Directed By: Andrew Jones
Written By: Andrew Jones
Starring: Jared Morgan, Lee Bane, Nathan Head, Sam Harding, Shireen Ashton
UK Certification: 15
Running Time: 77 minutes
Distributor: 4 Digital
UK Release Date: 8th September 2014
Ever since the Wales based North Bank Entertainment burst onto the scene with Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (James Plumb, 2012) I seem to have had a vested interest in them and the path that the company took – not least because my review of NOTLD:R [here] seemed to buck the trend of rabid hate for the film. The movie, which currently holds a 2.4 on IMDb – the same as the turgid Fat Slags (Ed Bye, 2004) I still consider to be a worthy, independently produced low budget homage to Romero’s 1968 classic. I’m in the minority though, as this trend of public disdain continued with The Amityville Asylum (Andrew Jones, 2013) [review here] and Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (James Plumb, 2013) [review here].
Much of the erm… ‘mixed reaction’ for these first three North Bank Entertainment titles was no doubt in part to their use of household horror titles knowingly crafted as homages to the originals, and at times verging on remake territory. It’s dangerous ground to tread upon in the horror community but as Andrew Jones the MD of North Bank told UKHS last year, before shooting began these titles were crafted to what would sell from a retail point of view specifically in the nation’s supermarkets. The knowledge of that tends to garner a universal groan of indignation – and though it may be a cynical approach to this beloved genre of ours it’s no different to Charlie Band phoning up Blockbuster 20 years ago and asking what they felt would rent.
All of this extended pre-amble leads me on to Theatre of Fear, which for the doubters is truly the first North Bank movie that is able to stand on its own as a totally original piece of work. Okay, let me use the term original in its loosest terms there as obviously any picture with the title character by the name of Dr. Moreau will be offering an elbow to the ribs and a wink in the direction of a certain Mr. Wells. Jared Morgan plays the aforementioned Doctor as he welcomes us to this Midnight Horror Show (previous title, theme song title and namechecked throughout – should have kept it) and following a damned stylish opening credits sequence we join an apprehensive couple – Angela and Kevin, as they make their way into the show to discover what sinister form of entertainment they’re to be privy to.
Indeed Angela (Sarah Louise Madison) is about to be chosen as a participant in the first trick of the evening, the classic woman in a box having sharp objects thrust into it. A pregnant pause of silence midway through the act draws gasps from the audience – but alas it’s all part of the show and Angela indicates she’s fine from inside the chamber. As Kevin (Scott Suter) waits for his girlfriend after the performance though her absence is worrying, and as he inspects the carnival layout further he makes the discovery that he feared the most. Who are these travelling troupe of familial misfits, and is there no end to their carnage?
From the seemingly adorable Trinculo Moreau (Head) and his longing for a relationship with Jenny (Tiffany Ceri), to Janus Moreau (Bane) and his unrelenting urge to let his ventriloquist’s dummy own up to his child porn conviction – everything in Theatre of Fear is eyebrow-raisingly bold and character orientated. It’s this element that pulls you in as a genre feature of late has been the anodyne nature of the characters involved, but with Jones’ piece here it’s the total opposite. They’re all genuinely fascinating albeit grimly immoral people who engage you and keep you hooked with their litany of foibles.
My one annoyance with the movie was the introduction of vengeful hit man Duke Enright (Kevin Horsham) who just struck me as a slightly shallow caricature amongst a collection of well-developed roles. His arrival also seemed to speed up the end of the movie too which appeared to be frustratingly swift, jarring somewhat with the thoughtfully paced first 45 minutes. It’s a minor grumble to be honest as on the whole Theatre of Fear brings a new dimension to the films of North Bank Entertainment, and proves that they’re capable of churning out more than re-imaginations (albeit decent) of familiar genre classics. The look of the film belies its minimal budget, and the project has the signature of a director finding his feet and growing in confidence in a tough industry.
Sales seem to be good for the films that Andrew Jones’ company produces owing to their striking artwork and standout titles that lure the casual shopper into an impulse purchase. Now though he just needs the critical acclaim to follow suit, but if he keeps making films as good as Theatre of Fear then that recognition should be imminent.
6.5 out of 10