Sunday, 26 October 2014

Press release: 28 Days Later named best British horror film of the 21st century

Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later has been named the best British horror movie of the 21st century (so far) in a survey of film-makers and fans. The 2002 film, which stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Christopher Eccleston, narrowly beat Neil Marshall’s 2005 chiller The Descent, about a group of female cavers battling deadly underground creatures, and Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright’s 2004 ‘rom-zom-com’ starring Simon Pegg.

In the past 15 years, a combination of cheap equipment and online distribution has caused a huge increase in the number of feature films produced in the UK, especially in the ever-popular horror genre. This month, the total number of British horror films released since January 2000 reached 500 – as many as were made during the whole of the 20th century.

The survey was organised by film critic MJ Simpson, author of Urban Terrors: New British Horror Cinema and an acknowledged expert on the ‘British Horror Revival’. One hundred directors, screenwriters, producers, actors and effects artists each submitted their own top ten films, along with film critics, academics and horror fans. More than 130 movies received votes, reflecting the wide range of high quality horrors produced in the UK in recent years.

The other titles in the top ten were, in order: Dead Man’s Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004), Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008), Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002), Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011), The Woman in Black (James Watkins, 2012), Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010) and Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011).

“People may be surprised to hear that there have been 500 British horror films made in 15 years,” admits Simpson. “That’s because the media only acknowledge the tiny percentage of movies that play cinemas and ignore the vast body of great work being done by independent film-makers taking advantage of new technology to make and release their own films through DVD and VOD. For horror fans who take the trouble to look beyond the multiplex, this is truly a golden age.”

While Hollywood blockbusters routinely cost hundreds of millions of dollars, British horror films show that budget isn’t necessarily related to quality. Three of the top ten – Dead Man’s Shoes, Kill List and Monsters – each cost well under a million pounds and many of the other films cost a fraction of that. Steven Shiel’s Mum and Dad (34th) cost just £100,000 to make, Julian Richards’ The Last Horror Movie (38th) cost just £50,000, and the zombie film Colin, voted the 19th best British horror film of the past 15 years, had a total budget of just £45!

Marc Price, director of Colin, commented: “At a time where mainstream cinema is offering nothing but comic-book movies, remakes or literary adaptations, British horror appears to be one of the few genres offering original story through the medium of film.”

Of all the movies nominated, only eight were historical stories, of which only one (The Woman in Black) was a traditional ‘gothic horror’. All the other films were set in the present day, emphasising how the new wave of British film-makers use horror themes to address contemporary issues such as disenfranchised youth (Eden Lake, Cherry Tree Lane), society’s treatment of the elderly (The Living and the Dead, Harold’s Going Stiff), the power of social media (Backslasher, Panic Button), global corporate responsibility (Severance) and Scottish devolution (White Settlers).

Dr Johnny Walker, Lecturer in Media at Northumbria University and author of the forthcoming book Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre and Society, commented: “For many people, British horror died when the old Hammer ceased making feature films in the late 1970s. The list revealed here points to an entirely different story. Not only does it demonstrate how British horror has broadly managed to outstep Hammer's 'period gothic' model with films that deal with a host of contemporary issues, it also testifies to the variety that recent British horror cinema has offered its audiences, whether the films were made for £5 million or 50p.”

MJ Simpson offered the following recommendations for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of modern British horror films:
  • If you want to be… scared: try Before Dawn, in which a couple on the edge of separation are threatened by zombies.
  • If you want to be… disturbed: try Mum and Dad, in which a young woman is forced to become part of her colleague’s dysfunctional family.
  • If you want to be… questioned: try The Last Horror Movie, in which a serial killer videos his work and asks why people might want to watch it.
  • If you want to be… entertained: try Stalled, in which a zombie outbreak leaves a man trapped in a toilet cubicle.

Modern British Horror Survey, continued (films 21-40, and the rest)

It's a measure of the overall quality of modern British horror films that so many great titles couldn't make it into the top 20, on account of there only being 20 places available. So here are the next 20...

21. The Hole (Nick Hamm, 2001)
22. The Awakening (Nick Murphy, 2011)
23. Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, 2012)
24. Mum and Dad (Steven Sheil, 2008)
25. A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013)
26. Tony (Gerard Johnson, 2010)
27. Stalled (Christian James, 2013)
28. The Last Horror Movie (Julian Richards, 2004)
29. The Seasoning House (Paul Hyett, 2013)
30. My Little Eye (Mark Evans, 2002)
31. Outpost (Steve Barker, 2008)
32. Doghouse (Jake West, 2009)
33. Black Death (Christopher Smith, 2010)
34. The Living and the Dead (Simon Rumley, 2007)
35. A Lonely Place to Die (Julian Gilbey, 2011)
36. F (Johannes Roberts, 2010)
37. Cradle of Fear (Alex Chandon, 2002)
38. Before Dawn (Dominic Brunt, 2013)
39. 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)
40. Heartless (Philip Ridley, 2010)

(Films 21, 24. 28, 30, 31, 34 and 37 are covered in detail in my book Urban Terrors, as are all the films marked with an asterisk in the list below.)

The following films also received votes:
Aggressive Behaviour, Anazapta*, Any Minute Now
Backslasher, Bane, Battlefield Death Tales, The Big Finish*, Blood + Roses, Book of Blood, Bordello Death Tales, The Bunker*
Chemical Wedding*, Cherry Tree Lane, Citadel, The Cottage*, Cut
A Day of Violence, The Dead, Dead Creatures*, Dead End, Dead of the Nite, Dead Wood, Deathwatch*, The Descent Part Two, The Devil’s Bargain, Devil’s Bridge, The Devil’s Business, The Devil’s Chair*, The Devil’s Music, The Disappeared, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Doomsday*
The Eschatrilogy, Evil Aliens*, Exhibit A, Exorcism
Fall of the Louse of Usher*, The Fallow Field, Footsteps*, Forest of the Damned*, Freak Out*
The Glass Man, Gnaw
Harold’s Going Stiff, The Harsh Light of Day, Hush
Inbred, In Fear
KillerKiller*
The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse*, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Lie Still*, London Voodoo*
Mindflesh*
Night Junkies*
Panic Button. The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill, Penetration Angst*
The Quiet Ones
Red Mist, Red White and Blue, The Reeds, The Resident, Resurrecting ‘The Street Walker’
The Scar Crow, Season of the Witch, The Secret Path, Small Town Folk*, Soul Searcher*, Stalker, Summer Scars
Theatre of Fear, Tormented, Tortured, Tower Block, The Toybox*, Truth or Dare
Under the Skin
Vampire Diary*, Venus Drowning
Wake Wood, Wandering Rose, WAZ*, When Evil Calls*, When the Lights Went Out, White Settlers, Wilderness*, Wishbaby, The Witches Hammer*, World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2
The Zombie Diaries*
13hrs, The 7th Dimension

And since no-one at all is wondering, here's my personal top ten (at the time I voted):

  1. The Descent
  2. The Dead
  3. The Last Horror Movie
  4. Mum and Dad
  5. Dead Man's Shoes
  6. Resurrecting 'The Street Walker'
  7. The Seasoning House
  8. Triangle
  9. Wishbaby
  10. 28 Days Later

Modern British Horror Survey - the top twenty

Over the past month I have been finding the best British horror films of the 21st century (so far) by soliciting top tens from directors, screenwriters, producers, actors, designers, FX artists, critics, academics and fans. Now the votes are in, and I can reveal the top 20, as voted for by you:

  1. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 201) Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris evade rage-infected sort-of-zombies. With a side order of Christopher Eccleston
  2. The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005) Six friends go caving, get lost, get trapped - and then find they're not alone...
  3. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and pals stumble through a zombie apocalypse and eventually reach the pub.
  4. Dead Man’s Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004) Ex-soldier Paddy Considine takes terrifying revenge on the small-town gangsters who bullied his mentally impaired brother.
  5. Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008) Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender are terrorised by out-of-control children in the idyllic countryside.
  6. Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002) It's squaddies vs werewolves in a classic siege scenario, under the command of British horror favourite Sgt Sean Pertwee.
  7. Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011) Two hitmen take on a mysterious job which leads them into conflict with a Pagan cult.
  8. The Woman in Black (James Watkins, 2012) Daniel Radcliffe makes his post-Potter debut in a traditional gothic ghost story from the reborn Hammer Films.
  9. Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010) A young couple travel across a depopulated zone inhabited by giant mysterious aliens.
  10. Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) Teenage muggers turn the tables on invading extraterrestrials.
  11. Creep (Christopher Smith, 2005) Franka Potente is trapped in the Tube overnight with a mysterious, deadly killer.
  12. Severance (Christopher Smith, 2007) A corporate team-building exercise in Eastern Europe with Andy Nyman and Danny Dyer goes oh so very wrong
  13. Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010) Young boy mets not-as-young-as-she-looks girl in Hammer remake of creepy Swedish vampire tale.
  14. The Children (Tom Shankland, 2008) Mysterious illness turns little tykes into emotionless, deadly killers.
  15. Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012) Psychological terror for Toby Jones at the mixing desk as he works on the soundtrack of an Italian horror movie.
  16. The Borderlands (Elliot Goldner, 2014) Vatican-backed paranormal investigators find m ore than they bargained for when they look underneath an old English church.
  17. Triangle (Christopher Smith, 2009) Multiple realities and time-travel onboard a mysterious, deserted ocean liner.
  18. Byzantium (Neil Jordan, 2013) Vampire sisters on the run in a little coastal town.
  19. Colin (Marc Price, 2009) One zombie’s journey through the apocalypse.
  20. Cockneys vs Zombies (Matthias Hoene, 2012) The living dead interfere with a bank robbery and attack an old people’s home.
Some statistics:
  • Three films directed by Christopher Smith (Black Death came 33rd)
  • Two films directed by Neil Marshall (Doomsday also got a few votes)
  • Two films directed by James Watkins
  • Five films feature make-up effects by Paul Hyett (2, 5, 6, 8, 9 - Paul's own film The Seasoning House came 29th)
  • Two films written by James Moran (12, 20 - Tower Block also got a few votes)
  • Two films with music by Dave Julyan (2, 5)
  • Two films starring Nick Frost (3, 10)
  • Two films starring MyAnna Buring (2, 7)
  • Most expensive film: The Woman in Black (£17 million)
  • Least expensive film: Colin (45 quid!)
  • Although 28 Days Later scored slightly higher overall than The Descent, more people voted The Descent as their no.1 film
  • Films 1-6, 11, 12, 14 are featured in depth in my book Urban Terrors
Now take a look at films 21-40 and the rest of the nominees.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Just three - now one! - days left to submit your top ten to the modern British horror survey

It's Tuesday 21st October, which means you've got just three days to get your votes in for the survey to find the best British horror films of the 21st century (so far). A walloping 500 British horror features have been released since January 2000, of which a welcome 105 have so far received at least one vote.

Please take a look at my original list of 100 suggestions (of which about two thirds have actually received votes so far). Have a think about other movies you've seen. Put together your ten favourites and let me know by midnight on Friday 24th.

You can post a comment on this blog, or you can email me directly mjs2000@ntlworld.com, or if you want to win a bundle of British horror DVDs, cast your vote on the Facebook page of TheHorrorShow.tv

Next week I will publish a list of the top 20. I think it might contain a few surprises...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Can't wait to see... Tom Rutter's acid horror-western adaptation of Mark Twain!

Thomas Lee Rutter, the Brummie indie film maverick who coined the term 'Britsploitation' (and directed some of my early on-screen appearances) is shooting an intense, horror-laced British western influenced by the likes of El Topo!


Tom's previous features have included such zero-budget gems as Full Moon Massacre, Mr Blades, Feast for the Beast and The Forbidden Four. But Stranger, loosely based on Twain's The Mysterious Stranger, promises to be a step up, not least because he has a couple of name cast in Gary Shail (Quadrophenia, Shock Treatment) and punk legend Gypsy Lee Pistolero. My absence from the cast also bodes well...

Synopsis:
Caine Farrowood is a bounty hunter who works under the control of shady kingpin Loomweather. One day a bounty retrieval goes awry and Caine is left for dead. Just when he thinks his life is over he mysteriously awakens back home to the comforts of his wife Christina. Baffled and confused by how he got home Caine insists on finding answers, but before long he is enlisted in the retrieval of another bounty. This one is huge and may cost Caine not his life, but his sanity when he finds himself pitted against somebody who may very well be the fallen angel himself...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Zombie King UK premiere in Manchester

It's three years now since Aidan Belizaire shot The Zombie King in Shepton Mallet, with imported star names Edward Furlong and Corey Feldman. The film debuted on German DVD in April 2013 and is also available in the Netherlands and Japan. But not here in Blighty.

But we do now finally have a chance to see the film (imports notwithstanding). The picture will have its UK premiere at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester over 31st October-2nd November, hopefully with some of the cast and crew in attendance.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

British Horror Survey - vote via Facebook

Because I'm an old fart, I'm not on Facebook. But the hip young things at the awesome website that is TheHorrorShow.tv are on Facebook and they have very, very kindly joined in with my survey to find the best British horror film released since 2000.

If you post your top ten on their Facebook page they will enter you into a draw to win ten British horror DVDs!

Here's a reminder of the criteria for 'what is a British horror film' and here is a list of 100 films that you might want to choose from, but I have already received votes for another 11 titles - and there's nearly 400 more you could vote for.

NB. Votes for Richard Driscoll films won't be counted because anyone who does that is obviously taking the mick...