Hunters Lodge (2016) Review

rsz_hl1HUNTERS LODGE (2016)

Starring Tim Ahern, Janis Ahern and Nicola Wright

Written & Directed by Martyn Tott

“A war veteran discovers treachery, murder and ghosts from his past at a remote island lodge funeral. Psycho thriller”.

It’s always the most exciting when reviewing a film you have absolutely no prior knowledge of. When something slips under the radar it can sometimes be a sign of the films quality, or lack thereof. But every once in awhile, you find a gem.

Hunters Lodge isn’t quite a gem, but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. A no budget psychological thriller with a combined cast and crew of EIGHT (!!!), with filmmaker Martyn Tott multi-tasking as writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor, Hunters Lodge is a labour of love for all involved and that love is quite infectious.

Set almost completely in the titular location, Hunters Lodge tells the story of Harry (Tim Ahern), a war veteran who, despite being haunted by his violent history, is a genuinely nice guy. He travels to the lodge for his old friend Peter’s funeral, and is greeted by Peter’s nephew Eddy (Matt Oliver), his wife Sue (Nicola Wright), Eddy’s cousin Penny (Kim Driver) and caretaker Jackie (Janis Ahern). The longer Harry stays at the lodge, the clearer it becomes to him that something sinister is going on…

rsz_hl2Hunters Lodge plays like an Agatha Christie stageplay crossed with an old school ghost story like The Changeling, with a slightly Gothic atmosphere and constant talk of inheritance and family ties. It’s melodramatic but I suppose that goes with the territory. Visually, the piece is quite polished, with layered lighting and a lovely location. Unfortunately the editing and sound design lets it down slightly. Dialogue is crisp and clear but the musical interludes are sometimes repetitive and ill-fitting, and attempts to jazz up the style in the edit misfire. In the first half of the movie, that is…However, the story is always coherent, which makes a change for a no-budget film. I must mention a sequence halfway through the film too. A nightmarish scene set in Harry’s room, it does absolute wonders with sound, lighting and framing, and really stands apart from everything else. I have to hand it to Tott for single handedly creating this section of the film, it’s very inspired. Just shows what can be achieved with no money and lots of imagination.

As a matter of fact, one thing that Hunters Lodge has to its advantage that similar films don’t, is it’s cast. Veteran character actors Tim and Janis Ahern have incredible charisma and likability and it’s clear these characters were written with them in mind as they are perfect and disappear into the roles. Matt Oliver and Nicola Wright are also engagingly mysterious as the Brits, offering plenty of subtext to their characters. In terms of acting and dialogue, the film works wonders.

rsz_hl3Occasionally sluggish in pace and hampered by a pretty predictable story, Hunters Lodge nonetheless deserves your attention for it’s fantastic performances and some very creative filmmaking. For a no budget film, Tott has still managed to make something cinematic. It really makes you wonder what he and his cast could do with a bit of money and extra crew. Check it out.

7/10

Webcast (2016) Review

webcast1Webcast (2016)

Writer/Director: Paul McGhie

Stars: Samantha Redford, Joseph Tremain and Nicola Wright

Runtime: 95min

Synopsis (from IMDb): “When two young filmmakers suspect their neighbours are involved with the abduction of a teenage girl, they begin to run surveillance on them, and that’s when things start to go wrong.”

Webcast is a found footage/mockumentary style horror thriller, presented as a feature length film. The film starts with two student film makers, Chloe Webber (Samantha Redford) and Ed Dickens (Joseph Tremain). They are initially doing a follow up investigation of the disappearance of Chloe’s aunt many years ago by interviewing the neighbours who knew her at the time. We meet some colourful characters along the way and some are less cooperative with the questions than might be desired, considering how so many years have passed since the incident. In between takes of Chloe on active documentary duty, she records some video journals of her thoughts and catches us up on what has been happening. The camera is always rolling; with this however they uncover some questionable behaviour on film and begin to suspect that the neighbours are keeping a girl against her will, this is when things really start to get interesting.

webcast2The latter half of the film has our two protagonists trying to unravel the mystery of the rather dubious behaviour of the neighbours and the unexplained events, disappearances and illnesses that have certainly ramped up in frequency since they began to poke their respective noses into it all. This is all conveyed very convincingly by a very strong cast who come across very candid and natural. The camera work too is purposeful with no fancy aerial shots and the like that would break the immersion of the videos blog feel.

One main issue I would have with Webcast is that the feature length format does not suit it in the slightest, given that the middle of the film feels a bit bloated with filler, owing to the fact it is presented as a very genuine ongoing video blog. I would propose exactly that; the films own canonical methods as an alternative presentation. As they upload their findings and video at the end of each day. I would split the film up into five acts, also given that the climax itself is the only actual live webcast and in the context of the film is the only way possible that this “footage” made it out for public viewing following the climactic scene. I did personally have to watch this in packets to fully appreciate its style.

webcast3Overall however, Webcast is a competently made horror thriller and a feature debut for writer/director Paul McGhie with an excellent cast on hand too, to really push this from run-of-the-mill low budget horror to a genuinely engaging and entertaining film with subject matter that will really make you rethink how you see your neighbours, or anybody for that matter. If there was a hint less paranormal you could have taken this as 100% authentic docudrama with believable occult leanings. There is enough here to satisfy your horror needs for sure. McGhie is one to watch.

Verdict: Tony Blair Witch Project

7/10