Saturday, 31 December 2016

Andrew Tiernan's 'UK18' - horror?

Andrew Tiernan is well-known as an actor  (The Bunker, Snuff-Movie, Quatermass Experiment remake) but also dabbles in directing. His first feature, Dragonfly, is on my masterlist of 21st Century British Horror. It's a police procedural thriller which sounds somewhat borderline but this review mentions "As DS Blake becomes more involved with the Corrine Grosvenor case, his life descends into a world of conspiracy and human sacrifice via a website named ‘Dragonfly’." Human sacrifice sounds like horror so ut's on the list until I either watch it or get more information.

Tiernan's second feature, UK18, was released on Vimeo on Demand on 23rd December. The IMDB lists it as 'horror' but on the film's Facebook page the genre is cited as "Independent Arthouse Thriller Drama Documentary" - which covers almost every cinematic genre except horror (and musical).

The synopsis reads: "2018: neo-fascism has taken over. The Government implements a program to chip the population of the UK. Eloise (Shona McWilliams) a documentary film-maker suspects she is being brainwashed by a secret Government organisation."

To me that doesn't sound like a horror film so it's not going on the masterlist just yet. Hence the 2016 list is staying at 78 films for now. Well, actually 79 - I've found another one since I posted Part 1 this morning.

However, if UK18 turns out to have horror content, or gets covered by horror film media, I might yet add it to the masterlist.

All the British horror films released in 2016, Part 1: January-June

To the best of my knowledge, 78 British horror films were released in 2016. Since there are usually about five to ten films whose releases only become apparent later, we’re really talking of 83-88(-ish) films. This is about average for recent years, although it’s slightly down on 2015 when I listed 83 movies in my year-end round-up, subsequently expanded to 89 on my master list.

January kicked off with a DVD release of The Blood Harvest, the fifth feature from Northern Ireland director George Clarke. Though not without its problems, notably a disconnect between the main serial killer story and the sci-fi resolution, this was a distinct improvement on most of his earlier films. There was also a DVD of The Carrier, directed by Anthony Woodley (Outpost 11). Escaping a deadly plague on an airliner bound for Greenland, a group of survivors find the contagion is aboard with them.

Fergus March’s The Trap ran for three nights at a cinema in Islington, which is about the minimum that can be considered a theatrical release by my house rules. It’s a comedy horror in which two groups – “professional cat burglars” and “young, misfit jobseekers on a team building exercise” – negotiate deadly traps set by an overzealous security guard. It has since played some festivals but there’s no home release as yet. There was a US disc of Dan Brownlie’s Serial Kaller about a group of models trapped inside a recording studio, hunted down by a mentally unstable fan. The all-star cast includes Dani Thompson (also co-writer), Suzi Lorraine, Debbie Rochon and Stuart Brennan. Also, two films popped up unexpectedly on YouTube this month: Justin Carter’s Devon-set found-footager TORN: A Shock YOUmentary and Andy Dodd’s impressive study in psychopathy The Apostate: Call of the Revenant (featuring Terry Dwyer from Loose Women as a cop).

February saw a limited theatrical release, courtesy of Film Volt, for Steve Lawson’s cracking cat-and-mouse horror-thriller Rites of Passage, retitled as Survival Instinct. When it arrived on DVD in June the title had changed again to the meaningless Footsoldier. Another East Midlands film-maker, Anthony M Winson, saw his latest ghost story House of Afflictions (filmed as Ominous) released on US disc. There were British DVDs of Evil Souls, a fine Anglo-Italian shocker from the del Piccolo brothers who previously brought us The Hounds, and Cryptic, a gangsters/vampires mash-up from the team who gave us the awful World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen. The strong cast included Robert Glenister, Ray Panthaki and Vas Blackwood.

At the microbudget end of the scale, there was The Sheltered, a curious 2013-shot feature about werewolves running a homeless hostel, and Devil Dog Shuck Returns, the latest crazy epic from Paul TT Easter. Both of those were on YouTube. And there were VOD releases for two significant films: Ruth Platt’s acclaimed The Lesson, with two schoolkids pushing a teacher too far, and Hangman, the first British film since 2007 for Adam Mason (The Devil’s Chair).

March was a busy month for British horror fans, not least because the complete works of the late Michael J Murphy were released to YouTube, including two features never seen before. ZK3 and Nekros are strictly for Murphy fans, of which there are a surprising amount. I don’t think there’s actually more than about 15-20 of them, truth be told, but you know, even that many is surprising. But not as surprising as the American DVD release, after a mere eight years on the shelf, of Harold Gasnier’s 2008 feature The Demon Within (as 666: A Demon Within). Up to now I think I was the only person who had ever seen this. Who knows, perhaps I still am.

Johannes Roberts’ Indian-set Monkey’s Paw-style chiller The Other Side of the Door played cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic in March, with a US disc following in June. There was also a limited theatrical release for David Farr’s creepy The Ones Below, about new parents and their downstairs neighbours. Tom Paton’s ambitious scifi-horror Pandorica didn’t actually play cinemas until April but is listed here because of a March VOD release. There were also VOD releases for Eugene McGing’s paranormal investigation found-footager The Unfolding (via Frightfest) and Matt Cruse’s “psychosexual chiller about one woman's descent into hell” The Watcher Self.

A priest, a Vatican investigator and a possessed housewife could be the set up for joke but is actually the principal cast of The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund, the March disc of which was the first of two releases this year from Andrew Jones North Bank Entertainment. Another prolific name in modern British horror, Sir Jason d’Impey, saw a US DVD release for his amazingly powerful and transgressive three-hander Fluid Boy. There was also a US disc of Michael Anderson’s The Hatching, a creature feature about a ravenous crocodile prowling the Somerset Levels. Potential croc-food includes Andrew-Lee Potts, Thomas Turgoose and (please let it be him) ‘comedian’ Justin Lee Collins. German and Japanese releases followed but nothing in the UK yet.

Another British film that was without honour in its own country was Steve (Outpost) Barker’s  ‘Jurassic Park but it’s zombies’ romp The Rezort aka Generation Z. This played Spanish cinemas in April with a Spanish disc in July but won’t hit UK shelves until January 2017. There were more zombies in Immune, directed in Coventry by Steven Taylor and released on VOD. Blink and you’ll miss brief appearances by Yours Truly and The Boy. Equally post-apocalyptic – but zombieless – was AD Barker’s A Reckoning aka Straw Man which finally emerged onto YouTube. Fans of Neil Marshall movies will be interested in this long-awaited indie, shot back in 2009, as it stars Leslie Simpson and Axelle Carolyn.

There was a theatrical release (and much acclaim) for Gareth Bryn’s The Passing aka Yr Ymadawiad, the first British horror feature shot entirely in Welsh. Rising star Holly Jacobson (currently in post on her own short film Harry and Grace) was frighteningly intense as creepy twins in Mumtaz Yildirimlar’s My Guardian Angel, out on US disc this month. There was also a disturbing child central to (and staring from the poster of) Rebekah Fortune’s Deadly Intent. Finally for April, Michael Munn of Martello Films makes the first of an impressive three entries on this list with his self-released debut feature Once Upon a Haunting.

May brought us Benedict Mart’s feature about a woman luring a man to his doom on a little island. Originally entitled Siren (when I wrote an early treatment) this was shot as Siren Song to avoid confusion with Andrew Hull’s 2011 BHR film but was released on US DVD as Blood Lust (which could have caused confusion with Richard Johnstone’s 2015 BHR film Bloodlust if that hadn’t been retitled Vampires – try and keep up). In Germany it was called #Cannibal Island (yes, with a hashtag). C Thomas Howell was the token Yank providing name value.

Neil Marshall lent his name value as executive producer to haunted radio station saga Dark Signal, the long-awaited second feature from Infestation director Ed Evers-Swindell (who provided all the Crawler voices in The Descent). Hour-long YouTube video The Search Ends was, I guess not unexpectedly, the sequel to a half-hour short called The Search Goes On. Directed by Daniel Franks, it’s something to do with a missing boy and an evil spirit. Not sure if there’s a first film called The Search Kicks Off. And there was a VOD release for Preternatural, a recursive tale of film-makers getting spooked, directed by Gav Chuckie Steel (The Shadow of Death).

Three UK DVDs of UK films released this month were: Oliver Frampton’s The Forgotten (spooky goings-on on a semi-derelict council estate); Mark Evans’ Transylvania-set found footager The Devil Complex aka The Devil Within; and Steve Gomez’s scifi/action/horror mash-up Kill Command.

June was a bit quieter with only two British horror films released. There was a US disc of Vampires: Lucas Rising, the second feature-length re-edit from Jason Davitt’s LGBT shirtless serial Vampires: Brighter in Darkness. And a VOD release for Alex Lightman’s bleak story of post-apocalyptic sibling rivalry, Tear Me Apart.

Stay tuned for July-December, posting tomorrow along with an alphabetical checklist.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

My top ten British horror films of 2016

In January I will do my annual round-up of British horror releases, once again totalling more than 70 films. For now, here are the ten (well, eleven) best that I’ve seen among this year’s releases, listed in chronological order.


dir. Steve Lawson
Gripping horror-thriller about an enraged hunter chasing a young woman through a forest after a tragic accident. Shot as Rites of Passage. Theatrical release (as Survival Instinct) in February. UK DVD with third title in June.
  • My review: “Helen Crevel is simply awesome in the lead role, capturing the confusion, realisation, horror, hope and determination of an ordinary person suddenly facing an extraordinary, potentially lethal situation.”

The Other Side of the Door

dir. Johannes Roberts
Spooky ghost story set and shot in India, with echoes of The Monkey’s Paw. British theatrical release in March, US disc in June. Watch out for Jo Roberts’ shark film 47 Metres Down in 2017.
  • My review: “Without going into detail, things get worse and worse, deadlier and deadlier. Jo does a great job of twisting the knife, showing his years of horror film-making experience.”

Fluid Boy

dir. Jason Impey and Wade Radford
Disturbing, transgressive three-hander in which an actress auditioning for a zombie film is abused by her potential co-star while the director does nothing. Echoes of Fight Club, maybe? DVD in March.
  • My review: “Even by Jason Impey’s standards, Fluid Boy is a nasty piece of work: a brutal, unpleasant, unbelievably misogynist film which is as simple and stark as it is violent and revolting. … It bolsters Impey’s position as an important name in the British Horror Revival.”

Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown and Hollower

dir. MJ Dixon
Two prequels to Slasher House, both released on DVD in August. Cleaver is a stylish Halloween homage, Hollower is a disturbingly creepy police procedural.
  • My review: “What appears at first to be a straightforward coulrophobic slasher turns out to have layers that are revealed in the third act. Not everyone is who we assume they are, or doing what we assume they’re doing. Plus of course there’s plenty of blood, decapitation and screaming.”
  • My other review: “Stylish, spooky, slick and seriously disturbing in its finale, Hollower is an accomplished piece of film-making that shifts the Mycho team of MJ Dixon and Anna McCarthy up a gear.”

Video Killer

dir. Richard Mansfield
A woman receives mysterious VHS tapes showing crudely animated, disturbing cartoons and brief glimpses of real violence. US disc released in September.
  • My review: “The result is genuinely creepy, a fascinatingly unnerving tale of justified paranoia (helped by an absolutely cracking central performance, full of credibly wide-eyed terror).”

The Girl with All the Gifts

dir. Colm McCarthy
Superlative zombie film with intriguing, original premise and great cast headed by Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close. Played UK cinemas in September.
  • No review from me. It’s running at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Under the Shadow

Dir. Babak Anvari
Awesome supernatural horror film set in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War. A woman struggles to protect her daughter from a djinn as Iraqi missiles rain down. Won three BIFAs and could seriously get an Oscar nom. In UK cinemas in September, US theatres in October.
  • I didn’t review this one, but 98% on Rotten Tomatoes says it all.

Plan Z

dir. Stuart Brennan
Impressively bleak zombie feature centred on a man who has planned ahead for just such an eventuality. American DVD in October and a UK theatrical release in November.
  • My review: “As dour and unforgiving as a Scotsman’s postcard: everything is terrible, life is empty and hopeless, almost everything we know has gone, the rest of our days will be a struggle for existence, if we’re lucky it may be short, weather fine, how are you?”

My Bloody Banjo

dir. Liam Regan
Hilarious, Troma-esque feature about a man whose invisible childhood friend returns to wreak chaos. Originally titled Banjo. Released on VOD in October, US DVD in November.
  • My review: “Banjo is a tasteless, outrageous hoot from start to finish. It’s great that someone in the UK is carrying the Tromatic torch so proudly.”

Zombie Women of Satan 2

dir. Warren Speed and Chris Greenwood
Insane sequel to notoriously insane film chronicling the further adventures of Pervo the Clown. Released on UK DVD in October. Next year’s US disc will be retitled Female Zombie Riot.
  • My review: “Just like its predecessor, Zombie Women of Satan 2 is a sort of three-way bastard stepchild of Rocky Horror, Dawn of the Dead and Viz comic. It takes no prisoners, doesn’t give a wet slap what people think, and has no truck with concepts such as good taste or restraint.”
This is a personal selection. Agree? Disagree? What was your favourite British horror film this year? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Press release: Templeheart Films partner with The London Bridge Experience to bring The Tombs to life

UK production company Templeheart Films head into principal photography on The Tombs: Rise of the Damned, a horror movie set in The London Tombs, The London Bridge Experience’s year round horror themed tourist attraction.

Officially classed as the UK’s scariest tourist attraction, The London Tombs at the London Bridge Experience, is about to get scarier as Templeheart Films begin principal photography this week on a movie designed to bring the attraction to life.

A publicity stunt, promoting the sequel to the cult box office hit 'The Tombs', turns horribly wrong as an evil spirit trails the "celebrity" guests through the claustrophobic halls of the famous maze of terror.

Written by Michael W Smith and directed by Dan Brownlie, The Tombs: Rise of the Damned, is set entirely in the London attraction and stars Jessica Ann Brownlie (Valley of the Witch), Jess Impiazzi (The Only Way Is Essex), Marcia do Vales (Ibiza Undead), Akie Kotabe (Humans), Anthony Ilott (Wrong Turn 6), Ayvianna Snow (Heretiks) and Devora Wilde (Rush).

“Horror fans are some of independent film’s most loyal audiences, so to partner with The London Bridge Experience makes for a perfect brand partnership”, says producer Rachel Gold.  “With the success of attractions like Secret Cinema, the growth of interactive theatre shows and the explosion of VR, its obvious that audiences are crying out for new immersive experiences. So it seemed obvious to create a movie where the actual film location is open to the public to experience for themselves what our film’s characters are going through.”

Director Dan Brownlie said "As a director, I feel incredibly privileged to be filming inside the London Tombs considering this is the first time that the attraction has ever allowed third party photography of any kind to take place in this sought after location despite numerous requests including high profile production and television companies.  This is an opportunity not to be missed and I feel honoured to be trusted with the secrets of this highly protected location.  I cannot thank team at The London Bridge Experience enough."

Producers, Templeheart Films, are one of the UK’s most prolific production companies having produced 30 features including The Seasoning House, The London Firm, Ibiza Undead and most recently Heretiks.  Templeheart’s first US production, the supernatural horror movie Quail Hollow, goes into production in early 2017.

The London Bridge Experience is a tourist attraction in Southwark, London, England, on the south bank of the River Thames where actors lead guests on a tour through the 'dark' moments of London's history.  The Experience’s sister attraction, the multi-award winning The London Tombs, is a scare attraction built in the remains of a former plague pit.

Friday, 25 November 2016

North Bank Entertainment, the Welsh house of horror

With 13 feature films produced over the past five years, Andrew Jones’s North Bank Entertainment is the most prolific and consistent ‘horror house’ in the UK. All but three of those were written, directed and produced by Andrew. Though few viewers will recognise North Bank Entertainment as a brand, Andrew has been quietly building up a reputation with distributors for solid DTV horror product delivered on time, on budget.

Before founding North Bank Entertainment, Andrew Jones made two social dramas, Teenage Wasteland and The Feral Generation. Produced by Stuart Brennan and Neil Jones, The Feral Generation was never released but my review is here.

Here are North Bank Entertainment’s 13 films to date, in production order. Synopses from Amazon. You can keep track of future work on Facebook.

Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection

The deceased have risen from their graves with only one instinct, to feed on the living. As academics speculate on the scientific cause of the phenomena, theologians point to the Armageddon foretold in the Book of Revelation. As the cities are over run and civilization crumbles, a family take refuge from the un-dead army in an isolated farmhouse in West Wales. But the greatest threat is already among them.

Homage to George Romero’s PD classic. Directed and co-written by James Plumb. Cast includes Sule Rimi, Lee Bane, Kathy Saxondale, SJ Evans, Sabrina Dickens, Richard Goss, Sarah Louise Madison. Shot September 2011. UK cinemas, November 2012; US DVD, April 2013; UK DVD, May 2013; German DVD, August 2013

Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming

The abandoned home of Wilfred Butler, a wealthy but troubled man who committed suicide in 1987, has been willed to his grandson, Jeffrey. The house has sat in disarray since Wilfred's death, standing in the way of developers who want to turn the property into residential homes. Just before Christmas 2012, many years after Wilfred's death, Jeffrey and his lawyer appear in town to negotiate the sale of the property. But an axe wielding maniac has set up residence in the house, and he doesn't take kindly to strangers.

Remake of a 1972 American film. Directed and co-written by James Plumb. Cast includes Adrienne King, Sabrina Dickens, Lee Bane, Sule Rimi, Richard Goss. Shot April-May 2012. UK DVD, October 2013 (originally announced for March 2013); US DVD, February 2014; German DVD, November 2014

The Amityville Asylum

Lisa Templeton begins a new job as a cleaner at High Hopes Hospital, a mental institution in Amityville, Long Island. Initially delighted to get the job, Lisa soon realises that all is not as it seems. Intimidated by staff and the psychotic ramblings of the patients, she is further unnerved by apparent supernatural occurrences on the night shift. To preserve her sanity, Lisa must uncover the mysterious history of the institution and its inmates. But the truth is far more terrifying than she could ever imagine.

Nominally connected to the original 1979 The Amityville Horror. Cast includes Eileen Daly, Lee Bane, Paul Kelleher, Sophia Del Pizzo, Kenton Hall, Sarah Louise Madison, Judith Haley. Shot January 2013. UK cinemas, June 2013; German DVD, Sep 2013 (as The Nesting 2: Amityville Asylum); Australian DVD, October 2013; US DVD, January 2014; UK DVD, February 2014

Theatre of Fear

Prepare for a unique concoction of murder and mayhem as we take to the stage with the Moreau Family, a band of twisted misfits who travel around the UK performing a sinister variety act for unsuspecting audiences. Leave your inhibitions at the door and open your mind to an experience unlike any other as you witness one of the most bizarre crime sprees in the annals of British history. As the twisted family unleash their surreal brand of carnage, vengeful hit man Duke Enright is hot on their trail, determined to bring their show to a close. Dare you enter the Theatre of Fear? You'll PAY to enter but you'll PRAY to leave.

Cast includes Jared Morgan, Nathan Head, Lee Bane, Sarah Louise Madison, Shireen Ashton, Sam Harding, Kenton Hall, Tiffany Ceri. Shot October 2013 (as The Midnight Horror Show). UK DVD, September 2014; US DVD, March 2015; German DVD, June 2016. Also released in The Ultimate Horror Collection (UK) and Die Grosse Horror-Clowns Deluxe Mega-Box (Germany)

Conjuring the Dead

Kristen Matthews moves from London to a small Welsh village after inheriting a house left to her by a recently deceased relative. Kristen settles into her new surroundings, makes friends with her neighbours and all appears well. But a series of unexplained suicides occur in the village, leaving the local police baffled. Kristen begins to experience vivid nightmares and the local priest falls victim to supernatural attacks. Dormant spirits have been reawakened. Can anyone stop the manifestation of ancient evil or is Kristen fated to pay for her new home's dark history?

Cast includes Rachel Howells, Lee Bane, Jared Morgan, Alison Lenihan, Kenton Hall, Ross Owen Williams, Shot November 2013 (as Valley of the Witch). US DVD, January 2015; UK DVD, August 2015

The Last House on Cemetery Lane

Screenwriter John Davies has grown tired of living in London and moves to an old manor house in a sleepy West Wales village to get out of the rat race. At first he enjoys himself, embracing the quieter pace of life and starting a relationship with his beautiful neighbour Cassie Konrad. But strange, unexplained occurrences begin to occur in the manor house. John discovers he is surrounded by a supernatural presence and begins to research the house's past, discovering secrets more terrible than he ever imagined. It is now up to John to right the injustices of the past and finally lay to rest the spirits which haunt the Last House on Cemetery Lane.

Cast includes Lee Bane, Vivien Bridson, Georgina Blackledge, Tessa Wood, Shot April-May 2014. US DVD, February 2015; UK DVD, March 2015; German DVD, May 2016

Poltergeist Activity

After the death of his wife, David Prescott moves to a secluded farmhouse in a quiet village with teenage daughter Katherine. A stressful, upsetting time is soon made all the worse when they encounter unexplainable occurrences and frightening visions in their new home. Desperate for answers, David turns to retired paranormal investigator Hans Voltz who must rediscover all of his skill and spiritual strength to defeat the spectral menace.

Cast includes Lee Bane, Jared Morgan, Natalie Martins, Sam Harding, Dean Sills, Judith Haley. Shot September 2014. UK DVD, June 2015; US DVD, August 2015; German DVD, May 2016

Haunting at the Rectory

Based on chilling real life events, this story charts one couple's terrifying real life encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. In 1930, Reverend Lionel Foyster and his wife Marianne move into the Borley Rectory when Reverend Foyster is named rector of the parish. The couple's peaceful existence is soon shattered by a series of unexplained occurrences, which quickly escalate into a heart-stopping nightmare. Now Reverend Foyster and Marianne must discover the deadly secrets of the Rectory to avoid becoming another tragic footnote in the dark history of The Most Haunted House In England.

Cast includes Lee Bane, Suzie Frances Garton, Tom Bonington, Sarah-Louise Tyler. Shot November 2014 (as A Haunting at the Rectory). UK DVD, June 2015


After Paul and Jenny part company with their sinister housekeeper Agatha, the disgruntled former employee gives a vintage doll called Robert to their son Gene. Soon after Agatha's departure, strange events begin plaguing the household. Furniture is vandalised, objects are thrown around and maniacal giggles echo through the house in the middle of the night. But nobody believes Gene when he claims Robert is to blame for the disturbances. Paul and Jenny consider the possibility that a supernatural force has taken over their home. But as the occurrences escalate they discover that it's not the house that's haunted... it's the doll.

Cast includes Suzie Frances Garton, Lee Bane, Flynn Allen, Judith Haley, Megan Lockhurst. Shot February 2015 (as Robert the Doll). UK DVD: August 2015; German DVD, May 2016

Kill Kane

In an explosive story of urban violence, family man Ray Brookes seeks revenge when his wife and children are murdered by infamous gangsters. Unable to place his faith in the justice system and with nothing left to lose, he turns vigilante and stalks the streets, on the hunt for those who robbed him of a future.

Directed by Adam Stephen Kelly, co-written by Kelly, Jones and Christian Sellers. This crime thriller is North Bank Entertainment’s only non-horror title and the only film with an obviously marketable name in the cast - Vinnie Jones. Cast also includes Nicole Faraday, Sebastian Street, Sean Cronin, Lee Bane, Jared Morgan. Shot April 2015. UK DVD, January 2016; US DVD, March 2016

The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund

In this terrifying true story, something beyond comprehension is happening to wife and mother Anna Ecklund. Once a mild mannered churchgoer, she is now prone to bouts of violent rage with a particular anger toward religious imagery. Desperate to find a cure for Anna's disturbing behaviour, her family call on doctors and psychiatrists to provide a diagnosis. But when no rational explanation can be found, local priest Father Riesinger teams up with Vatican investigator Father Lamont to evaluate the case. Realising that Anna is inhabited by a malevolent entity, the priests take her to a nearby Convent to perform an Exorcism. But all hell breaks loose and a brutal battle between good and evil begins.

Cast includes Lee Bane, Tiffany Ceri, Jeff Raggett, Judith Haley. Shot June 2015; UK DVD: March 2016

The Curse of Robert

Emily Barker is a cash strapped student trying to make money as a cleaner, working nights at the East Falls Museum. But her peaceful graveyard shift turns into a time of terror when she is plagued by the sound of footsteps in empty corridors and mysterious vandalism throughout the building. Emily suspects that one of the exhibits, a creepy vintage doll named Robert, is alive and wreaking havoc after hours. Her reports to the head of security and the museum owner go unheeded, but when members of the night staff turn up dead in sinister circumstances, Emily knows the doll is responsible for the bloodshed. But a local police detective points the finger of suspicion at Emily and she finds herself the prime suspect in the investigation. Can she convince everyone of the truth behind the murders and clear her name? Or will she too fall victim to the Curse of Robert the Doll?

North Bank Entertainment’s first sequel to one of its own films. Cast includes Nigel Barber, Lee Bane, Tiffany Ceri, Chris Bell, Suzie Frances Garton. Shot January 2016 (as The Curse of Robert the Doll). UK DVD, September 2016; US DVD, November 2016

The Toymaker

In Nazi Germany, 1941, fearsome Colonel Ludolf Von Alvensleben acquires a legendary Occult book which holds the secret to bringing inanimate objects to life. Stolen by rogue Nazi officer Benjamin Hoffman, the mysterious book ends up in the hands of Toymaker Amos Blackwood after Benjamin is tracked down and murdered by SS officers in the town of Rosenheim. As the Nazis terrorize the locals while searching for the book, the Toymaker experiments with the ancient tome and gives life to his collection of vintage dolls and handmade toys. After betrayal from one of his employees the SS raid the Toymaker's shop, stealing the book and kidnapping Amos. But the animated dolls and toys don't take kindly to the loss of their master. So begins a mission to rescue the Toymaker from the clutches of the evil Colonel and exact a brutal and bloody revenge on the Nazis.

Cast includes Lee Bane, Nathan Head, Jo Weil, Erick Hayden. Shot November 2016. Currently in post-production.

Still to come (possibly): Death House Dolls, Cabin 28, The Last House on Sorority Row, Alice, The Reborn, Ed Gein: American Psycho, The Haunting of Amelia Rose, Frankenstein vs Dracula, Primeval Predators, The Filthy Thirteen

Monday, 7 November 2016

Press release: new animated Brtish horror short ‘Nothing To Declare’

Film Debut for Comic Book Artist Frank Quitely 
Bafta-nominated Director, Oscar-winning artist and former Mogwai musician on team of ‘Nothing To Declare’

Comic book artist Frank Quitely - best known for his work on New X-Men, We3, and All-Star Superman with Grant Morrison, and titles such as The Authority and Jupiter's Legacy with Mark Miller - marks a move into animation with Nothing To Declare, an animated horror short.

The film is directed by multi-BAFTA-nominated animator Will Adams and produced by Mal Young, with artwork by Fraser McLean and Tom Bryant. It is based on a short story by Frank Quitely in which a well-meaning 19-year-old returns home at Christmas from backpacking in South America, only to discover he has unintentionally triggered a catastrophic chain of events.  The team expect the film to appeal to comic book readers, as well as fans of animation and horror.

For Quitely, it is not only his first foray into film - it is also his first time in the role of writer. He says:
“I’ve always loved the horror genre. I had written a bunch of short stories, and this one, I felt, particularly lent itself to animation. This is the first time i've written a story and handed it over to other artists to work on. It's my first venture in film, and the team I'm working with are exceptionally talented and have created a brilliantly crafted animation. I'm really excited at the prospect of seeing it finished.”

The film is a co-production between Scottish animation studios Once Were Farmers and Interface Pattern, marking the first collaboration between the multi-award-winning studios. It is enhanced by an original score by John Cummings, formerly of the band Mogwai, who left the band on amicable terms in 2015 to pursue other musical avenues.

Will Adams, Director, says:
"This will be the first home-grown short I've directed since 2009, so it's a rare treat to work on a project where we have real creative freedom. Having been a fan of Frank Quitely's work since I read his comics at school, it's been brilliant having the opportunity to collaborate so closely with him."
The team are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise the funds that they need to complete the film. The campaign launched on Halloween, and raised 25% of its target within the first few days.

The campaign is a rare opportunity for fans to acquire original artwork by Frank Quitely and Fraser McLean, including unseen sketches from Quitely’s sketchbook, unique, signed frames from the film, and your own portrait as a Nothing To Declare character drawn by Fraser McLean.

The campaign runs until 10th December on Indiegogo. Please visit for more information and to support the project.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Strong showing for British horror in the BIFA nominations

If you ever wanted evidence of a British Horror Revival, here it is. The nominations have been announced for the 2016 British Independent Film Awards. There are 5 nominations in 13 categories (not including the one for documentaries, shorts and international films). So 65 nominations and a whopping 14 of those are for horror films.

Under the Shadow has seven nominations with the others shared between five other British horror films, as follows:

Under the Shadow
Best British Independent Film, Best Director (Babak Anvari), Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Narges Rashidi), Best Supporting Actress (Avin Manshadi), Douglas Hickox Award for Debut Director (Babak Anvari), Breakthrough Producer (Camille Gatin)

The Girl with All the Gifts
Best Supporting Actress (Gemma Arterton), Most Promising Newcomer (Sennia Nanua), Outstanding Achievement in Craft (Seb Barker)

Douglas Hickox Award for Debut Director (Alice Lowe)

The Ghoul
The Discovery Award

The Discovery Award

Yr Ymadawiad (aka The Passing)
Debut Screenwriter (Ed Talfan)

Congratulations to all the nominees. Winners will be announced on 4th December.

Friday, 28 October 2016

10 hilarious British horror comedies you can watch instead of Shaun of the Dead

Don’t get me wrong. Shaun of the Dead is one of the best horror films ever made and one of the best comedies too. But if you’re looking for entertaining horror this Halloween weekend that you haven’t already watched 20 times, here’s some other bloody British rib-ticklers you could try.

Evil Aliens (Jake West, 2006)

A cheesy paranormal investigation TV show travels to a remote Welsh island after reports of extraterrestrial abductions – and finds they’re all true. The TV crew and three inbred brothers fight back against the hostile ETs using everything available, including (in the film’s most famous scene) a combine harvester. This uproarious ‘splatstick’ comedy is reminiscent of early Peter Jackson. With Emily Booth as the TV show’s host and Red Dwarf’s Norman Lovett as her producer. A realistic dead cow effect on set fooled a Government farm inspector and nearly got the location closed down! [Detailed review.]

The Cottage (Paul Andrew Williams, 2008)

This unjustifiably obscure black comedy starts out as a crime caper then turns into a backwoods horror. Reece Shearsmith and Andy Serkis are perfectly cast as bickering brothers who kidnap the foul-mouthed daughter of a strip club owner but are unprepared for how much trouble their victim can cause. When she escapes, dragging a panicking, handcuffed Shearsmith behind her, a nearby farm turns out to be the home of a hulking psychopath. The first half is stronger than the second but the whole film is howlingly funny. With Doug Bradley as a local villager displaying a fine Mummerset accent.

Strigoi: The Undead (Faye Jackson, 2010)

In this hugely entertaining, unjustifiably obscure dark comedy, failed Romanian medical student Vlad returns from Italy to his home village where something strange is happening that everyone is covering up. He suspects people are being murdered to steal their land but actually there are vampires – strigoi – abroad. Vlad’s rational refusal to believe in the supernatural contrasts with the villagers’ casual acceptance of strigoi and how to deal with them. Jackson’s observation of post-Ceausescu Romania, in both her drily witty script and her adept direction of straight-faced character actors, is as spot-on as it is hilarious.

Kill Keith (Andy Thompson, 2011)

A horror comedy about a serial killer targeting D-List celebrities? It sounds like a TV sketch but incredibly this is a real film which played cinemas. It’s also, against all expectations, hugely enjoyable and very funny. When an arrogant breakfast television host announces his retirement, a shortlist of possible replacements gets shorter as the ‘Breakfast Cereal Killer’ brutally murders the candidates. A romcom B-plot has a shy studio runner pining for the demure co-host and a vampiric quizmaster despairing of instructions to constantly dumb down his questions. Keith Chegwin, Joe Pasquale and Russell Grant all gamely lampoon themselves while Tony Blackburn plays his own lookalike. [Detailed review.]

Inbred (Alex Chandon, 2012)

Two social workers and four young offenders venture into the countryside for some character-building work and fun. After an evening in the local pub for local people, an accident the next day turns the villagers against the townies who find themselves forced to be part of a horrific ‘entertainment’. Crisp story-telling, glorious production design, hilariously straight-faced performances and unstinting gore combine to create a hugely enjoyable film. With American Horror Story’s Mat Fraser hammering some nails in, Emmerdale’s Dominic Brunt as a psycho butcher, and Emily Booth in a fun prologue. [Detailed review.]

Tuck Bushman and the Legend of Piddledown Dale (Chris Lumb, 2012)

Tuck Bushman, a hard-drinking, sexist, bad-tempered, Australian TV-naturalist-turned-monster-hunter has one last chance to sort his life out when the little Yorkshire town of Piddledown Dale advertises for help ridding the locality of a conveniently unspecified monster. With its parochial setting, over-the-top characterisations, and a small group of actors switching wigs, costumes and grimaces to play a wide range of eccentrics and grotesques, this deliriously daft monster comedy comes across as a cross between a Christmas panto and a sort of low-rent League of Gentlemen[Detailed review.]

Helsing: A Monster of a Documentary (Jamie McKeller, 2013)

This very funny monster-hunting splatter-mockumentary, edited from web serial I am Tim, features a descendant of the original Van Helsing. Working by day as a claims adjuster, Tim Helsing spends his evenings battling vampires, ghouls, goblins and monsters, assisted by his hirsute sidekick Poncho (who works 27 nights every month…). We also meet Tim’s long-suffering girlfriend, his nemesis the rakishly handsome Hannibal King, and a succession of not-long-for-this-world production assistants. Video game influenced graphics add to the fun and there is an on-screen ‘Documentary death count’.

Stalled (Christian James, 2013)

It’s Christmas Eve and the office staff are partying but building engineer WC is still at work, fixing something in the ladies toilet. When the zombie apocalypse hits, he’s stuck in a cubicle with a steadily increasing number of living dead between him and the door, many in festive fancy dress. This inventive and genuinely hilarious zom-com constantly heaps new ideas onto its simple premise, with WC making a Wile E Coyote-style series of attempts to retrieve his toolbox (and the stolen money therein). Cleverly constructed and adroitly directed: if you don’t watch it this weekend, save it for Christmas. [Detailed review.]

SOS: Save our Skins (Kent Sobey, 2014)

Two hapless British guys in New York for a sci-fi convention wake to find the entire world deserted. As they explore, they encounter a handful of other survivors: an old man with a dark secret, a crazy woman in a straitjacket, two conspiracy theorists and a paranoid survivalist. They also have to deal with a blue, troll-like monster on their tail. The story stumbles slightly in the final act as they encounter an alien who explains what is going on but this is very, very funny – and packed with fan-pleasing nerd references.

My Blood Banjo (Liam Regan, 2015)

Peltzer Arbuckle is saddled with an inferiority complex, a crap job in the accounts department of a paper manufacturing company and a cute ex-girlfriend who is now dating a swaggering American arsehole. The last thing he needs is his childhood imaginary friend Ronnie to reappear suddenly and wreak havoc in his life, causing mayhem and dismemberment that all gets blamed on Peltzer. A tasteless, outrageous hoot from start to finish, this uproarious comedy is a love letter to Troma films. With The Human Centipede’s Laurence R Harvey as a bullied co-worker and fan fave Dani Thompson as Peltzer’s mean girlfriend. [Detailed review.]

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Films that slipped out when no-one was looking: A Reckoning

I recently sat through some rubbish called SAS Black Ops (aka Slaughter is the Best Medicine) and recognised the name of one of the actors, AD Barker. A quick trip to IMDB confirmed I knew that name because he wrote and directed a British horror movie variously known as Straw Man or A Reckoning.

Shot back in early 2009, A Reckoning has been on my list of MIA British horror films for a long time. A few people saw it back in 2011, presumably from screeners, but some sort of dispute kept the film from distribution. So imagine my surprise to discover that A Reckoning slipped onto YouTube back in April, courtesy of Adam Krajczynski who was DP, editor and one of four producers.

Here’s AD Barker’s synopsis of his film from IMDB: “A lone man, trapped and imprisoned in a barren, desolate landscape. His only companions are a village of straw people with which he converses with as neighbours and friends; he even teaches straw children at the local school. Yet, this anchor, this way of habitual living, is about to become unravelled in frightening and disturbing ways.”

What makes A Reckoning particularly interesting is the cast. The lead role is played by Leslie Simpson, known for his roles in Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday and Beyond the Rave. And the woman he meets is played by Axelle Carolyn, known for roles in Blood + Roses, Centurion and Psychosis, and more recently director of Soulmate and Tales of Halloween. These two BHR names previously worked together in Tristan Versluis’ short I Love You.

I don’t know how or why A Reckoning has finally turned up – and I haven’t watched it myself yet – but it’s good to tick it off the MIA list after seven years in Limbo.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Can’t wait to see… Skullz and Dead Fred

Skullz is a family-friendly horror mystery currently being shot by TF Film Productions Ltd down in the south. Here’s the synopsis:

On a school trip at the local museum, class troublemaker Scott Collins experiences a bizarre psychic connection with one of its artifacts - a skull. The creepy skull allows him to for-see his grandmother's death. Of course, nobody believes him, passing it off as one of his usual tales. But after gran dies suddenly, his younger sister, Trish, for whom he shares a mutual contempt, is stunned to learn that her brother's premonition was true. 

With both parents out of work and their house on the verge of foreclosure, Scott, still affected by the powers of the skull, convinces his family to accept employment as caretakers for a large Victorian house in the countryside. When they arrive they meet the owner, Trelawney, a seemingly normal man with one exception - he has the ability to speak to Scott telepathically. Scott soon discovers that the cursed skull holds the key to both of their futures.

The cast includes Tim Faraday (Scar Tissue, Harvest of the Dead, Primeval), Henry Douthwaite (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Axed, The Last Horror Movie) and Gillian Tully (Distant Shadow). Director Deanna Dewey co-wrote My Guardian Angel. You can find out more on Facebook.

Many of the cast are also in a second feature from TF Films and Dewey, a macabre black comedy called Dead Fred. Now in post and likely to be released first, this stars the legendary Sandra Dickinson (Hitchhiker’s Guide, StagKnight) with Jane How (Don’t Wait Up, Doctor Who: ‘Planet of the Daleks’), Susan Kyd, Judy Norman and Melissa de Mol.

This is also on Facebook. Here’s the synopsis: When three older women take over the care of a dear friend who has dementia, they get more than they bargained for when they discover she’s hiding her dead husband in the freezer…

While neither of these is strictly speaking a horror movie, cursed skulls and dead bodies in freezers are enough to qualify as British horror in my book...