The Devil’s Music (2008) Director’s Cut Edition DVD Review

devil'smusic1The Devil’s Music (2008) Director’s Cut Edition 

Dir: Pat Higgins

Starring – Debbie Attwell, Chandrika Chevli, Richard Collins

Run Time – 97 Minutes

UK DVD release from Cornerstone Media on Pre-Order NOW – CLICK HERE

The Devil’s Music is a mockumentary (or rather a mock-rock-umentary) which strays into found footage territory. The film ends up suggesting that (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT WHICH NEGATES YOU WATCHING THE ENTIRE MOVIE, BUT WHICH CAN’T REALLY BE AVOIDED NOW I’VE DRAFTED AN ENTIRE ARTICLE LIKE THIS) Satan is an ex-member of a boy band. Shock! Horror! Could it really be true? I think anyone who’s ever been exposed to Robbie Williams knows the answer to that…..

If you’re after a rip-roaring, gore-soaked thrill ride, then I’m afraid The Devil’s Music is not for you. Featuring a lot of talking heads, it’s not really a horror movie per se, but more a dark drama. Having said that, fans of independent British horror will recognise a few familiar faces, perhaps most notably James Fisher from The Zombie Diaries (2006) and numerous other genre projects.

devil'smusic2The Devil’s Music is made up of two main components; video footage from the last tour of now missing shock-popper, Erika Spawn and the previously mentioned talking head sequences of Erika’s associates pontificating on the past and, in particular, her feud with holier than thou ex-boyband member, Robin Harris. The film is ultimately based around the big reveal of Harris’ real identity, which is a playfully humorous premise, although sometimes slow moving.

A suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience is required in parts, not least in scenes of Harris (supposedly the biggest pop star in the country) “singing”. The dialogue often appears to be improvised, which sometimes leads to awkward exchanges and difficult viewing, but at other times results in some natural and impressive monologues to camera from the “interviewees”.

Numerous story strands involving Erika Spawn’s entourage and their relationships and interactions with each other, as well as the bizarre behaviour of Spawn herself, will keep you guessing as to where the plot is heading, but the movie is not woven tightly enough to fully enfranchise the audience as mystery solvers, so when the final denouement is presented from straight out of left-field, you may find yourself feeling cheated (except you won’t, because I’ve already ruined it for you in the second sentence of this review. As Grandpa says in The Lost Boys, “If you’ve got the TV guide, you don’t need a TV”).

devil'smusic3A humorous premise, an interesting concept for presentation and enough familiar character types to make any indie / metal kid cringe, mean that The Devil’s Music is worth a watch. But it does have the pace of a tortoise pulling a steamroller and has an amateurish feel at times. In a battle of movies with “The Devil’s….” titles, I’d place it ahead of The Devil’s Rejects, but that might be damning with faint praise.

5/10

SHE (short film 2014) – Review

FF bannershepicSHE (short) (2014)

Dir: Mark Vessey, Chelsey Burdon
Written By: Mark Vessey, Chelsey Burdon
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Philip James
15 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014

A woman trapped in an abusive relationship decides to take revenge on her lover, just in time for their anniversary celebrations.

Following a stunning, breakthrough performance in last year’s well-received Curse Of Chucky, alongside her father Brad, the talented Fiona Dourif further solidifies her burgeoning Scream Queen reputation in SHE, which premièred at Frightfest 2014, as a woman forced to turn to drastic measures in order to punish the man who has been abusing her.

Opening with a shot of a couple waking up in bed together – quickly followed by a well-judged, but still rough, rape sequence over some chopped carrots – Dourif’s beautifully pained face remains the focus of this nasty little short throughout. Clearly terrified of Philip James’s He, Dourif epitomises the idea of a trapped, hopeless victim, with a quickly shut door symbolising her lack of an escape.

However, when she turns, and her eyes darken, what should be jarring instead makes perfect sense. Although we only know She for a short time, her transition from desperate woman to triumphant revenge-seeker is totally justified. Considering the two only have one line of dialogue between them, it’s a testament to the strength of their performances that their entire, fractured history is communicated with just a few shared glances.

David Meadows’ – whose credits include The Human Centipede II and III – cinematography contrasts harsh, stark whites against deep, gooey reds. The home the couple shares feels clinical, the interior almost surgical, while every object seems somehow phallic in nature. Sound is of the utmost importance here, too, with the butchering of a carrot by She, and a piece of meat by He, of particular significance.

The first shock of blood is great, but the money shot that follows it is worth watching the film for alone. Boasting some seriously impressive, practical special effects, it’s lengthy and effectively nasty. In fact, when SHE screened at Frightfest, the sequence was met with audible gasps from the audience – in particular, the males present – and it’s easy to see why.

shepic1The parting shot is nicely creepy, too, although it’s subtler than what came before. Considering this was announced as the first in a trilogy, upon its festival debut, it stands to reason that the final glimpse of She is what it is. It will be interesting to see how the story progresses, in light of what state He is in at the end, too.

Special thanks are given to the Soska sisters, following the credits, and their influence on young filmmakers Burdon and Vessey is evident. Their output, too, is gory, thought-provoking and arguably feminist in tone. But SHE has a fire that is entirely its, or rather her, own, one that burns fiercely and is present in the tiniest flicker of a candle’s flame, or the deadly gleam of a steak knife.

Rating: 7/10

SHE will be screened at Grimmfest on October 2nd – info HERE

An Interview with Richard Gladman by Dean Sills

rgladman1An Interview with Richard Gladman

UKHS – Welcome to UK Horror Scene. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and when did you first discover your love for Horror and Sci-fi?

RG -I was born in London but my family moved to a small town called Bletchley (now part of the city of Milton Keynes) when I was very young. It was a small town with a small-minded attitude but I always strived to be different, particularly in the way I dressed as a teenager and beyond; of course, part of that theatricality has stayed with me through the years and I find it fun to sometimes dress up a little when hosting or attending horror events! I guess I discovered horror and sci-fi through television and cinema; I was an avid movie-goer from a young age and was always intrigued by the dark side of Disney movies. I was also a total telly addict and loved watching Scooby Doo, The Tomorrow People, Children of the Stones…anything involving monsters, ghosts, aliens and the like – the scarier the better!

UKHS – You are the founder of ‘The Classic Horror Campaign’ & ‘Frighten Brighton’. Can you please tell us a little about each one and what was the inspiration behind them?

RG – The Classic Horror Campaign came about due to my love of the BBC2 Horror Double Bills as a kid; they introduced me to the wonders of Universal monsters and Hammer’s “Kensington Gore” (Google it! *laughs*). I realised that despite the number of TV channels we now have, choice has become more limited than ever with hardly any classic horror or black and white sci-fi movies on free-to-air television so I started a campaign and a petition to get the BBC to bring back the horror double bill seasons. Despite getting thousands of signatures, appearing on BBC One’s Points of View show and having a lot of celebrity support, the BBC didn’t respond. However, the campaign was also about raising awareness of classic horror and old movies and introducing young people to the pleasure of vintage films so in some ways it has been very successful. The Horror Channel began screening a lot more old movies (including tons of Hammer) in primetime and even the other channels (including the BBC) seemed to have more horror programming since the campaign began; Mark Gatiss’ A History of Horror documentaries being a prime example.

Frighten Brighton stemmed from the Classic Horror Double Bill screenings I programmed and hosted in London and Manchester. I was amazed that a city like Brighton didn’t have its own horror festival so I created the Frighten Brighton brand and began a series of classic horror film screenings at various venues that continue to this day. The most successful event was the Frighten Brighton Classic Horror Film Festival held at the Komedia entertainment venue in 2012 co-hosted by scream queen Emily Booth…a whole day of horror films from the ‘30s thru the ‘70s! This year Frighten Brighton has been asked to be part of the Scalarama cult film festival so I’m running a free event at the Caroline of Brunswick pub – it’ll be great fun for sure!

rgladman2UKHS – Last year you launched your own Classic Horror/Sci-fi magazine called ‘Space Monsters’. Congratulations Richard, you are doing such a brilliant job with the magazine, well done! What actually inspired you to produce such a fantastic magazine like this?

RG – I’d always wanted to publish my own genre magazine and finally, after a few aborted attempts, Space Monsters was born! I was inspired by publisher Dez Skinn’s magazines of the seventies which I read as a kid; Monster Mag, House of Hammer and Starburst in particular. Other influences were Famous Monsters (of course!), Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times. I just wanted to publish a magazine that I would buy…the focus on sci-fi came about because there are already so many excellent classic horror magazines on the market like We Belong Dead and Monster Bash but none that really covered classic sci-fi movies and TV.

UKHS -Thank you for the Clint Eastwood feature I did for you in Issue 5. Are you still looking for new writers and if so what Classic Horror/Sci-fi films and TV shows would you like them to cover?

RG – I already have a fantastic team of writers but if anyone comes up with a really unique angle on an old film or TV show then I’m interested. Many of the films and TV shows have been covered elsewhere over the years so I always look for a different angle or a different viewpoint. For example, in our Doctor Who special I interviewed an actress called Barbara Ward (Terror of the Vervoids) and writer Paul Magrs…not the sort of people you’d find in the more mainstream magazines. Next issue we have an interview with a guy called David Connellan who has made an excellent Space:1999 fan film which is being screened at a big Space:1999 convention later this month.

As for articles I want for future issues….Star Maidens (TV show) would be great fun to feature, Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman, Forbidden Planet…oh there’s so many cool sci-fi films and telly!

rgladman3UKHS – What would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic Horror flick?

RG – I guess they would be atmosphere, script and acting. I know that technology and make-up effects have advanced so much but there’s something about the old movies, even the so-called “bad movies” that just can’t be matched in terms of imagination and ingenuity particularly in terms of special effects. In some ways, with horror films, atmosphere and lighting are even more important than the storyline and the acting but of course when you get all three right, you come up with a true classic like “The Haunting”.

UKHS – Do you have a guilty pleasure Horror/Sci-fi film?

RG – No, I never feel guilty about the things I enjoy…and that includes films!

UKHS – If you could have dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

RG – Great question! There are so many interesting people (dead or alive) that it’s almost impossible to answer. And I know so many awesome people that I would quite happily have dinner with all of them, otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends! But if I were to choose three people I’ve never had dinner with….hmmmm…I absolutely adore Kim Wilde! She comes across in interviews and on TV as the nicest person and she’s so beautiful…I would choose Kim definitely. And Allan Carr, the chat show host because he is hilarious and actually seems very sweet…but also has a very naughty sense of humour! My final choice would be Elisabeth Sladen because I’ve always admired her and think she was the best Doctor Who assistant of all time; I just wish she hadn’t been taken from us so soon.

rgladman4UKHS – Finally,are you currently working on any other projects which you can tell UKHS about?

RG – Oh gosh! Yes…lots and lots of different projects! I’m currently producing a television show called Fragments of Fear which is like Jackanory meets Tales From the Crypt! It’s also a multiplatform interactive project as we want viewers to create their own episodes, stories, soundscapes and so forth so that they can be featured on our website and possibly on TV as well. We’ve already filmed episodes with Caroline Munro and Dani Thompson and have Francoise Pascal and Billy Chainsaw lined up as guest narrators. We’ll be promoting the series at this years WynterCon sci-fi, horror and comics convention in Eastbourne over the Halloween weekend.

Next up is a comic book called Titan Defender Pushka who is a kind of cyberpunk character on a mining planet many thousands of years in the future. It’s based on a cosplay character created by Leo Dyke, who dresses up as Pushka at various events and conventions…his costume is totally awesome and the back-story of the comic is very cool…if we can make a success of this then as the story progresses it becomes a real “out there” space opera but hopefully with an emphasis on character and relationships not just mindless action.

In pre-production at the moment is a feature film called GirlForce. The pitch is basically Charlie’s Angels meets The Spice Girls meets Power Rangers…it’s totally insane and a lot of fun! We’ve already got Dani Thompson, Lucy Clements, Francoise Pascal, Alex Reid and Guy Barnes attached and are in talks with some rather special guest stars…but I can’t say any more at the moment!

As well as all that there’s the Space Monsters poster magazine and Space Monsters Annual in the works, my continuing involvement with Dez Skinn’s Monster Mag revival and a very special project that’s almost ready to be launched featuring one of the world’s most loved horror stars!

Oh, and there’s my regular column for Haunted: After Dark magazine and I’m on the panel of judges for this year’s British Horror Film Festival.

As you can see, I’m pretty busy at the moment…I hardly have any time to watch horror films these days!

rgladman5UKHS – Wow! Good luck with all those. Thank you for your time and keep up the great work!

www.fragmentsoffear.com

http://www.classichorrorcampaign.com/space-monsters-magazine/

http://cyberschizoidmultimedia.wordpress.com/

An Interview with Ian Brooker by Dave Wain

BROOKER 001An Interview with Ian Brooker by Dave Wain 

Word is slowly spreading about the excellent British horror film The Casebook of Eddie Brewer. I reviewed it on UKHorrorScene [here] this week and marvelled at its subtle, atmospheric tone complete with plausible narrative and intriguing setting. A primary reason for the success of the picture is the performance of Ian Brooker who plays the aforementioned Eddie Brewer. Ian was kind enough to give an interview this week to discuss the film’s production and what he thinks are the reasons for the films widespread acclaim.

UKHS – Ian, thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview. Having just seen The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, it’s a film that really impressed me. You must be very satisfied with it yourself?

IB – I am very satisfied with the way it turned out. However we knew that this was a special project from the beginning. We were fortunate to have a very good script (by Andy Spencer) that impressed everyone concerned with the film. It was well researched, intelligent, well structured with interesting, believable characters in believable situations and had very good dialogue; then there was the talented cast of predominantly Midlands-based actors (Peter Wight is London-based) who were assembled by Casting Director, Sean Connolly; then there was the brilliantly creative camera work, lighting and editing of Director, Andy Spencer, and finally the excellent sound-design and score by composer, Jamie Robertson. It was a collaborative effort and the film works thanks to the time, effort and commitment to the project of all the above.

UKHS – Shot in the winter of 2010-11, it certainly seems like an arduous shoot. How do you feel the conditions at Rookery House influenced your performance?

IB – At Rookery House we didn’t have to create an atmosphere of disquiet and discomfort. It was already there. The cellar was particularly unpleasant: damp, mouldy and airless. The three storied house was large and mostly empty. You certainly didn’t want to find yourself alone in the cellar or in a room on the ground or first floors particularly as the light began to fade in the late afternoons. It was bitterly cold too. There was no central heating and just a couple of freestanding modern radiators in the downstairs modern kitchen which doubled as a green room for the actors. As a result, during filming, hands were red and blue and breath was always visible on camera. Very few of the rooms in the house still had working light bulbs and so by the early evening most of the house was dark. All this contributed to the perfect atmosphere for a ghost story and didn’t require a suspension of disbelief by the cast.

We also had a couple of possible paranormal experiences when we were filming. Actress Louise Paris, who played the sceptic, Dr Susan Kovac, and I were filming the first take of a scene in the upstairs kitchen. We heard heavy footsteps ascending the main staircase from below. It ruined the take as it was captured by the microphone. We stopped filming and Louise and I volunteered to find the culprit and tell him to stop. We went into all the rooms on that floor and found no one. We returned downstairs to the modern kitchen where the rest of the cast were keeping warm – and found that no one had left the room. Later Louise went to the toilet upstairs and -in a scene reminiscent of one in the film – heard someone come into the toilet with heavy breathing. She was so disturbed by the experience she screamed. I was in the downstairs kitchen on this occasion when she came in. She thought that one of us had tried to wind her up. But once again no one in the cast or crew had left the room. Rookery House was a perfect location and inspired us to do real justice to the script.

BROOKER 002UKHS – You’ve spoken about your preparation for the character of Eddie, be it with the script or the change of accent or the change in physical appearance. Andrew (writer/director) seemed to have a very specific vision in mind for him – how easy was this to embrace and develop?

IB – Andy developed his ideas for the film and the character of Eddie Brewer over a ten year period. I only came in a month or so before filming began. Fortunately, I had met Andy in the 1990s and so he knew me slightly and was aware of my genuine interest in the subject of the paranormal. I had been a non-active member of the Society for Psychical Research at that time and had read about various case histories such as the Enfield Poltergeist. I had long been fascinated by real and dramatised ghost stories. I had also wanted to be a paranormal investigator. So when I first read the script I understood what was going on with the different manifestations, the various theories referred to in the script and recognised that the character of Eddie was based upon Maurice Grosse, the main investigator in the Enfield case. If there was any doubt in my mind as to what Andy wanted I would ask for his advice and usually found that my instincts had been right. When I felt that there was a lack of clarity in the script I suggested amendments to the script – sometimes extra lines – that would enable the audience to follow more easily what was going on or what was being said. Andy was very open to my suggestions and script revisions. As an actor/director relationship it was very harmonious and like-minded.

I also appreciated that for a scene of revelation of horror to work for Eddie it was best to underplay it or to internalise it – to make it as real as possible. I worked hard in advance of the shoot to get the mechanics of the performance right so that when I came to film the scenes I didn’t really have to think about what I was doing. I think that allowed it to seem natural.

UKHS – My favourite quote by Eddie is the brilliant “I’ve never heard anyone under forty say anything remotely interesting”. He’s a real traditionalist who resolutely sticks to his principles – a character very much in contrast to the ubiquitous conveyor belt of screaming teenagers that populate contemporary horror films. How did you think Eddie Brewer will be received by audiences today?

IB – I think Eddie Brewer is a fascinating, complex character. There is lightness and humour in the early scenes and ever increasing darkness thereafter. I think through his vulnerability, humour, honesty and integrity, he’s rather appealing to a general audience. Admittedly he has a temper and is often moody but that goes for most of us. There’s no doubt that as a personality he is flawed, but who isn’t flawed? He is a bit of a curmudgeon, but a likeable one. Eddie reacts to the way he is treated by others. I think he appeals to the rebel – the outsider – in all of us – young and old.

The film works on several levels: as a ghost story, character study and as a psychological drama. Even those who don’t particularly like the genre appreciate the film as it offers so much more than the usual run-of-the-mill horror films. They like Eddie as a character.

BROOKER 003UKHS – It’s been interesting reading reviews for the film where critics have namechecked such iconic British horrors as The Innocents (1961) and The Stone Tape (1972). I myself related the picture to similar fare such as Dead of Night (1972) and Saxon Logan’s Sleepwalker (1984) with the films ability to create horror from a seemingly ordinary situation. These comparisons relate the film to a different era of filmmaking – do you think this ultimately will make The Casebook of Eddie Brewer a film that will be etched in to the landscape of British horror for years to come?

IB – The biggest fans of the film tend to be those who like a literary basis to their horror as with the tradition of the English ghost story (M.R. James and his successors) or the original television plays (and adaptations) by Nigel Kneale. These traditions are by nature “old fashioned”, but, in my book, the best adaptations of ghost stories for TV, film and radio, and original plays on a supernatural subject were written and produced between twenty to forty years ago. Today in modern horror films I think there is a tendency to show and tell far too much. Nothing is left to the imagination. And the plots invariably do not make a lot of sense and the explanations offered for the paranormal manifestations are often risible. The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, by contrast, does not spoon-feed its audience. If anything, it puts the viewer in the position of a paranormal investigator who is presented with an array of unexplained data. As with Eddie Brewer, it’s up to the viewer to interpret that data and come to their own conclusions as to its meaning.

I hope the film will find its way into “the landscape of British horror” and that it will eventually achieve a cult following. Many people who have seen it say that it’s a film that stays with you long after you’ve seen it. In my opinion it’s a film that repays several viewings as there are several things going on in the plot that are perhaps not evident on first viewing. It’s a complex film that brings the viewer as close as is possible to the reality of a paranormal investigation. It’s a film about the values of belief, truth, decency, respect – admittedly old fashioned but sound values – in a modern world that places greater value upon the glib and shallow opinions of glitzy television charlatans and dishonest ratings-hungry production companies. There are no easy answers when it comes to the paranormal. At the end of the day, it’s a field that is highly subjective. There is no objective truth in this subject. The paranormal is ultimately unknowable. Eddie Brewer understands that fact, but he comes closer than anyone else to understanding that truth.

I hope word of mouth will enhance the reputation of this film.

UKHS – You’ve chosen self-distribution for the film – or have you? Was this the only means of UK distribution on the table or was it a conscious decision to try this avenue? How is it working out?

IB – We chose self-distribution in the UK. Doing it yourself gives you total control of the product – the artwork for the DVD and bluray covers, menus, discs and the theatrical poster and the content and direction of the marketing campaign. It is hard work – particularly when your main job is as an actor. But when you believe in something – as we believe in this film – it’s worth sticking with it. The film has been available for streaming with the HorrorShow TV since last September. Otherwise, the film is available to buy in the UK on DVD and Bluray through Amazon.co.uk. Both the DVD and bluray packages come with special booklets full of background information on the film and the production including interviews with the key personnel. So far sales have been very good. Later this year the film will be released on DVD and digital media in the USA. For the American campaign a distributor based in Baltimore will be responsible for the promotion of the film.

CASEBOOK 002UKHS – It’s almost four years now since you got the role of Eddie Brewer – it must seem strange when so many projects come and go that you’re still talking about this film and introducing it to people who have not yet seen it?

IB – The Casebook of Eddie Brewer has always been a special project for us. As co-producers, Sean Connolly and I have put a lot of our time and effort into marketing the film and we are delighted with the success that has been achieved. It’s been an Official Selection at seventeen film festivals (ten in the USA) and has won six awards. I don’t know of many low-budget films that have enjoyed the success of our film. But there’s still a lot more work to do. We are always on the lookout for new ways to promote the film.

UKHS – As for yourself Ian, what’s next on the agenda? We saw you playing Harold Shipman in a docu-drama recently – what can we look forward to you working on?

I have a number of projects on the go. I have still to complete my scenes as a priest for a Sci-fi feature film: Kaleidoscope Man. That will probably be in mid September. I have also recently recorded six one hour audio dramas of Pathfinder Legends: Rise of the Runelords for Big Finish in which I play the dwarf ranger, Harsk. We are looking forward to recording the second series. I also have an ongoing part in the new BBC Radio 4 drama series about WW1, called Home Front, which starts this month. I play the captain of a steam trawler in Folkestone in 1914. However, regarding the paranormal, I am now working on another film. I have been developing the story for a feature, working title Familia, with the horror writer, Simon Kurt Unsworth, who is writing the script. It’s quite different from The Casebook of Eddie Brewer. It will be much darker and very disturbing. It’s still early days but Simon and I are confident that we have an excellent and unusual story that will definitely appeal to horror fans. Watch this space……

CASEBOOK 001My thanks to Ian for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat to me, and I urge you to visit Amazon to pick up a copy of this fantastic film. In a genre over-populated by an endless supply of ‘six teenagers in the middle of nowhere’ styled films, this film gives us something different and we should stand an applaud the tenacity of Ian, Andrew and the relevant people associated with this film to buck the trend.

Support Independent British Horror

Dark Vision (2014) DVD Review

 

darkvision1DARK VISION – 2014

DIR: Darren Flaxstone

Starring: Bernie Hodges, Suzie Latham, Judith Haley, Oliver Park, Alicia Ancel, Simon Pearce.

Writers: Darren Flaxstone & Bernie Hodges

Preliminary release date – October 2014

Reviewing films like Dark Vision can sometimes be difficult. They come packaged with so much hope and endeavour that you really want to like them, but despite a lot of charm they often come up short in vital areas leaving you disappointed. Coming hot off the heels of brilliant The Borderlands (2014) this is another British faux documentary that mixes TV ghost hunting with occult overtones. Taking its cue from shows like Most Haunted and America’s superior Ghost Adventures it attempts to both satirise and celebrate its influences but ends up a bit muddled, and wastes a fantastic chance to bring a brilliant, scarcely used villain to the screen.

Taking its name from its fictional internet cast ‘Dark Vision’ follows a group of paranormal investigators as they compete to get the most ‘hits’ and win their own TV show. Going deep into the bowels of ‘Baylock’s Folly’, a mansion house built on top of an old plague hospital, they go in search of the spirit of the murderous Plague Doctor William Baylock. Leader Knight is a hypnotist who has a certain control over his crew and is incredibly ambitious and egotistical.

DV2He will go to any lengths to win the contest including faking ghosts, twisting history, hypnotising his crew and putting them in unnecessary danger. Strange things begin to happen and the ghost of the evil, murderous plague doctor is soon on the loose. As tensions rise and fear mounts the mysterious Dark Vision Hub keeps offering messages suggesting that all is not as it first seemed, leading to a chaotic finale involving Satanism, witchcraft, murder and the vengeful ghost of the Plague Doctor.

Despite setting itself up as a fake internet cast, the film settles into a more traditional groove than one might expect. The gothic melodramatics and light titillation suggest that the influences here are more Hammer Horror than The Blair Witch project and this is one of the films main plus points. Lending it a very British flavour it helps it to transcend the usual clichés that often hinder found footage like films. It has a surprisingly playful tone too, never taking itself too seriously but never descending into comedy, intentional or otherwise. There is also the use of the medieval plague doctor as a villain. I have never understood why these characters haven’t made it into more horror movies as they are truly arresting, and frankly terrifying in appearance!

Sadly the film falls down in parts and it doesn’t quite have the grandeur to fully embrace the gothic potential that the set up and location are crying out for. Because of this the film sometimes looks visually cheap; as though it was made as a promo tool for something like The York Dungeon. It’s a shame as Director Darren Flaxstone should be commended for stepping away from the obvious and trying to make a ‘real’ film rather than just 86 minutes of shakey, head-ache inducing mania. It also has a lightness of touch that, whilst endearing, proves somewhat crippling as the film makers try to amp up the scares. It is a rather easy going film at times and, despite its best intentions, is never really scary. Even The Plague Doctor lacks the presence or dramatic punch to ever truly frighten or make an impact.

DV3But despite its failings Dark Vision still emerges victorious on some counts. These films often stand or fall on the conviction of the performers and whilst no one here is likely to win any awards, they do for the most part hold their own. There are a couple of dodgy supporting turns, but Bernie Hodges and Suzie Latham give the film a solid foundation and are both thoroughly natural and believable. Even the lesser performers don’t grate the way they should, coming off as forgivably naïve rather than inept. I can imagine it playing well at festivals where people are in the mood to be wooed by its many charms and people are sometimes more forgiving of a films flaws. It is a very endearing film that in its own small way, and on its own terms is something of a success. However, as a horror film it unfortunately fails to create even the slightest of shivers.

6/10

 Please check out the links below and support UK Horror !!
www.darkvision-movie.com

http://www.youtube.com/user/DarkVisionMovie

https://www.facebook.com/darkvisionmovie

https://twitter.com/DarkVisionMovie

An Interview with Rudy Barrow by Dean Sills

rb1Rudy Barrow- Interview with Dean Sills

UKHS – The last time I saw you was on the set of ‘The Hooligan Factory’, so it’s good to catch up with you again and talk about your career. First of all, can you please introduce yourself to fans of UKHS who don’t already know you and tell us how you got started in acting and what was the first Film/Tv show that you worked on?

RB – Hi Folks My Name is Barrow, Rudy Barrow, I’m a British Actor, and I’ve been in many films over the years. As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an actor, so when the chance came up I took drama lessons at school, I was the first one to put my name on the list, My filming career all kicked off when I replied to an ad in my local paper, for extras wanted! I put my name down with the casting agent and bingo my first ever role was, in a film called Split Second, in which I played the part of a police officer. Some of the films and TV shows I’ve been in are. The Bill, Vicar of Dibley, A Killer Conversation, The Lee Mack all star cast, The Hooligan Factory, Evil Up Close, Exorcist Chronicles, Dead Walkers: Rise of The Fourth Reich, Blaze of Glory, The Wrong Floor, Torture and Apostle’s Manoeuvre.

 

UKHS – You recently played an Exorcist in Jason Wright’s ‘Blaze of Gory’ segment “Precious”. How did you get the part and what was it like working with Emily Booth? 

RB – Well I was in a film called A Killer Conversation, and the director, David VG Davies, recommended me to his director friend Jason Wright, as being a good choice for an Exorcist. I do believe that it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, also word of mouth Is still one of the best ways of making contacts/connections. Working with the one and only Emily Booth, was a real pleasure, we worked well together she’s a real pro, and easy on the eye too!

 

rb4UKHS – How did you prepare for your role in ‘Blaze of Gory’ and get into character? 

RB – Practie, Practie, Practie, at least 2 hours a night for a week I learned my lines, and then I learned to say them in different ways, I set up a video camera in my living room to record my performances, and when I was happy, I used that one on the day.

 

UKHS – Do you believe in the supernatural? 

RB – I believe that the is a force out there, which..yes could be called supernatural, put it this way, there are a lot of unexplained things that happen, which nobody, can explain. We are not alone!

 

UKHS – Which film have you enjoyed working on the most and what made it so special? 

RB – Well it would be a bit unfair to pin point any one film, but in my top 3 in no particular order I would have to be.. A Killer Conversation, it was so much fun to make, never laughed so much in my life, next up is The Wrong Floor, action and horror, I got to play the role of a scientist, loved it. Last but not least.. Apostle’s Manoeuvre, in which I play a very old man, a challenge in it’s self.

 

rb3UKHS – How would you describe your acting style?

RB – I would say that my acting style changes with each movie, but on the whole I try to be as natural as possible, I find it looks better on screen, and makes the whole film more enjoyable.

 

UKHS – What is your favorite horror movie? 

RB – My all time Horror/Scifi movie has to be Event Horizon… wicked film, I dare you to watch it at night… alone….an oldie but still worth watching.

 

UKHS – Finally, are you currently working on any other projects which you can tell UKHS about and how do you choose which projects to work on? 

RB – I’m still filming on the set of The Wrong Floor, and Torture, check them out by clicking the links below.

The Wrong Floor – Click Here for IMDB page

Torture – Click Here for IMDB page

I normally choose my projects by director, and script, and when
recommended a trustworthy sorce.

Please see my IMDB Page HERE

My Star Now Page HERE

Blaze of Glory IMDB page HERE

rb2If anyone is free – Film Director Brian Harley will be premièring his new short film, ‘Apostle’s Manoeuvre’ at the end of this month 30th April, in which I play lead role. The link is on facebook below

Apostle’s Manoeuvre première page HERE  

Thanks for the interview Dean, see you in the movies.

UKHS- You are welcome Rudy. Thanks for your time and good luck with all your latest projects. 

The Borderlands (2013) DVD Review

BORDER 001THE BORDERLANDS (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Sarah Annis, Lee Arnold

Written by: Elliot Goldner

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 89 minutes

Directed by: Elliot Goldner

UK Release Date: 6th April 2014

Distributor: Metrodome

Hype n. Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.

In a medium where hype rules many a film’s release, it’s hard not to cast a cynical eye over a litany of plaudits. Today hype can be bought, and very often it is with positive reviews and glowing recommendations that bear little correlation to the work of ‘art’ that the praise has been bestowed upon. Over the past year The Borderlands has been a veritable magnet for accolades at the respective film festivals it’s played at, and that sneering eye of mine was a little cautious as to how worthy it was of this praise. As the film began to play though, any suspicion I had swiftly evaporated.

A glorious elevated shot encompassing some low cloud and rolling hills welcomes us to the serenity of the West Country of England. We’re introduced to a techie called Gray (Robin Hill) who is impatiently checking off a list of hidden cameras, microphones and wires. Soon after he’s joined by a Scottish priest named Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) who it seems he’s meeting for the first time. It’s a strange pairing as they initially appear to be diametrically opposed personalities – Gray is brash and somewhat cocky, whilst Deacon seems reserved, and is also particularly cynical towards Gray’s equipment, especially when he’s required to continually wear a camera headset.

BORDER 002Both men appear to have an understanding of why they’re there, but quite cannily we’re left to deduce their motives ourselves, something I found to be a welcome change from the usual spoon feeding of the narrative. Eventually the two men travel to a parish church – the location that Gray and Deacon have been sent to investigate, and they’re introduced to a Father Crellick (Luke Neal) who it transpires witnessed a supernatural event during a Christening and is the reason for this inquest. The final part of the jigsaw is Mark (Aidan McArdle), a priest who has been sent direct from the Vatican to investigate this unusual phenomenon and who seems to hold some superiority over both Gray and Deacon. Mark’s arrival heightens the intensity of the film, with its (relatively) light-hearted tone deepening drastically with the horror of a burning sheep hurtling towards their accommodation. The following day the threesome begin their work in earnest, and so begins a journey that can only be described as startling and unforgettable.

There’s a scene in The Borderlands where both Gray and Deacon are in a pub, sat at a table, and for a couple of minutes they engage in a theological discussion. For a split second, I couldn’t help but think of Father Karras and Father Merrin sat on the stairs outside Regan’s bedroom in The Exorcist. It’s a crazy comparison, but for that allegory to enter my head it does at least hint at the level in which The Borderlands operates. It’s the intelligence of it that elevates it to a higher plain. We’ve spent much of the 21st century being drip-fed replicated template horror that it has almost cauterized our senses, so much so that when a film like this shows up we feel a level of trepidation at the prospect of being privy to a literate, respectful genre movie.

Producer Jennifer Handorf states that with regard to the film they tried to examine found footage flaws and consciously do the opposite, citing the “why don’t they just drop the camera and run” as one of the key bug bears of the sub-genre. Thus by taking the plausibility issues and strangling them at birth, writer / director Goldner along with the improvisation of the cast have created something both plausible and very very frightening.

BORDER 003 Credit in this film is spread far and wide from director to producer to the astounding cast – Gordon Kennedy in particular. However, a lengthy standing ovation should surely go to Metrodome, who after years of distributing other people’s films have decided to branch out to producing their own, and what a choice of movie they made to pop their proverbial cherry. This is the 140th film I’ve reviewed for UKHorrorScene, and in all honesty it could well be the scariest.

9 out of 10

An Interview with Lord Zion by Dean Sills

zion1An Interview with Lord Zion by Dean Sills

UKHS – Hello Zion, thank you for your time and welcome to UK Horror Scene.

You are best known as the lead singer and co-founder of UK rock band, ‘Spit Like This’, which you formed back in 2002. Can you tell us about your band and how you got started?

Z – The band has done OK for itself and we have a pretty decent cult following. Under our belts are 4 EPs, a compilation CD and two albums. We’re not exactly prolific but like to think that, when we do release something, it is worthwhile it being out there. We’ve been lucky enough to play some great festivals and play in a bunch of different countries. Done a slew of videos and generally had a great time! We have achieved more than 99.9% of bands that ever form, so that’s pretty cool. Shame we’re not as big as Metallica though 😉

We had a rather unusual beginning as we were funded by the sale of Vikki’s used panties on eBay. We had less than zero cash and cottoned on to that as a way to generate something fast. A nice salacious way to kick things off! From the funds made, we started a slightly more legitimate business, smellyourmum.com, designing and producing our own range of sweary slogan T-shirts.

Little did we know that would take off like it did! That site is in the top 1% most visited on the planet! Shame they don’t all fkn buy something though. I think they all come to look and be outraged. Anyway, it kept us liquid and all profits went into getting the band off the ground proper and keeping it ticking over.

 

 

zion2UKHS – OK, let’s talk about your filmmaking career. When did you first discover your passion for filmmaking, acting and writing and will your production company ‘Fuel My 928 Film Productions’ just focus on the horror genre?

Z – Well, as a published songwriter, I have obviously always written in some form. I’ve also kept a handwritten diary for the past 24 years so that has kept my creative hand operational. Always, at the back of my mind, was the notion that I would one day write and make films but I didn’t expect it to happen quite when it did. A series of events collided for the opportunity to arise…

First off, we (the band) were asked to appear in Zombie Women Of Satan 2. Whilst on the set of that, I was looking around, thinking how much fun it was and how much I would like to do more stuff like that. Then me and Vikki got asked to act in the “Snow” segment of “Blaze Of Gory”. More on that later! I knew a couple of other directors through various channels and all took an interest when I mentioned that I was thinking of writing a film.

Believing that, if I wrote something not-shit, one of these new friends would help me make it, I set about writing a sci-fi thriller. A two hour long epic. I didn’t even think about a budget! Until I finished, of course, and realised that it would take some serious cash to get that ball rolling. Shame, as I spent six months on it.

So to Plan B: write something quick, cheap and easy to shoot. That was when I came up with “Meet The Cadavers”. Wrote it in 10 days, showed it to David VG Davies (from “Blaze Of Gory”) who said, and I quote: “This HAS to be made”. So I took him up on that and, within a couple of months, we were shooting.

 

zion3UKHS – You have worked on two of the segments for ‘Blaze of Gory’, which is a great achievement, well done! In the segment ‘Snow’ you play a character called Vir. What can you tell us about your character and the challenges you faced filming in Norway?

Z – Thank you. I wish I could take more credit for the achievement but, in all honesty, all I did was say “Yes” twice then worked out how the fuck I was going to do it! Thankfully, on the acting front, the character in “Snow” was rather similar to myself. Or rather my old, drunken self. So that was very easy to slip in to. Also, my role wasn’t that large so I didn’t need to worry too much about me cocking everything up. A nice introduction to acting.

Filming in Norway was epic. Getting to the location was a story unto itself! It was all going so well until we tried to climb a gentle gradient in a car without snow tyres. We span a bit and got stuck. For five hours. In the middle of nowhere. At night. In minus 25 degree weather. At first, it was all jolly-good fun, until we realised that we were actually FUCKING STUCK. Eventually, we did get out and, next day, made it to the filming location. It was beautiful. A lodge by a frozen lake 30 minutes from the nearest civilisation. We had no light, no heat, no electricity, no running water and the loo was outside.

I am glad I had the experience but I am not sure I would want to repeat it. Having said that, I did love it. Weird.

 

UKHS – You have just directed the ‘Blaze of Gory’ segment ‘Spawn of the Devil’. Did you enjoy the experience and do you find directing more enjoyable than acting?

Z – I absolutely loved it. I don’t consider myself an actor much – I think my range is comedy or evil. But, that’s OK as my aspirations lie with writing and directing. Naturally bossy, telling people what to do with an air of authority comes quite naturally to me. I think in visual terms so, the more I am exposed to directing opportunities, the better I will get and I will find my own visual language. Truth be told, I have hit the ground running first with “Cadavers” and then with “Spawn” but it is the best way to learn. No fucking around, just do it. The only bit I don’t like is the early mornings. I’ve been on rock n roll time too damn long! I am loving filling my head with new information though and absorbing everything I possibly can about making films. I think life is for learning so am glad to be trying out something new and different that not many people get to have a go at.

 

zion4UKHS – Last year you shot ‘Meet The Cadavers’ which you wrote, starred in, produced and co-directed with David V.G. Davies. Where did the inspiration for a Zombie family come from and how will this compare to other Zombie movies?

Z – Yeah, I did throw myself in at the deep end, rather. Why did I take on so much? I think it is for a singularity of vision. “Meet The Cadavers” is not a typical film, in any sense, and I really needed to be involved everywhere to make people understand what the hell it was supposed to be. A lot of people, even on set, didn’t “get” it. I would be asked questions all the time as I am breaking a lot of Zombie “rules” but, eventually, everyone got it and fell in love with the Cadaver family and the story.

Initially, when David first got involved, he was going to direct it. I asked though if I could go direct and he very kindly agreed to give me that chance. He would gradually let me do more and more as my understanding of the medium grew. Hey, I must have done something right or I am guessing he wouldn’t have asked me to do “Spawn”!

The inspiration from the family came pretty fast. I tend to like quirky takes on tried and tested themes so my mind just started melding a Zombie movie (fast to make, popular, relatively cheap to produce) with a Carry On Film (recurring cast, differing situations).

Next thing I knew, I had the Cadavers. Like a modern take on The Addams Family or The Munsters. It’s a comedy horror, the humour being quite modern and reactive (rather than joke lead). When the horror starts though, it is really horrible and the humour stops. It’s not a Zombie movie though. They just happen to be Zombies. Make sense?!

 

zion5UKHS – Your real-life partner Vikki Spit plays Kelly Cadaver in ‘Meet The Cadavers’. How much of your real-life relationship comes across in this movie and on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), how good is Vikki as an actress?

Z – I guess when I wrote it I had both our voices in my head. I’ve been with Vikki 13 years now so I obviously know that some stuff just wouldn’t work coming out of her mouth. I also know what she will tolerate (she is the victim of a rather gruesome sight gag), so that helped. Neither of us are parents in real life so, suddenly giving ourselves offspring was a bit weird, especially as Vikki is too young in real life to have an 18 year old. So we made her older in the film. That was funny, actually, the first time she met Jack (who plays our son, Sidney Cadaver). He is very tall and Vikki is very short. She took one look at him and said “How the hell did you come out of my vagina?”. The poor boy nearly died.

To specifically answer your question, I am going to say an 8. The Cadavers are a loving, caring family, with an edge of taking-the-piss. I deliberately avoided the tiresome East Enders style SHOUT A LOT family. The only real differences are the lack of children and the lack of being dead.

zion6UKHS – What would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror flick?

Z – I think character is very important and something sadly lacking a lot of these days. A lot of films cannot wait to get to the gory stuff so gloss over the people involved. So you watch as a voyeur rather than as someone that has a vested interest. The thing is, if you care about the characters and what is happening, it will have a much greater effect on you. Case in point: with “Spawn”, I worked hard (in the limited time constraints) to give as much life to the lead character as possible. As such, when events happened, we were all on set disturbed by them. Ingredient one then, definitely character.

Tone I think is important. I decided that I wanted my segment of “Blaze Of Gory” to have a 70s vibe and look. So the shots were wider, sometimes obscure, often unnatural. It will be colour-treated to give it that 70s look and we shot with a slower shutter speed to avoid the modern choppy look. Setting out with that in mind will give the film a unique vibe.

The third ingredient would be inventiveness. Try and give the audience something they haven’t seen before. Or, at least, a new take on an old theme. That was certainly the case with “Cadavers” and also the next project I am working on.

 

UKHS – Lauren Harris is your leading lady in your ‘Blaze of Gory’ segment “Spawn Of The Devil”. She is not only an actress but also a musician who also happens to be the daughter of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. Your band ‘Spit Like This’ have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her over the years, which is really cool. If you could perform on stage with any three artists (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

Z – Lauren was amazing. We had an ad on Star Now and, when she applied and I saw her name my first thought was “surely not THAT Lauren Harris?”. I clicked through and it was. It was a blessing, I think, as we kind of knew each other so, instantly, there is an amount of trust from both sides. Good job, as we put her through some trying times!

We were trying to work out where we had played together – pretty certain it was at the 1st and 3rd Hard Rock Hell festivals. And, although nowhere near Lauren’s own adventures with Iron Maiden, my band has actually played on the same bill as them; Wacken (Germany) in 2010. Quite funny, actually. After filming “Spawn”, Lauren popped in our house where there is a BIG poster from Wacken. Of course, Iron Maiden are right at the top. I promised her I’d not planted it there! And I should mention, she is a FANTASTIC actress.

Who would I like to play with… Hmmm. Tough one as I have played on the same bill as some of my favourite live bands (Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Alice Cooper). Would be cool to play with Queen from the 70s, just to see if I could out-camp Freddie. That’s about it, really. One band I never saw but wished I had.

 

zion7UKHS – Can you tell UKHS something you’ve never told anyone else in an interview?

Z – Certainly. I used to frequently expose myself to the babysitter when I was a small child.

 

UKHS – Finally, Can you tell us about your movie ‘Sleep’ and any other projects you are planning to shoot in the near future?

Z –  “Sleep” is a psychological horror. The story explores the psychosis that occurs due to prolonged bouts of insomnia. Those that have read it have compared it to “My Little Eye” and “The Cabin In The Woods”. Lauren is attached to that as the lead female. The whole thing is written, I am just trying to put it together. Daily though, developments happen that could achieve that. I think it could be a winner. Low budget, simple story, neatly interwoven with some fantastic twists.

Other than that, I have two other screenplays I am writing. One is a Nazi comedy, the other is another horror. I would love to get my first screenplay into development but, like I said, big budgets..! I am also in contact with a couple of other filmmakers whose projects I might be working on in one capacity or another. Ultimately though, my future definitely lies in writing, producing and directing my own ideas.

zion8UKHS – Good luck with all those projects. Keep up the great work and thanks again for your time.

Links:

Zion

http://twitter.com/lordzion

http://facebook.com/lordzionofficial

MEET THE CADAVERS

http://meetthecadavers.com
http://facebook.com/meetthecadavers
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3128860/
http://twitter.com/meetthecadavers

FUEL MY 928

http://fuelmy928.com

BLAZE OF GORY

https://www.facebook.com/goryblaze

https://twitter.com/BlazeofGoryfilm

SPIT LIKE THIS
http://spitlikethis.com

SMELL YOUR MUM

http://smellyourmum.com

Image courtesy: ‘Snow’ segment photo by Duff.

Others: Lord Zion, Meet The Cadavers, Spit Like This and Vikki Spit.

A Year in The ‘Knife’ of A Low-Budget Horror Filmmaker: February

mjfeb1A YEAR IN THE ‘KNIFE’ OF A LOWBUDGET HORROR FILMMAKER : FEBRUARY

February is a strange month for anyone really, it’s your follow through month. All the things you promised yourself you’d change in the New Year are either cast aside or pushed forward with conviction. I think being an indie filmmaker is kind of like that all year round, you need to keep conviction and follow through to make sure that things get done and more importantly, finished.

mjfeb2This month I’ve been working feverishly on making sure that our latest feature Legacy Of Thorn is ready for its cast and crew premiere on February 28th. The film was supposed to be finished in October, however after our sound guy bailed in September with no notice. We spent 2 months trying to replace him, which only wasted more time, before I bit the bullet and took over sound duties myself once again.

This of course knocked the film back by about another 2 months, during this time I made the choice to add a mid credits sequence and that of course set us back a little bit longer, since October I have left the house about 6 times, it took over our Christmas, our New Year and countless other important things, but on Friday the film locked with everything in place and is now ready for its screening only one week before it’s premiere.

mjfeb3I couldn’t have done it without conviction, I had to knuckle down and just push through, it was tough, but that is the difference between a finished movie and an abandoned one. I learned the hard way with my first film that if you don’t take charge then it can slip away too easily and as a result that caused my first film Creepsville a delay of nearly 5 years. My point is that things go wrong, and like with resolutions, when things get tough, it’s easy to push it to the wayside and give up and that’s fine as long as you’re willing to accept defeat.

mjfeb4The price for that, though, is not finishing whatever it is you started. Sometimes you can’t make that an option. You have to have belief in yourself and your abilities in order to succeed in the movie industry, or almost any other industry, and some days that’s tough, especially when you feel like you’ve already given all you’ve got.

Yet in the end you have to remind yourself of one thing. Yeah, some days you work 20 hours and find yourself getting nowhere and some days…Well you get to spend your days pulling people’s heads off and crushing them til their eyes pop out. MJ

 

http://mycho.co.uk

http://iwasateenagefilmmaker.blogspot.com

http://slasherhouse.com http://legacyofthorn.com

Dead of Night (1972) BFI DVD Review

deadofnightDEAD OF NIGHT (1972)

DVD Release Date: 28 Oct 2013

Featuring: Anna Cropper, Clive Swift, Edward Petherbridge, Peter
Barkworth, Anna Massey, Sylvia Kay, Jaqueline Pearce, Julian Holloway and
Katya Wyeth.

Directed by: Don Taylor, Rodney Bennett and Paul Ciappessoni.

After bathing in the rather splendid Gothic waters of Robin Redbreast (see my previous blog entry of peril) it was time to for me move onto the 2nd preview delicacy that the marvellous people at the BFI had forwarded my way as part of their magnificent *Gothic:The Dark Heart of Film* season. Once again my not so onerous task was to sit through another highly sought after classic of television and British Horror from the 1970’s. It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it – and I’m just the man for a dirty job.

Ahh, the 1970’s, a much maligned and much celebrated decade in equal measures. I was a child of the seventies and therefore many of my personal memories are seen through my own personal (& much used) pair of rose-tinted glasses. As a consequence, my recollections of being a very young kid growing up through those years are mostly positive. The seventies was a decade of contractions here in the UK- on the debit side it was a time of political and social upheaval, the weekly strikes, power cuts, terrible fashions and IRA bombings. Oh yes, there was also Margaret bloody Thatcher coming to power…..maybe my rose-tinted glasses need cleaning. However, on the plus side the seventies also gave us David Bowie, Punk Rock, Star Wars and space hoppers….so it wasn’t all bad.

bfigothicWhat certainly cannot be denied about the 1970’s was the quality of television production. It was a different world than the controlled and often insipid programming that was to come afterwards. The Seventies were a true golden period for dark and sinister drama, with the Christmas periods benefiting greatly with an abundance of horror fare. *A Ghost Story for Christmas* which ran through most of the decade, *The Stone Tape (1972)* An atmospheric modern ghost story, and *Count Dracula (1977)* all telling well crafted tales of horror and dread. More importantly, there was no dumbing down of the material to meet the lowest common audience denominator, nor was there much practice of exaggerating the horror genre into becoming cliched and predictable.

The 1972 series* Dead of Night *is a legendary horror anthology series released in November of that year. The bad news is that four out of the five episodes have not survived their dispatch to the BBC archives after the cost-cutting wiping of used tapes to record new programmes.

The good news is that the three episodes that do survive are perfect examples of the quality and themes that heightened the reputation of the series, both when it was first broadcast and subsequently in the years afterwards. Apart from the quality of the chills and thrills that the series offered, what resonates with the collection of episodes was the ability to adapt traditional Gothic themes such as emotional repression, supernatural visitations and voluptuous bosoms heaving in the midst of stressful romantic obsessions. The skill of the programme makers was the ability to transfer these traditional Gothic elements to a contemporary middle-class suburban setting with all it’s political and social complexities.

Remember, this is a time when the audience were often treated with genuine respect and rarely bared witness to any dumbed-down horror during prime time. The *Dead of Night* series is no different, with a number of episodes containing clever critiques and examinations of the modern suburban lifestyles of middle class families. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a concerted left-wing diatribe against the excesses of the ‘me generation’. There is a genuine sympathy for the predicament for many of the people (particularly the women) in theses dramas – though that doesn’t mean that their destinies are any less deadly.

don1*The Exorcism*- A film by Don Taylor, is arguably the episode which has gained the highest reputation for being the most frightening and memorable of the entire series. First broadcast on the 5th of November (how very apt) the story examines the clash between modern-day social beliefs and the injustices of the past – all dressed up in a covering of a delicious Gothic horror. It features a sophisticated and wealthy middle-class couple, Edmund and Rachel( Edward Petherbridge and the magnificent Anna Cropper) who have invited their equally sophisticated friends Dan and Margaret (Clive Swift and Sylvia Kay) to their newly refurbished country cottage retreat. This gathering of friends for Christmas dinner begins innocently enough with agreeable conversation around their privileged status and how they can reconcile this to their (long-gone) socialist principles. It is clear which of these considerations are winning out as both couples are the epitome of the new ‘habitat generation’ as they talk and play their party games.

However it soon becomes clear that the house they have renovated and it’s previous owners may have other more horrific frightening prospects in store for the four friends. For soon things begin to take an ever more supernatural tone as Rachel finds herself playing a melody on the piano that she has no recollection of ever knowing, the phone becomes disconnected (oh those days before wi-fi, god love it), and the food and drink starts to have the most interesting of effects.

Once again the acting and writing is of the highest order with all four players in the ensemble convincingly portraying the conflicting pride and guilt they feel about their lives. Anna Cropper, as she was in *Robin Redbreast*, is especially excellent in the scene where the apparent connection that she has felt with the dead previous occupants sees her become possessed by the said owner, who’s lifestyle was far, far less opulent than our present-day foursome. Hers in particular is a truly mesmerising performance.

Yes, The Exorcism may deal in part with commentary on wealth, privilege and political guilt – but do not let that put you off because it is an exemplary example of a wonderful supernatural story of chilling proportions. I don’t want to give the ending away, except to say that that it as unsettling and effective as any I can remember.

don2In *Return Flight* – A film by Rodney Bennett, we are introduced to Captain
Hamish Rolph, (played by the always excellent Peter Barkworth) an experienced airline pilot who has recently returned to his job not long after the death of his wife. The problem is that his professionalism is placed under scrutiny by the airline authorities after he declares a near-miss with another aircraft, however nobody else witnessed this event at the time. His employers and friends are both concerned that outwardly, he seems to have lost his normal sense of focus and discipline. However, we soon discover that inwardly the problems are far more sinister and complex as his bereavement and secret long held feelings of inferiority have resulted in a far more dangerous effect on on his psyche. The Phantoms of his mind, both real and unreal, are playing tricks on his personal view of reality, for which the consequences are that he is flying ‘blind’.

This is a production that could have easily have found it’s existence in an episode of The Twilight zone, and certainly the some of the issues here such as a man being haunted by the spectres from his own mind and past are familiar to those of us who love the work of Rod Sterling’s eponymous series. *Return Flight *is an excellent character study of a middle-aged man trying to come to terms with both his personal and professional failings. He is someone who up to now who may have had at worse, an inaccurate perception of his life – his marriage for example, which may not been quite as happy as he seems to recollect, His resistance ultimately fragments and lets his mind carry him well and truly away to a place where perception and reality fade away.

Barkworth once again exemplifies the solid acting that you would expect from this series, with the critically acclaimed actor portraying a restrained sorrow and nobleness to his character’s existence.

don3The third and final instalment is perhaps my personal favourite of the three, possibly because it is a clever modern-day development of a classic Gothic tale of potentially doomed heroine. It is a theme that has been explored in numerous stories by since folk tales began and in numerous film adaptations, noticeably by such luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock.

In *A Woman Sobbing* – A film by Paul Clappessoni, Jane a middle-class wife (Anna Massey) and her husband Frank have moved out to the country for the benefit of their children’s upbringing. The couple’s marriage has clearly reached a point of boredom and frustration for them both as they openly fantasise about relationships with younger partners. Soon  Jane starts to become increasingly paranoid and unstable when her nights are interrupted by the unsettling and unaccountable sound of a woman crying in
one of the upstairs rooms of her new house. This sobbing noise is always accompanied by the smell of gas fumes. If that wasn’t enough to force the woman into falling further over the edge into loneliness and depression, nobody else can hear the sounds or smell the gas, but her. Is Jane’s husband really trying to drive her insane, or even kill her? Are the forces
at work supernatural or simply the result of the fragmentation of her mind and sanity?

This episode has some deep and dark undertones in the exploration of the gender roles and mental illness. There are distinct Freudian elements as to whether the voice that Jane hears is actually real, or whether it is actually some long forgotten repressed memory or experience from deep within her unconscious. Both Jane and her husband are clearly unhappy in their respective marriage roles, but it is interesting that even in the more so- called liberated 1970’s it is the woman who has no ‘vent’ for her frustrations having been worn down by her domestic existence. Her growing resentment of her children, her husband and the family Au pair threatens to overwhelm her completely.

The episode is deeply unsettling in its portrayal of Jane’s psychological turmoil possibly manifesting itself either into supernatural consequences or deeper mental illness. The representation of the treatment that Jane’s husband arranges for Jane is convincing and unsettling, with her treatment of Electro Convulsive Therapy looking clinically authentic.

don4Again this is an intelligent and thoughtful approach to examining the human condition without losing the sight of the fact that it is supposed to be chilling and creepy enough to satisfy the horror enthusiasts within us.
Because IT IS genuinely claustrophobic and frightening in it’s climactic scenes as Jane becomes more and more unbalanced. This is helped in no small measure by the performance of Anna Massey, whose previous roles in Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Michael Powell’s stunning Peeping Tom receiving much deserved praise from critics and public alike. The increasing desperation and descent into into her own disturbed thoughts is beautifully portrayed by an actress at the height of her powers.

There are some people for whom the ending is annoyingly ambiguous, the neatly packaged let the ending explain all doesn’t happen here – and I love that. I love the fact that I’m asked to think about it and make my own mind up as to the things that have taken place.

10/10  

*DVD information and Special Features** *

– The video master information were made available by the BBC to the BFI
and are presented in their 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in accordance with their
original broadcast.
– Gallery of stills from missing episodes
– Downloadable PDF scripts from missing episodes
– Fully illustrated booklet with essays and biographies by Lisa
Kerrigan, Oliver Wake, Derek Johnston and Alex Davidson