Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Unseen

d./w./p. Gary Sinyor; cast: Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood, Simon Cotton, Sushil Chudasama

Sinyor, whose previous features have all been comedies, makes a reasonably successful move into serious drama with this ambitious psycho-thriller that is surprisingly complex for a film with only three characters. Gemma and Will are a wealthy young couple; she’s a voice actor, we never find out what he does. When their young son dies in a tragic accident, they seek solace in a holiday cottage owned by slightly too helpful Paul. For most of the film it’s difficult to know where we’re going, with implications of haunting, religious consolation and even a momentary diversion into witchcraft. The film as a whole is too long because it’s too slow, frustratingly draining the expected tension from the triangular dynamic, while the denouement is swift, sudden and less than satisfying. Blurred POV shots when Gemma suffers panic attacks are effective but overused. The three leads are good and each elicits both sympathy for, and concern about, their character at various times. Though beautifully shot (in February 2017), it’s disappointing that more wasn’t made of the Lake District location.

Not quite the end of this website

When I closed this site back in July, my intention was that I would post my annual listing of the year's UK horror features each New Year's Eve and that would be it. Nothing else here, and no reviews on my main site.

Since July, freed of the need to watch films and write long, detailed reviews (which sometimes took a week to complete), I've actually watched a lot more movies, ploughing through my BHR masterlist (though making frustratingly little headway - they get released as fast as I watch 'em). Each film has elicited a 200-word review as I gradually build up an encylopedia of British horror 2000-2019 which I would very much like to publish in a few years, if I can find a willing publisher.

I'm still on some PR mailing lists, and still have film-making friends, so still get offers of screeners, which it would be unfair to accept without offering something in return. Having umm-ed and ah-ed for some time, it seems to me that the best solution is to write my 200-word capsule reviews for my mooted book, but to also post versions of them on here when the film is a new work which I have been sent.

Thus there is no extra work for me, but I can still offer film-makers and publicists a fair, honest review. So do please feel free to send me screeners (of new British horror features only) and I will post reviews here. Just a bit shorter than before. Starting with this one.

And do watch out for my annual round-up in three weeks' time.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The end of this website

As explained in more detail over on my main site, I am now ending both of these blogs in order to concentrate on books and scripts.

This site will stay live but won't be added to.

I will continue my British Horror Revival Twitter account so please follow @BritHorrorRev if you don't already do so.

A massive catalogue of all 21st century UK horror films is among the books I will be working on.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog, commented or provided info/links.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

40 unreleased British horror films

As far as I know, every one of these got as far as a screening. It might have been at a festival, or a local premiere, or just a cast and crew, but these were all completed enough to show to someone. On the other hand, as far as I know, none of these have actually had a legitimate release, whether theatrical, DVD or VOD. Please contact me if you know otherwise.

Some of these are still playing the festival circuit and/or have a distribution deal but no confirmed release details. Others have simply disappeared into limbo, but history tells us that films can suddenly reappear many years after they were last spotted. A second batch of 40 more unreleased British horror films will follow shortly.

Apocalypse

Director: Tony Jopia. Screened January 2017. Zombie epic with segments filmed in different countries. Last Facebook update May 2017

Bacchanalia aka The Winedancers

Director: Gary Meyer. Screened January 2016 (Horror-on-Sea). “What seems like an innocent wine tasting weekend turns into a bizarre, wicked, sensually overheated debauchery, culminating in a murderous grand finale evening and the fateful morning after.” Last Facebook update January 2017

The Baylock Residence

Director: Anthony M Winson. Screened April 2017. Woman inherits spooky house from her late sister. Remake of Winson’s 2014 feature The Haunting of Baylock Residence. Last Facebook update May 2017

Beast

Director: Chris Jupp. Screened October 2009. Escaped patient taken on as handyman at country club serving unusual meat. Based on original script for Michael J Murphy’s Skare. Last Facebook update March 2016

The Bench

Director: Sean Wilkie. Screened March 2015. “Tense and emotional horror in the style of the slasher movies of the 70's and 80's with a modern twist and an eclectic young cast of Scottish talent, yet to be discovered.” Last Facebook update March 2015.

Beneath Still Water

Director: Philip Kempson. Screened October 2016. “A group of young adults are out on the moor for a weekend of climbing, canoeing and walking etc. During their stay, they encountered strange events and strange stories from the local community about a mermaid who lures men to their deaths in Blake Mere pool.” Last Facebook update June 2017

Bicycle Day aka Bad Trip

Director: Damian Morter. Screened October 2011. A camping trip for four mates descends into horror when their drinks are spiked with LSD. Unlikely to be released as Morter is developing a remake. Read my review.

Black Lightning Dream

Director: Nici/Niki/Nicky Preston. Screened September 2014. A couple are visited by ghosts after drinking a strange type of moonshine.

Bloodlines

Director: Geoff Cockwill. Screened August 2003. “A newly-made young vampire tries to find his place in the world of the undead.”

Cain Hill

Director: Gene Fallaize. Screened April 2017 “A group of documentary filmmakers are filming a TV special about the events which occurred at the famous and mysterious abandoned Cain Hill asylum many years earlier. The group soon learn that one of the inmates never left Cain Hill at all.” Last Facebook update May 2017

C.A.M.

Directors: Steve Du Melo, Larry Downing. Screened January 2014. “A rare parasite has contaminated a local meat processing plant and tactical police are sent in, but all is not what it appears.”

Caught

Director: Jamie Patterson. Screened April 2017 (Fantasporto). “A journalist couple invite a man and woman into their idyllic village home, but what begins with an informal interview descends into a nightmarish fight for survival. ”

Christmas Hear Kids

Director: Chris Purnell. Screened September 2014. “A taxi driver finds out the woman in the back of his cab is out for revenge against the man that abused her as a child: him.”

Crucible of the Vampire

Director: Iain Ross-McNamee. Screened January 2017. “Gothic vampire thriller set in present day Shropshire. Taking place in a large country house, it draws influences from classic British horror from the 1950’s and 1960's alongside modern Korean and Japanese psychological horror.” Last Twitter update June 2017

Cute Little Buggers

Director: Stu Jopia. Screened January 2017. “Comedy horror b-movie creature feature in the style of 80's classics like Critters, Ghoulies and Grabbers.” Last Facebook update May 2017

The Dark Mile

Director: Gary Love. Screened June 2017 “When London couple Louise and Clare book a boat trip to recover from personal tragedy, their trip of a lifetime through the Scottish Highlands soon descends into a hellish ordeal as they delve further into the wilds.”

Dead Perfect

Director: Jason Wilcox. Screened January 2017 (Horror-on-Sea) “During a break in the country, a young couple are haunted by the ghosts of their former partners.”

Deadly Waters aka Dark Water

Directors: Tyler James, Catherine Carpenter. Screened March 2015. “A man encounters a deadly siren on a beach who will stop at nothing to feed.” Last Facebook update September 2015

The Devil’s Interval

Directors: Anthony & Patrick Turner. Screened December 2011. “Late one night a Priest picks up a mysterious hitchhiker. On arrival in his local village the anonymous stranger disappears into the night. He has left behind a scroll of music. Intrigued by its mystery, the priest is compelled to play the music. He plays like a man possessed and upon hitting the last note a gateway is opened and the once small and quiet village is changed forever.” Last Facebook update January 2012

Drowning the Dead

Director: Jason Wilcox. Screened September 2011. “A young woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend is invited to stay at a chance acquaintance's villa. But someone else living there has got other ideas for her...”

The Dungeon Moor Killings

Director: Jim Hickey. Screened June 2008. “Adam and Mark are determined to find evidence of the existence of big cats that have been reported over the years in remote areas of South West Scotland. As they set off across Dungeon Moor, it becomes clear that their lives are endangered by something more than roaming big cats.”

Dwellings Close

Director: Jorge Cuaik. Screened October 2013 (South Texas Underground Film Festival). “Ken an estate agent from London gets mysteriously locked in one of his company's properties at number eight Dwellings Close. Inside he meets Gem, an eccentric young woman who claims to be the property's new tenant, together they will try to find a way out.” Last Facebook post March 2015 (commenting on the last time I did a list like this!)

Dying Light

Director: David Newbigging. Screened May 2013. “When Eddie Bowen hooks up with the beautiful and sexually aggressive Suze Phillips he thinks his luck’s in. But it’s a trap! Suze imprisons them both within a specially-prepared room and before Eddie can react he’s drugged and blacks out. When he wakes he finds a symbol carved into his chest and Suze lying unconscious on the floor with a dagger in hand.” Last Facebook update June 2013

Eva’s Diamond

Director: Ice Neal. Screened February 2013. “When Miss Phillips’ devoted religious teenage son is accused of murdering an expert in the occult and sent to prison, her quest to prove his innocence leads her into a world of black magic and time traveling spirits.” Last Facebook post August 2016.

Every Picture

Director: Tobias Tobbell. Screened February and May 2005. Couple are locked in a haunted school where a teacher once committed suicide.

Evil Bread

Director: Andy Ward. Screened January 2014 (Horror-on-Sea). Comedy about two horror-obsessed film students who try to make a non-horror film bur awake an ancient evil. Last Facebook update June 2017

First Bite aka First Bite is the Deepest

Director: Eileen Daly. Screened February 2016. A ghost hunting team go to rid the castle of Vampires. Last Facebook update February 2016.

The Forewarning

Director: Andy Robinson. Screened November 2011. “A heart transplant recipient begins to experience a series of life-threatening visions. He comes to believe that they have something to do with the new heart beating inside him - and that his survival depends on completing the unfinished business of his donor.” Last Facebook update March 2014.

Fox Trap

Director: Jamie Weston. Screened October 2016. “After a terrible accident leaves a young girl disabled, five years later, the group responsible are invited to a remote manor house in the countryside for a class reunion. Little do they know, they are being targeted by a masked maniac hell bent on revenge.” A February 2017 UK DVD was cancelled. Now likely to appear under another title. Last Facebook update June 2017.

Fractured

Director: Jamie Patterson. Screened October 2016. “When a tyre blows on the way to a romantic countryside getaway, Rebecca and Michael sense someone is watching. The only people they encountered along the way were friendly strangers Freyr and Alva who gave them a lift. But their holiday home becomes a terrifying prison as they are tortured by something or someone outside.”

The Gatehouse

Director: Martin Gooch. Screened October 2016 (Raindance). “A struggling writer lives with his 10yr old daughter in an old Gatehouse on the edge of an ancient wood. A new commission coincides with the discovery of a strange object buried in the woods. What follows is a dangerous battle to save themselves and future generations from an ancient force from a forgotten world.” Last Facebook update May 2016.

The Girl with Two Masks

Director: Sam Casserly. Screened April 2015. Rep from pub chain sent to local boozer finds unquiet spirit of dead witch. Last Facebook update July 2016. Read my review.

God’s Acre

Director: JP Davidson. Screened September 2015. “Malcolm lost everything to the recession. To pay off his debts he needs to renovate and sell his last house fast but a dark secret lies entombed within its walls.” Last Facebook update May 2016

Gozo

Director: Miranda Bowen. Screened September 2016. “Lucille and Joe have a nice car, a steady income, a beautiful farmhouse with breathtaking views and a swimming pool. They seem to have it all. But when a young tourist goes missing on the island, Joe's disquieted conscience begins to get the better of him. As the buried horrors of Lucille and Joe's past resurface, the cracks begin to show in their homespun paradise.” Last Facebook update November 2016.

Hollywood Betrayed

Director: Eileen Daly. Screened February 2016. “Deep down in Normsville suburbia, England, lays a horrible secrets. Only one man alone knows what is going on in the hotel of horrors and has invited the ghost busting team to help rid the place of evil.” Last Facebook update February 2016.

House of Salem

Director: James Crow. Screened August 2016 (Frightfest). “A group of kidnappers become a child’s unlikely protectors, after finding out they have unwittingly been set up to take part in a deadly game of human sacrifice.” Last Facebook update June 2017.

The House of Screaming Death

Directors: Troy Dennison, Rebecca Harris-Smith, David Hastings, Alex Bourne, Kaush Patel. Screened June 2017. Gothic anthology. Last Facebook update June 2017

I am Cursed

Director: Shiraz Khan. Screened June 2014. An ambitious reporter in a news office befriends a shy colleague with a deadly, supernatural secret. Last Facebook update September 2016

In Abigail’s Place

Director: Steven Hines. Screened July 2015. “The disturbing story of a young girl, Sarah, recovering from the untimely and mysterious death of her best friend by attending a school trip to a rural house. It is there that she uncovers truths that should have been kept hidden.” Last Facebook update August 2015.

In Extremis

Director: Steve Stone. Screened June 2017. “A business executive returns home to his family for the weekend. Within hours a cataclysmic ‘event’ takes place and the world they inhabit becomes deserted and toxic. Slowly he begins to question the nature of this ‘event’; is it really out there or has it come from within?”

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Friday, 30 June 2017

11 British horror features at Frightfest 2017

As usual, this year's Frighfest (24th-28th August) has a good selection of British films in the line-up:

Redwood (d.Tom Paton)
After some bad news back at home, musician Josh and his girlfriend Beth head out to a secluded national park in search of some clarity on the situation they’ll face when they return. But the couple get more than they bargained for when they ignore the advice of Park Rangers and venture off the trail, coming face to face with The Redwood’s legendary wildlife. REDWOOD brings a fresh spin to a well-worn mythology to create an edge of your seat horror movie that will shred your nerves and have you thinking twice about going camping again.

Freehold (d.Dominic Bridges)
The feature debut from acclaimed commercials director Dom Bridges and written by Rae Brunton (the OUPOST franchise) is a dark urban morality tale with an underlying streak of jet black comedy. Hussein, a wide-boy estate agent, doesn't realise he's sharing his apartment with a forgotten stranger, a master of concealment... until his malicious campaign of deranged sweet revenge starts to really hit home. A roof above our heads is a basic human need so why are we all fighting each other over it? A genre riff on home invasion chillers and a searing comment on the cut-throat housing market.

Attack of the Adult Babies (d.Dominic Brunt)
From Dominic Brunt, director of BEFORE DAWN and BAIT, a satirical and sexy shocker unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. A home invasion forces two teenagers to break into a remote country manor and steal Top Secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile is also the venue where a group of high-powered middle-aged men go to take refuge from the stresses of daily life by dressing in nappies and indulging their every perverse nursery whim. Or that this grotesque assembly intends to refuel the world’s economy by very sinister, sick and monstrous means.  Time for a change…

Double Date (d.Benjamin Barfoot)
Meet innocent Jim, terrified of girls and on a reluctant quest to prove his manhood the night before he turns 30. He and his cocky friend Alex think they’ve hit the jackpot when they meet the beautiful sisters Kitty and Lulu, who seem up for anything on a wild party-fuelled night. They also have an incredible car. But little do they know that the feisty femmes fatales have their own shocking agenda in mind and have every intention of making Jim lose much more than just his virginity… Getting laid has never been so bloody difficult.

Fanged Up (d.Christian James)
Orange is the new Dracula. Daniel O’Reilly, aka controversial comedy character Dapper Laughs, makes his feature film debut in a vampire comedy destined to make everyone Carry On Screaming. He plays a wrongfully arrested lovable rogue thrown into a high-security prison for the weekend when his blood group is revealed to be very rare. But once incarcerated in this horror penitentiary, there’s no way out as the warden is a top-level bloodsucker, the guards are his pet zombies and the inmates are their unwilling victims. Get ready for hi-jinks in clink, slammer shivers, big house laughs and jail house shocks.

Mountain Fever (d. Hendrik Faller)
Inspired by the action cinema of James Cameron and the minimalism of Nicolas Winding Refn, a fatal flu virus devastates Europe in an ice-cold thriller examining human behaviour in a time of crisis. City boy Jack takes refuge in the Alps but he’s ill-equipped to survive the harsh winter. Things only get worse when renegade Kara breaks into his house and commandeers his dwindling food supplies. His inept plan to get rid of her disintegrates when outsiders also invade, turning his captor into his only ally.  As a siege ensues Jack must choose a side if he hopes to survive.

Boots on the Ground (d.Louis Melville)
Afghanistan October 2014. Five British soldiers, trying to stay alive on the last night of the Afghan War, face not only the Taliban, but also supernatural powers more terrifying than anything they've encountered before. As the night unfolds and their mission is finally explained to them, they find themselves engulfed in a labyrinthine nightmare and time-shift forces seemingly from another realm and century. One of the most innovative and challenging British movies of the year, shot with 360 degree style immersion techniques using head-cams, director Louis Melville’s twisting and turning squaddie shocker is a genre ground breaker. [I ran the first ever images from this film exactly one year ago - MJS]

Where the Skin Lies (d.Michael Boucherie)
Six friends, bound together by a traumatic experience, travel up to the Scottish Lowlands for a relaxing reunion weekend. Soon a number of mysterious and horrifying events start to expose the cracks in their relationships. One by one they discover, through their tattoos, that trust runs but skin-deep and as day turns into night, not everyone will survive the ‘Game of Death’ they are forced to play.

Eat Locals (d.Jason Flemyng)
Acclaimed actor Jason Flemying (DEEP RISING, HANNA, SOLOMON KANE, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), makes his directorial debut with a bloodsucker chiller featuring the cream of British talent. In a quiet countryside farmhouse, Britain's vampires gather together for their once-every-fifty-years meeting. Others will be joining them too; Sebastian Crockett, an unwitting Essex boy who thinks he's on a promise with sexy cougar Vanessa; and a detachment of Special Forces vampire killers who have bitten off more than they can chew. This is certainly going to be a night to remember... and for some of them it will be their last.

Canaries (d.Peter Stray)
CANARIES pits a group of friends at a New Year's Eve bash in the Valleys, hosted by Steve Denis, London's 53rd-most-listened-to DJ, a returning local boy made good against an invasion task force of creepy time travelling aliens. In this darkly funny Welsh based Sci-fi horror comedy, the new year’s resolution on everyone's lips is to stay alive.

Accountable (d. Matthew Heaven)
Driven by a fantastic performance from headliner Oliver Towner, ACCOUNTABLE proves what can be achieved on a micro-budget with imagination, a great twisty script and a commitment to quality production values. Warren Matthews is an angry and directionless young man struggling to contain his formidable temper. But before long circumstances cause him to reluctantly enlist the services of a local psychiatrist to help him confront damaging past events fuelling his future angst. A score must be settled according to his fractured psyche, someone must be held accountable. Keep your eyes on director Matthew Heaven, he’s one to watch.

Monday, 26 June 2017

50 great British horror films since 2010

Every so often I see someone on Twitter bemoaning the lack of recent British horror films. If only they made more films like this one movie I like; or Why don’t the Brits make horror films anymore; or It’s been too long since there was a good British horror film. I have created this post so that in the future I can provide a service to these poor, benighted souls by pointing them to a list of titles.

Here we have 50 - 50! – British horror films released on DVD in the UK and/or USA since 2010, every one of which I would personally recommend. The ten marked with an asterisk are particularly superb. Not everyone will agree with me on all of these, but there’s enough here for anyone bemoaning the lack of recent good British horror films to find plenty they will enjoy. Some are scary, some are funny, some are dramatic, but all are worth your time and money.

Awaiting, The Awakening, Axed
Before Dawn, Berberian Sound Studio*, Black Death, Blackwood, Blood + Roses, Blooded, Book of the Dead, Bordello Death Tales, Burke and Hare, Byzantium*
Cage, The Captive (US: Armistice), The Chamber, Community, Cryptic
The Dead*, The Devil’s Music
Elfie Hopkins (US: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter), Exam*, Exhibit A
F (US: The Expelled), The Falling*, The Fallow Field
Gangsters Guns and Zombies, The Girl with All the Gifts*
The Harsh Light of Day, Heartless, The Holding
Inbred
Little Deaths, Little Devil (US: Demon Baby)
The Other Side of the Door
Plan Z, P.O.V., Prevenge
Red Kingdom Rising, Resurrecting ‘The Street Walker’*
Sawney: Flesh of Man (US: Lord of Darkness), The Seasoning House*, Stalled*, Strigoi
Tony, Tower Block
Under the Shadow*, Unhappy Birthday (aka Amen Island)
Wasteland, White Settlers (US: The Bloodlands)

And there's plenty more where those came from! Please note that this list does not include:


I’ll update this list as more films pass my way, adding new ones and taking off others so there’s always 50.

You’re welcome.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Strong opening weekend for 47 Meters Down

Johannes Roberts' shark pic 47 Meters Down, which I make no apologies for constantly plugging, took $11.5 million in its opening weekend according to Box Office Mojo.

It was the third highest opener after Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me and, inevitably, Cars 3 (both of which are aimed at very different audiences) and the fifth highest grosser overall with Wonder Woman and The Mummy still performing predictably strongly.

Entertainment Studios Founder, Chairman and CEO, Byron Allen said: "We are very happy with our first wide release, 47 Meters Down. The movie is perfect for the summer, and an absolute crowd-pleaser as indicated by our outstanding per-screen average."

This is the biggest US opening weekend for a British film since Spectre in November 2015.