. Where The Howling had some fine moments, this genuinely spooky ghost tale is his first consistently good feature, easily eclipsing both North Bank Entertainment’s A Haunting at the Rectory and Proportion Productions’ The Bad Nun. Clifford (an Aussie) is excellent as an injured GI in 1944, assigned to monitor radio traffic from a country cottage. He has disturbing dreams and visions which he believes are connected with a nearby derelict rectory so calls in Borley expert Harry Price (Brown, director of unreleased 2016 horror feature Last Weekend). Excellent period detail – including some corking 1940s hairstyles – is enhanced by Peter Panoa’s terrific photography (but briefly let down by an anachronistically unshaven British officer). Shot in Devon and Essex in 2018.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Finders Keepers

d. Adam Evans; w. Neil Morris, Gary Smart; p. Neil Morris, Gary Smart, Christopher Griffiths, Adam Evans, Stuart Conran; cast: Mark Wingett, Stanley Rawlings, Bruce Jones, Oliver Smith, Kenneth Cranham, Simon Bamford, Neil Cole, Corin Silva, Ethan McKinley

The third entry in the Dark Ditties series is the blackest of black comedies, a 45-minute gory crime thriller which feels like someone cast the Chuckle Brothers in a remake of The Long Good Friday. Two gangsters are searching for a minor accomplice who jumped out of a car with a valuable briefcase chained to his wrist. Two bickering brothers doing a spot of poaching find the briefcase and body and set about seeing what they’ve got… This is a cracking film for sure, but what makes this series so successful? It’s partly the beautifully crafted scripts and adroit direction which introduce us to fascinating, distinctive characters and their thoroughly believable relationships. It’s partly the care that is taken over all the technical aspects: the photography, sound, editing as well as production design, costumes, make-up and of course the prosthetic effects. But mostly it’s the use of solid, professional, experienced casts who imbue these characters with life. On Amazon Prime later this month, DD3: Finders Keepers is unreservedly recommended. DD4: The Witching Hour is on the way.