“Hello Babs, I thought they were coming to get you?” says the porter of a mental institution in the opening line of SNBN:TH, as he reclines back in his chair watching George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead on his iPad. Whatever you think about the movies that North Bank Entertainment / Mad Science Films produce, they love their genre films. Their last movie was Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (reviewed in the pages of UKHS somewhere by me), and it garnered a wealth of hate. Check out the user reviews on IMDb – there’s even one that begins “why oh why oh why…”, and here’s me thinking that belonged only to Sunday afternoon episodes of Points of View.
I liked NOTLD:R because it was knowingly British and was obviously made by people that just love horror films, with this in mind I was pleasantly looking forward to checking out SNBN:TH (apologies for continual acronyms). Here, the action centres around the Butler house, an abandoned property in deepest Carmarthenshire which has been vacant since 1987 when its occupant Wilfred Butler committed suicide. In the years that have passed it’s become a prime target for developers who are keen to flatten the house and turn it into residential homes.
Out of the blue however comes Jeffrey Butler (Alan Humphreys), Wilfred’s grandson who arrives on the scene intent on buying the property in a lightning quick sale, much to the chagrin of the townsfolk. Coincidentally though, there seems to be an axe wielding maniac who has taken up residence in the property and doesn’t seem too thrilled about the arrival of any strangers.
Whilst SNBN:TH does retain many of the aspects of the 1972 original – character names, similar framework etc, like its predecessor NOTLD:R it manages to break out from being a direct remake into more homage territory mixed with its own identity. What enables it to assert itself is undoubtedly two great performances from Humphreys and Mel Stevens who plays the Mayor’s daughter Diane Adams. They’re both good actors and their contributions mask a couple of slightly weaker players – which is only to be expected for a film of this budget. (Also check out Adrienne King doing some vocal work!)
With regard to the horror it’s gloriously gruesome. Well-paced murders punctuate the film and it’s never long before the next slashing, with people meeting their deaths in a variety of ways including death by fairy lights! A criticism would be the backstory the film stops to tell part way through, which whilst interesting I felt was a little overlong and disrupted the flow of the film a little.
Having said that though, it’s admirable to see a level of exposition like that in a climate where storyline and motive often takes a back seat. Overall, SNBN:TH is a great home-grown horror which makes good use of its isolated Welsh landscape and manages to bring a little respect to the ‘re-imagining’ table, thanks to filmmakers that obviously have so much respect for the source material.
6 out of 10
• Commentary with producer Andrew James and director James Plumb says the box – no there isn’t !! Shame, as I was looking forward to this.