Thursday 30 July 2020

Beware the Eye of Amun-Ra

d./p. Chris Starmer; w. Simon Hopkins, Chris Starmer; cast: Simon Hopkins, Neil Brooke, Joanne Archer, Angus Brooks, Chris Chaplin, David Chappell, Natalie Chisholm, Rich Llewellyn, David Mander, Derek McQuiston, Roger Simons, Chris Starmer

British animated features are scarce, British mummy films even rarer, so props are due to this unique action-horror-comedy about two MI6 agents and a nightclub singer who face a reanimated Pharaoh while searching Cairo for a stolen diamond. Starting life as a 1988 audio drama entitled The Curse of Seven Swedish Maids, this took seven years to produce using gaming software called Muvizu. Almost-one-man-band Starmer had some stop-motion experience but was a CG novice so this is a tremendously impressive piece of work. In all honesty, no-one is going to confuse it with Pixar: characters are stiff, polygonal and inexpressive, although the backgrounds are beautifully rich and detailed. A cast of local amdram players do a good job and there are some nice gags in dialogue and on screen. With some surprisingly gory deaths and some random vampires near the end! There was a single local screening in Northampton and an October 2018 VOD release but otherwise this has gone largely unnoticed.

Friday 10 July 2020

Concrete Castles

d. Benedict Bevan, Alex Boundy, Peter Fellows, Kate Moreton; w. Peter Fellows; p. Alex Boundy, Peter Fellows, Kate Moreton; cast: Cati Vacher, Peter Fellows, Benjamin Christmas, Katherine Loudoun, Emma Knowles, Rachel Wiltshire, Joe Cole, Liberty Buckland, Alan Long, Lynn Binks, Adam Hicks, Jake Holdsworth

Inventive and original, clever and confident, this amateur zombie feature shot by teenagers for £80 deserved a much better fate than a momentary online release. The prologue and three acts follow the simultaneous stories of four characters who interact, with some scenes repeated from different points of view. The main narrative is in black and white but most of the film is lengthy colour flashbacks. Weighty themes – drugs, prostitution, rape, miscarriage and an inappropriate teacher-pupil relationship – are mixed with lighter elements, including scenes told through comic-book panels and a brief West Side Story pastiche. Despite this, and the variable acting, and the 128-minute run-time (six of them credits), this works – and works brilliantly. Filmed in August/September 2010 in Bracknell, Berkshire (an unprepossessing new town of square subways and rectangular shopping centres) it had a local screening in April 2011. Fellows later referenced this in scripts he wrote for Veep!

Sunday 5 July 2020

Zombie Genocide

d. Andrew Harrison, Darryl Sloan, Kris Carville; w. Darryl Sloan; p. Andrew Harrison; cast: Andrew Harrison, Darryl Sloan, Jason Morrison, Paul Barton

An incredibly early zombie feature (65 minutes) from Midnight Pictures, the Northern Irish duo who later gave us vampire action picture Dark Light. Four lads return from a week’s camping to find their town deserted. Gradually they realise that the few people they see stumbling around are dangerously aggressive. This is played completely straight (apart from one lovely gag referencing a Day of the Dead poster) and is very much in a Romero vein. Emphasis is on conflict and co-operation between the quartet, and effects, while bloody, are not over-the-top. Much of the film takes place in one suburban house and the later scenes make excellent use of an empty college campus. Bleak and pessimistic, right up to its blackly ironic ending, this is a solid watch. Far too many modern zombie flicks can’t reach this level of artistic and technical competence. Shot on VHS in Portadown between 1991 and 1993, at a time when carrying a replica gun around Northern Ireland could get you killed! Originally self-distributed on VHS, this was released via BitTorrent in 2006 and finally posted onto YouTube on Halloween 2019.