Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Why 47 Meters Down could be the biggest British horror film ever

Obviously it’s not being marketed as a horror film. Or indeed as British. But that’s no reason for us not to celebrate a genuine homegrown success that has the potential to be a huge commercial hit.

Twelve months ago I reviewed Johannes Roberts’ shark thriller 47 Meters Down which I had the good fortune to see at an industry preview. I’ve been following Jo’s career since Sanitarium and, after he upped his game with F, I’ve been seriously impressed by his output. It’s great to see somebody go from shooting micro-budget DTV silliness like Darkhunters and Hellbreeder to name-cast, well-budgeted, well-promoted theatrical releases. And 47 Meters Down will be the biggest yet.

Seventeen years ago, the sole ‘big screen’ outing for Diagnosis (the original, longer cut of Sanitarium, without Uri Geller) was a VHS tape and a projection TV in a Manchester hotel suite. Jo’s latest will open on 16 June across 3,000 US cinema screens courtesy of Freestyle Releasing, part of Entertainment Studios. To put that in context, the last British film to get a release like that was Bridget Jones’ Baby.

Entertainment is putting a huge amount of money behind this release, which means they expect/hope that this will be a big hit, eclipsing last year’s The Shallows and other recent entries in the non-dumb shark movie genre.

Is 47 Meters Down a horror movie? Hell, yeah. The old IMDB lists it as ‘horror/thriller’; a recent Variety story called it “this summer’s open ocean survival horror” and it’s getting coverage on lots of horror websites. So yes, it’s a horror movie.

Is it British? By George, yes. Although it has three American stars, the film was made by a British production company. James Harris and Mark Lane were the producers and their firm is quaintly called the Tea Shop and Film Company. Bournemouth-based Outpost Effects provided the CGI sharks. Where is more British than Bournemouth?

Most of the film was shot in a water tank in England (Basildon, apparently). As The Chamber demonstrated recently (set off Korea, shot in Cardiff), once you’re underwater, your actual location on the globe is irrelevant. An English or Welsh water tank looks no different from any other. That said, the sunny bits of 47 Meters Down on the beach and on the boat were shot in the Dominican Republic. Because, you know, Basildon…

Unused DVD sleeve, from Amazon.
Slightly complicating matters is that 47 Meters Down almost went straight to video. Which is of course not the sign of a poor film (just as a theatrical release isn’t a sign of a good one, which is why Transformers sequels still play cinemas). Dimension were all set to release the film on DVD and VOD, retitled In the Deep (ironically the working title of The Shallows), via Anchor Bay on 2nd August last year. At the last moment, Entertainment offered to buy the rights and Dimension pulled the release, but not before review screeners had gone out. Which is why some people say they have seen the film already.

The IMDB also lists release dates for the Netherlands and Singapore. No word on a UK release yet. I guess it depends how well the movie does in the States.

In terms of British horror films, the over-rated The Woman in Black, which claims to be the biggest-grossing UK frightflick of all time, had a US opening weekend of $20.1M on 2,855 screens. Let’s see if Jo and his team can knock that pompous rubbish off the top spot.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Boots on the Ground - exclusive stills

My old mate Louis Melville (The Last Horror Movie, Man Who Sold the World) has sent me some exclusive stills from his new war/horror film Boots on the Ground. Plus some info. The film is now deep in post, just finishing the sound design and starting on the final sound mix. Expect a trailer next month and an exclusive first review here in due course.

Press release:
Boots on the Ground is a ground breaking British horror film, making cinema history by being the first British film to be shot entirely by its actors wearing 4k head cameras, replicating the video technology used by modern combat troops to record real-time action footage. The film mirrors the style of 1st person shooter video games and combat documentary footage seen in TV shows such as the BBC series 'Our War'. Add to this visual mix a good dose of classic chiller horror in the vein of 'Jacob's Ladder' and 'The Haunting', and what emerges is Boots On The Ground.

Synopsis:
Hindu Kush, Afghanistan October 2014. War ends at midnight, all five British soldiers have to do is stay alive till then. After surviving a firefight the five British soldiers try to find a safe haven to sit out the rest of last night of the Afghan war. Trekking through woodland they come across a large imposing British fort dating back to the first British Afghan war of the early 19th century. On nearing the entrance to the fort they see five other British soldiers entering. With great relief they also enter the fort but find it eerily unoccupied. Where have the other British troops gone, did they really see them?

As the night unfolds and their mission is finally explained to them, they find themselves engulfed in a labyrinthine nightmare of seemingly un-combatable forces from another realm. Time itself seems to move in inexplicable ways to the point where they question their own reality. Who will stay alive till midnight, will any?

Jeezus! That;s the single most horrifying thing I've ever seen!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

British slasher Clown Kill (formerly Lock In) out in May

Three years ago I reviewed Lock In, the debut feature by Mark J Howard. It was a fun slasher about a woman trapped in an office building with a psycho dressed as a clown. The film was available on VOD via the VHX website, and also played at the 2014 Horror-on-Sea.

Lock In has re-emerged, rebranded with the more obviously exploitative title Clown Kill, and is scheduled for release on both sides of the Atlantic next month. Wild Eye Releasing put out the US disc on 9th May. Left Films release the British DVD the following week.

The British sleeve features the actual clown from this film. Dunno who that is on the US sleeve. British clowns deemed not sufficiently creepy for American audiences presumably.


One reason for the film’s revival is that lead actress Jessica Cunningham is now a reality TV star. She was on The Apprentice last year and in January she was briefly on Celebrity Big Brother. Apparently.

You can find out more about the film at www.clownkill.com or on Facebook.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Can't wait to see... the new Dr Blood's Coffin remake

There haven’t been many remakes among recent British horror films. There’s been the odd one, like Stalker, which was a remake of Exposé aka Trauma aka The House on Straw Hill aka whatever, and Beast in the Basement which is a little-known remake of Beast in the Cellar.

Now here comes another one. Producers Arnold Basket and George Brain of Basketcase Productions have commenced principal photography on a remake of 1960s classic Dr Blood’s Coffin. Slightly retitled as Dr Bludd’s Coffin.

Here’s the synopsis: In a remote Norfolk village, people are disappearing and the dead are walking! Could either of these mysteries be connected with Dr Peter Bludd who has recently returned to his home after being thrown out of medical school for unethical experiments? Hazel Parker, secretary to Peter’s neurosurgeon father Sir Arthur Blood, investigates – and finds more than she was expecting…

So roughly the same plot, albeit transposed from Cornwall to Norfolk. The script is by Charlie Roper and Harry Parsons and the director is Bert Handy, all making their feature debut.

Arnold Basket (Dracula in Dunstable) stars as Peter Bludd with Bill Boosey (Hoodie Hellfire) as his father and Vic Flange (also in the recently announced Strippers vs Werewolves sequel) as Hazel Parker. The cast also includes George Russell, Charlie Hawkins, Harry Sutton and Frank Wilkins.

Dr Bludd’s Coffin is now in post and should hit the festival circuit exactly one year from now on 1st April 2018.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Films that sneaked out when no-one was looking: Territory

Territory has been in the ‘unreleased, possibly uncompleted’ appendix of my masterlist since it was shot back in 2012. It is now available to view on YouTube, where it popped up with minimal fanfare last Halloween. Even the IMDB hasn’t noticed yet and still lists the film’s year as ‘(????)’.

I haven’t watched the film myself yet but here’s the synopsis: “Four cars lie stranded on a country road in the middle of the night - the aftermath of a car crash. Tensions run high as the survivors struggle to resolve the situation, but they soon realise that the worst is far from over.” A clue as to what “the worst” might be lies in the description of the film as “a creature feature in the same vein as Alien and The Thing."

Territory was written, directed and produced by two FX guys, Thomas Saville and Robert Vassie. Saville worked on Small Town Folk, Mutant Chronicles, Stalled and Battlefield Death Tales, while Vassie’s CV includes Victor Frankenstein, Judas Ghost, Pete’s Dragon and a couple of Bonds.

The cast includes Steve Smith (The Spell), Victoria Eldon (Stalled), Rob Maloney (Art House Massacre), Sylvie England, Dave Taylor, Karen Morgan, Eifion Melnyk-Jones, Will Ashbey, Charlotte Eldon, Sharon Muiruri, Karina Sugden and Jon Samuel.

Here's the Facebook page. Here's Rob Vassie explaining how the version on YouTube isn't quite as polished as he and Tom Saville wanted.


And here's the movie itself:

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

New Steve Lawson film, with special guest star

On Sunday I had the pleasure of hanging out at my old mate Steve Lawson's Creativ Studios where he was shooting his latest (title TBC) horror feature for 88 Films (who also back his recent geezer gangster picture Essex Heist).

Alongside behind-the-camera work as light-holder/tripod-shifter (I think 'grip' covers most of that) and reading in the lines of a Polish prostitute whose reverse angles will be filmed later, I was also in front of the camera, in hi-vis jacket, as a policeman at a crime scene tipping my hat to two detectives.


Astute readers will recognise one of these as Steven Dolton (Killersaurus, Devil's Tower), reprising his role as Detective Locke from Nocturnal Activity aka The Haunting of Annie Dyer, and the other as Charlie Bond (Curse of the Witching Tree, Strippers vs Werewolves) as his new partner, Detective Keyes. Also in the cast, but shooting on a different day, is British horror regular Nathan Head (Tuck Bushman and the Legend of Piddledown Dale, Book of the Dead, The Zombie King, Legacy of Thorn).

My non-speaking character doesn't have a name, but I like to think of him as the same policeman I played for Steve 15 years ago in Insiders...

Friday, 10 March 2017

Now on release 2: The Chamber

Ben Parker's tense, claustrophobic and very wet horror-thriller The Chamber opens in cinemas today.

You can catch it all week at the Picturehouse Central in That London or at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.

Here's my review, from a preview screening in London a few weeks back. (Big thanks to Sadari Cunningham of Fetch Publicity for the invite.)

If you can't make it to London or Cardiff, you can pick up the film on DVD, BR or download from 20th March.