Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Memorabilia pt 2 - Sheila Staefel and The Hike

Before I re-start my reminiscences about last Saturday, a word about “cosplay”. I’d never heard of this until last week, and I’m still not entirely sure what it is – I think it means grown people dressing up as characters they like off the telly. But not in the safety of their own homes, or at a fancy dress party. No! They do this at big events like Memorabilia at the NEC. And, it appears, they aren’t doing it for any other reason than they like to do it. Of course, there were people at the event who were dressing up as sci fi icons for profit – for a fiver you could have your photo taken with “the cast of Back To The Future”, “Doctor David Tennant Who and Davros” or a couple of Judge Dredds who looked like they’d let themselves go a bit. But thanks to the genuine cosplayers (?) you could also get a free picture of you with Amy Pond, any number of Doctors from a variety of different decades (although no Tom Bakers for some reason), Amy Pond, Manga women in corsets with pink hair, Amy Pond, a very skinny Magneto, Amy Pond, assorted zombies, or Amy Pond. Some of the “Doctors” were definitely verging towards the delusional, and the presence of Karen Gillan in the last series has certainly given yer young redheads the confidence to step out of their front door in a saucy policewoman’s uniform (which is no bad thing). But their presence all added to the considerable charm of the day. What’s not to like about a bunch of people who are so into their chosen hobby that they actually want to do this? It’s lovely. And every emo Troughton or emaciated Tennant I brushed past during the day put a smile on my face – a genuine smile too, not a cynical “what a dick” sneer. There’s no difference between wanting to dress up as a sci fi character or wearing a football shirt with some twat of a footballer’s name on the back of it, as far as I’m concerned. I’d never do either, but I know which I prefer to see.
So, yes. Cosplay. Bizarre, but very sweet.
And as a side note, I kind of did it on a grand scale myself back in the 90s, when I bought a Ford Capri and spent a couple of years pretending to be Lewis Collins circa 1980.

But I digress. Who did I attack next off my hastily scribbled list? Ah, yes… Sheila Staefel.
Now, I didn’t know much about Ms Staefel (being the uninformed fuckwit I am, I’ve literally just discovered that she used to be married to Harry H Corbett thank you Wikipaedia), but I did know that she appeared in a couple of Brit horrors. There’s a blink and you’ll miss it appearance in Quatermass And The Pit (in which she looks quite saucy in a bookish, 60s kind of way, see pic above): “I was very thrilled that I was given a close-up, and that I was wearing a red beret which made me stand out.”
And then, thanks to her long-standing comedy relationship with Kenny Everett, there was Bloodbath At The House Of Death.
“It was fun. We were all doing Kenny’s show on the television. I remember Pamela Stephenson was playing the heroine and she had to do a scene where she was being molested by a ghost and she put in the most extraordinary performance! It was probably the most pornographic scene ever shot, it was lucky it was closed set.
“I also remember killing my mum with a tin opener…”
Which is not a sentence you often hear anyone saying. After a brief chat about Michael McIntyre’s dad (he wrote the script, along with Barry Cryer) and Vincent Price (who was in the film, but didn’t, she thought, share any scenes with Sheila) I tell her that she hasn’t changed much (and she hasn’t, she’s remarkably young looking) and she responds by saying I look too young to be the kind of old skool journo who uses shorthand. Before our romance can blossom any further I’m interrupted by some bloke clasping a Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD book, so I bid her goodbye.
The cast of The Hike
It’s also time for the Q&A about The Hike, which is delayed slightly due to the preceding session being about a little-known BBC3 drama called Being Human, or something. The place is absolutely packed out, and much hilarity is heard. Sadly, I’ve not seen the programme (young looking I may be, Ms Staefel, but I’m far too old for BBC3), but it seems remarkably popular.
Finally, Russell Tovey shuts the fuck up and pretty much everyone files out of the room. I seriously wonder if I’m going to be sitting on my own in there with the entire cast of The Hike staring at me for 30 minutes, but thankfully it does start to fill up again. And the cast arrive and file in, looking even more good looking than they did whilst mucking about with their mobile phones earlier. The girls are all absolutely stunning, so if that’s your one reason for viewing a film, you won’t go far wrong with this ‘un. I suppose the blokes are, too, but I’m no judge.
Dan, Ben, potential future wife for me Jemma Bolt and Zara Phythian
We’re given a clip from the beginning, when the group first meet up (not the most riveting of scenes, and some of the acting does leave a bit to be desired, making it a less than ideal primer), but this is followed by a trailer which hints at (or, to be more accurate, bludgeons you round the head with) a well made, nicely shot, hysterical Deliverance-cum-Descent tale of people having nasty things done to them whilst on holiday.
The cast then talk about how the film was made. It appears, literally, that they all went off into the woods and took it from there.
Director and co writer Rupert Bryan explains: “It’s a relentless horror film. It’s not for the faint hearted – not for the young or the elderly!”
(I think he’s joking. Sort of)
Ben Loyd-Holmes
His fellow writer, producer and star Ben Loyd-Holmes adds: “The idea really was backwards generated. Rupert and I had discussed making a horror for a while – something scary and fun, but achievable on a small budget. We thought why don’t we make the monsters real – real people. Let’s put them in a real place – the woods are scary. From there the idea got bigger and more refined. Rupert came up with the characters and it went from there.
“We had quite clear ideas about the sort of people we wanted. At the initial casting some people shone through more than others – some people grabbed the attention.”
Rupert adds: “We went through three or four people for each position and ended up with the right cast. No-one knew each other before, and I think that was a good part of the filming experience.”
Daniel Caren: "Girls' bums"
At this point the swarthy, muscled actor at the end, whose name is Daniel Caren, pipes up: “We did bonding sessions. The lads went off into the woods and talked about the girls’ bums.”
He is quickly shushed by the rest of the cast and Rupert continues: “We did rehearsals in the actual woods and ran through the script to get people used to the surroundings. We wanted it to be realistic and truthful about what can happen. We told the actors we wanted them to take time to think about what they were going to do.”
“We set out to make it realistic from the word go,” says Ben. “Within horror it’s more often than not the case that the film starts to come away from reality, but there have been some great films recently that go more realistic.”
Rupert says: “It’s a frightening place, the woods. That meant we hardly had to use any visual effects, it was just real people doing really horrible things. That makes it far more twisted than having an alien do it.”
A young chap at the front pipes up to ask what the group thinks about contemporary British horror. Rupert answers: “Britain is historically the best place for horror. We are brilliant for making suspense tales, and I think the British horror film is in a good place at the moment.”
Ben adds: “The industry has changed and now more than ever you’ve got more up and coming film makers. Hollywood is making a lot of films here which means there are a lot of creative people here.”
Asked how they kept going under what sounds like arduous conditions, Ben replies: “With all the problems we had, it’s still the case that when you see your cast doing a really good job it’s magical. You can say to yourself – right, I know why I’m doing this.”
Barbara Nedeljakova. Yes, I have a shit camera
Hostel star Barbara Nedeljakova, who is probably the biggest name in the film, adds: “The people made it a lot of fun and we have all become friends since then. I know that making The Hike is always going to be a fantastic memory.”
And Rupert says: “Making a film is the best thing in the world. It is a brilliant experience and I think we have all learned a lot about ourselves, trust and respect. We had a good time making it!”
As I mentioned in the last post, The Hike has not yet got a UK release date as they have been told to tone it down. “Apparently, it’s too scary,” says Ben. “There will be a softer cut, but it’s still pretty harrowing, and very brutal!”
Whether this is a bit of clever marketing or a genuine problem remains to be seen – I’m assuming that the problem must lie with a certain amount of sexual violence, as the censors seem to have an “anything goes” approach to pretty much anything else these days. The Hike doesn’t sound like it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea, but with such an enthusiastic team behind it, it deserves some success.

And there I’m going to have to leave it again – so you’ll have to continue to wait for what is now going to be part three of my Memorabilia memoirs!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Memorabilia memories - part 1

I’ve been running this website for nigh on 11 years now, but I’m a relative newcomer to the idea of actually getting out there and meeting the people connected to these films. In fact, the first time I did it was last September, when I packed up a notepad and camera and travelled a whole half an hour on the train to a freezing cold Manchester for their annual Fantastic Films weekend.
The less said about the surly welcome I received, or the fleabitten venue, or the general haphazard nature of the proceedings the better (it was not the ideal introduction to the world of horror fandom, let’s put it that way). But as the day wore on it became apparent that behind the lack of sheen there was a certain something – namely a friendliness and a feeling that everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves – that permeated through everything. Being a somewhat cynical person who has pretty much kept his love of these films under his hat (apart from to the thousands who frequent this site), it came as a nice surprise to find that there are other people – and mainly sane, normal people – who like the stuff I like.
Even more of a surprise to me was the reaction I got from the stars who attended. I expected a bunch of miserable, bitter old thesps who were attending for a free bar and were sick to the back teeth with 40-something men wanting to talk to them about a barely-remembered film they did for peanuts back in the late 60s. But that just isn’t the case. I only talked to a few of the special guests, but they couldn’t have been more happy to share their memories. One – genre fave director Norman J Warren – actually arranged for me to do a full interview with him at a later date, which I did and will be on the site soon. Whilst I was chatting to him, who should sit down next to us but Francoise Pascal, the French “bird” from 70s sitcom Mind Your Language and films such as Burke and Hare. She was funny, flirty, and still very attractive, it has to be said. She didn’t hold back on the risqué anecdotes, either – although sadly I didn’t have my notebook out at the time. We were also joined by her partner, who proceeded to tell be about how they had met during the orgy scene in Incense For The Damned. “You can see my arse going up and down at one point,” he told me. “You can’t see my face but you can tell it’s me cos of my tattoos”. They told me they had lost touch after the filming wrapped but had met up again recently through Facebook, of all things.
But I’m wandering off the point, interesting though these snippets might be.
This weekend I had the opportunity to have another go at meeting a few of the people from the films I have been mercilessly taking the piss out of for the past 11 years. The Memorabilia event comes to the NEC every six months, and my brother in law went to the last one and came back with tales of how he had finally met his idol, Robin Askwith (yes, the bloke out of the Confessions films and BHF classic Horror Hospital). He was raving about how good the event was and recommended I went along to the next one. So in February I checked out who would be at the March event – and was blown away by the people attending. Bond Girls, Doctor Who stars, even Dirk Benedict out of Battlestar Galactica. Who I had no interest in meeting, but even so – Face out of the A Team, wow. So I organised a press pass, and yesterday found me sitting on the train to Birmingham.
I have to say there was a certain amount of trepidation involved. This was no “Fantastic Films weekend”, this was a properly organised, swish event, involving Q&A panels, £10-a-go autographs and something called “cosplay”. Even with my press pass I had no guarantee I would actually be able to talk to the people involved, given that I was neither prepared to wait in a big queue or hand over my hard-earned for an autograph. I was fully prepared to have a wander around, catch sight of the odd faded starlet over a sea of heads (I am quite tall) and check out some of the posters for sale before setting off for home, empty handed (as it were). What actually happened was this:

I arrived at the NEC, and was immediately staggered by the scale of the event. One of those enormous halls they use for Coldplay concerts and the Motor Show, absolutely packed with stalls and people, even at just after 10am. After wandering around a bit, and catching sight of the occasional faded starlet, I checked out the posters on sale and then decided that I’d give my press pass a go.
Aware that everyone else there was paying good money to meet these people, and I wasn’t, I picked my targets carefully, trying to make sure that I wasn’t getting in anyone’s way or stopping anyone from getting their stuff signed.
Spotting a gap in the queues, with a half-remembered idea that he’s quite a nice bloke at conventions, and what I believed was a fairly decent opening gambit, I made for John Levene, the man who will forever by remembered as Sergeant Benton from Doctor Who.

After introducing myself I explained “I was hoping to talk to you about Psychomania – you’re responsible for my favourite line in the whole film!”
(He plays a police officer working on the front desk of a police station, who reacts in a remarkably professional manner when two undead bikers roar in through the front door on their machines).
He looked at me, a broad grin on his face, and roared “that’s my favourite scene as well!”
It looked like I was on safe ground.
“The director (Don Sharp) liked me, you see, and gave me three movies. When you’re liked you feel secure, and when you feel secure you perform better. He said ‘John, I want you to do a death scene. I need you to look like you’ve been killed by this powerful force’. I went to the carpenter – the studio floors were all wooden then – and I got this 10 inch nail. I banged it into the floor right near the place where I had to die. You can see it on the film if you look closely – I got my foot hooked round the nail so my body could look more contorted. A 10 inch nail helped make my death scene look so good!
“Nicky Henson reacted very well to my line when he came into the police station. He showed they were frustrated and angry, and that’s why they killed me!”
John was also in Brit horrors Dark Places and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. “I was in it at the very beginning, wearing a loincloth and chanting ‘Akuna’ or something. We all hitched our loincloths up as high as we could to try and get more screen time!”
In 1975 he appeared in Permission To Kill, an international thriller starring Dirk Bogarde and Ava Gardner, and which saw him turn down the chance to jump into bed with a future James Bond. “My part called for me to do a love scene with Timothy Dalton, but I couldn’t do it – so they cut it out. Although Dalton does still deliver the line ‘hmmm – a bit of beefcake at last!’”

Trying my luck, I asked if I could take a photo of him – and he immediately jumped up and grabbed me, handing my camera to his colleague. I wasn’t expecting this (and it probably shows on the photo), but it was a thoroughly nice way to start the day. Later on I saw that big grin several more times, and he’d even put on his Sgt Benton jacket. The man is an absolute star!
In the same room was Mary Collinson, one of the Twins Of Evil from the Hammer film of the same name. Realising that she was being unmolested by the crowds at that point (who were all converging on Linda Hayden – more of her later), I thought “in for a penny” and went over. This time I was expecting a frostier reception, and I also didn’t have an opening gambit (“Hello, I’ve seen your boobs” didn’t seem particularly appropriate). The Collinson twins have kept out of the limelight since their heyday so I thought she mustn’t have much interest in talking about her time with Hammer.
“It’s only the third time I’ve done this,” she explained, a big grin on her face. “The last time was about 10 years ago.
Twins Of Evil was 40 years ago – it’s unbelievable.”
I say that the film was shown on the BBC quite recently. “I live in Italy and it has never been shown on the television there, but I understand it is shown quite regularly here.”
Asked what it was like working for Hammer, she says: “It was an experience – a beautiful experience. Especially to meet and work with people like Peter Cushing. We weren’t actresses, so it was an unbelievable thing for us to do. Yet years later it is still there – it’s amazing.
“We weren’t expecting it to be as big a film as it was. We must have done something right! We were there at the right time, with the right people who helped us along.”

I ask for a photo and she leaps up and grabs my arm. This is getting to be a habit, and I’m in danger of looking like Gordon Smart from The Sun. “Ooh, it’s lovely to be having my photo taken again after all these years,” she says. All I’m thinking is “this is one of the Collinson twins!”
But I also vow to remain behind the camera for the rest of the day.
Spurred on by everyone being so nice, I decide to really chance my arm this time, and head over to Britt Ekland. “Can I talk to you about some of your films – like The Wicker Man?” I ask, giving her my best smile.
“I suppose so.”
After the enthusiastic reception I received from my first two targets, this one is more of a challenge, but it is Britt Ekland, after all – and I do like a feisty woman.
“I was pregnant when I did it, so it was a very difficult time” (Does anyone else know this? Is it a scoop? Probably not, but I’ve read a lot about The Wicker Man over the years and this was news to me. Then again – women being pregnant, meh). I venture that the weather wasn’t very nice, either. “It was bloody freezing!” comes the reply.

I’m finding it hard to keep up the shorthand and think of questions, so I ask to take a photo. And to be fair to her, she looks stunning on the picture, so either she knows how to turn it on for the camera or she actually didn’t mind my line of questioning that much.
Sitting near to her is Annette Andre, Jeanie Hopkirk from Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). I know she has no links to British horror films, so I don’t wander over for a chat, as the only thing I can think to tell her is how much I was in love with her when they showed the repeats back in the early 90s. She really does still look amazing, though. As do they all, really. It’s the bone structure, I believe.
I spy a familiar-looking jolly face and make a beeline for him. It’s John Carson, Hammer stalwart, but probably most famous for being the man who proved difficult to kill in the classic Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter.

In between signings, he explains that he’s another “new boy” to this kind of event. I ask him about his death scene in Captain Kronos, where his friend, the venerable Captain, tests out just what kind of vampire he has become by attempting to kill him in a variety of ways.
“Ah, yes!” he laughs. “We had a tape of that after the film was finished and my children, who were very young at the time, weren’t allowed to watch it. One day they conned the au pair into letting them see it, and they wouldn’t talk to me for a week!
“It was fun working with Brian (Clemens – the genius behind Kronos, The Avengers, The Professionals etc) because it was horror with a difference. He was trying to break the mould of horror films at the time, which were ‘more cleavage, more blood’, and actually make a film with a good story. He is a good story teller, and it’s a fun film. It was regarded as not so good at the time, but it has stood the test of time, hasn’t it?”
John also starred in Hammer’s Plague Of The Zombies, which it is obvious he has a high regard for as well.
“I don’t work these days,” he says. “What I miss is the relationship with the camera crew. You have to get on well with them to get good results.
“I have different memories of each of the Hammer films I worked on,” he says. “What I remember about Taste The Blood Of Dracula was the stellar cast I was working with. And the director, Peter Sasdy, was a good friend. I worked with him for many years. A lot of the filming was done at Highgate Cemetery as well, of course – with all the sycamore roots growing through the mausoleums. When it’s foggy there you don’t need any special effects to make it look spooky! It’s a quite extraordinary place.”
I’ve been doing quite well on the classic horror front, and as I wander around I notice there’s a bit section set aside for new British horror film The Hike. Later on I’ll sit in on a Q&A session with the stars and director of the film, and get a sneak peek – but for the time being I decide to have a quick chat with just one of the people involved - Barbara Nedeljakova – as not only is she blummin’ gorgeous but I know she’s been involved in a couple of other recent Brit horrors, too. Barbara, in case you didn’t know, is one of the young ladies whose role it is to seduce young men in the Hostel films. Yup, that’s right. Her.

An upcoming film is a high-brow concept film called Strippers Vs Werewolves. Which part is she playing, I venture. “ A stripper,” she smiles. “But… oh, I probably shouldn’t say. It might be a spoiler.”
What’s it about? I ask, obviously coming across as a complete fuckwit. “It’s a comedy horror about a bunch of strippers who get in trouble with werewolves. Then they decide to turn the tables. It’s full of strong female characters and it’s very funny.”
She’s also in an upcoming feature called Isle Of Dogs. Which isn’t a very good title for a film. Try saying it out loud. See?
Isle Of Dogs had a premiere at Fright Fest, but now the director is making some changes. I believe it should be done soon.”
Hopefully they’ll be changing the name, lest they get completely the wrong target audience showing up to the cinemas.
I suggest she’s getting a name as a scream queen, what with a role in the upcoming final Children Of The Corn film, too.
“Yeah, I kind of want to get away from that,” she says. “I love horror, it’s great fun, but I’d like to do some drama.”
More about The Hike later – but it’s worth adding that I did have a brief chat with the director, Rupert Bryan, who tells me it has yet to have a UK release as it needs to be “re-cut to tone it down a bit”. Given that we’re living in a world where The Human Centipede and A Serbian Film exist, I have to ask what on earth he’s created there. “I dunno,” he smiles. “We didn’t think it was that bad!”

This is proving to be a longer post than I expected – part 2 soon, featuring Sheila Staefel, Melvyn Hayes, Edward de Souza, Honor Blackman and Linda Hayden!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Memorabilia at the NEC, tomorrow

I'll be attending the Memorabilia show at the NEC tomorrow, hoping to get to meet some of the BHF actors and actresses who are attending. I'll also be posting to this blog and Twitter (shit phone permitting). So, it could be "hello Britt", or more likely "hello Brummy girl dressed as strange Manga character". Either way, I'll let you know!


Cruel Britannia - interview with Salvage director Lawrence Gough

To mark their Cruel Britannia season, the Horror Channel has very kindly supplied me with a bunch of exclusive (probably) interviews with the Brit directors whose films will get a welcome airing on the channel in April.

First up is Lawrence Gough, director of inventive Brookside-set flick Salvage

Q: Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be a director?
LG: Yes, from the age of 9! But how was I going to do it, seems to be the ongoing issue!

Q: Salvage was your debut movie, how did the project come together?
LG: A number of factors contributed to salvage. It was based on a short film that I had made some years earlier. The premise of this idea was good enough to expand into a feature length. The one big change was that the short was set in the middle of the countryside and so we thought we would subvert this and place it in suburbia. The other big concept of the film was the Branscombe disaster that happened off the coast of Devon. Containers were washing up on the Devonshire coast and people were running down and opening them up to see if there was any loot. I thought this is a great way to get a n antagonistic element into suburbia. It fitted perfectly with my intentions of embracing this contemporary fear of terrorism.

Q: Did the script change much during production?
LG: No, none of it changed. Elements of the script were written with the close in mind so this meant that we could be very specific with almost all of the sequences.

Q: Although you had directed shorts before this, how did it feel to be behind your first feature film? 
LG: To be honest, my expectations of the leap were quickly dashed on the first day of principle photography….it's exactly the same! just bigger, more people to deal and more paranoia!

Q: Its claustrophobic atmosphere reminded me of a cross between of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and The Crazies, are you a fan of his work? 
LG: Yes but he was only a very small influence and his work is not the only films to embrace such a claustrophobic nature.

Q: Salvage is a raw and real looking movie but was it a difficult shoot?
LG: Not really, everything was intentional. Being in 'real' houses, gardens etc and the decision to shoot the entire film handheld gave me the 360 environment I wanted. It gave the actors great freedom within the frame. A very tight budget meant that we shot it in 19 days so that was the biggest challenge…time is NEVER on your side even with millions of pounds!

Q: Was it a long shoot and is it true the movie was shot on sets left over from Brookside?
LG: As stated 19 days. Yes the Brookside close gave us everything I needed to create a realism. With our budget issues, there was no way we could have ever built these sets and shooting in peoples real houses just creates even more constraints….even though I hate saying it...Brookside saved me!

Q: The film runs just over 80 minutes but packs in plenty of action and plot; are there any sequences that were left on the cutting room floor? 
LG: No ever setup shot was used in the finished cut!

Q: If you had a bigger budget would you have changed anything? 
I think there was a time that I would have answered no to that but the honest answer is yes…probably elements of everything. There are many many elements of Salvage that I am not happy with!

Q: Are you a fan of the urban horror movie genre? 
LG: I am a fan of all good horror…horror that has something to say….I am not into just watching inventive ways of watching people being chopped up!

Q: What's your take on the current British horror film scene? 
LG: I am not really seeing one currently. Yes lots are being made but I think it's missing the point of what horror is. There are and there has always been enough contemporary fears that horror films could and should embrace and I don't really see this happening. I don't mean that horror should be ramming political or social issues down the audiences throat but these shared fears are a great starting point to take an audience on a visceral but thought provoking ride.

Q: What's your top 3 horror films of all time? 
LG: The Exorcist, Alien & Funny Games

Q: In your opinion what is the all time best British horror film?
LG: Peeping Tom, especially in this day and age!

Q: What's your next project? Do you intend to carry on making “horror” films?
LG: Yes, I am currently working 4 features. My latest is "The Drought' An ecological horror.  It's about a Drought in the UK and the milk of human kindness has evaporated!

Salvage will appear on The Horror Channel during April.
Find out more on their official website: http://www.zonehorror.tv/

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

First look at Attack The Block poster

With every clip I see, this is looking better and better... you might almost say I'm quite excited. By the launch of a new British horror film? Me? Well, there's a first.
Here's an almost-exclusive first look at the big ol' quad poster for Adam and Joe's Joe's Attack The Block.

Find out more about the film on the official website:

Fancy being an undead Nazi bastard? Now's your chance - Outpost 2 comp

For those of us who DO fancy being an undead Nazi bastard, there's currently an open casting call online to be in the sequel to 2008's underrated undead Nazi bastards on the march flick, Outpost.
Unfortunately you have to have sold your soul to those undead Nazi bastards over at Facebook to take part, but hey... who hasn't? The idea is to post your photo on the Prepare To Be Scared web page and then get all your mates to vote for you. So it might help if you have a lot of Facebook "friends". And in particular, lots of Facebook "friends" who think you're a right undead Nazi bastard.
Prepare To Be Scared is Icon Entertainment's online presence, whose job it is to promote their releases through social media. Nice work if you can get it.
Full details available here:

And while we're on the subject, let's talk about Outpost itself... a nice little Brit shocker released in 2008 about a bunch of modern day mercenaries up against some spooky Nazi zombies. Quietly effective, I for one would welcome a sequel.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Hammicus podcast features BHF website

This very amusing podcast's latest broadcast is dedicated to this very website, and is well worth a listen...

And let us not forget that the film they are discussing is one of the very select few which actually led to me setting up this website in the first place, thanks to its skilful blending of daft horror and extreme crapness.
"It... bit me! The... werewolf... bit me!"

Memorabilia at the NEC, this Saturday

I'll be attending the Memorabilia event at the Birmingham NEC this Saturday, to see if I can grab a few words from some of the many British horror films actors and actresses who'll be there. Why not pop along yourself? More info here:

Friday, 18 March 2011

RIP Michael Gough

One of the true greats of British horror cinema, Michael Gough, has passed away aged 94. Gough was a fine, fruity actor who never gave less than 100 per cent in anything he did, playing complete fruitcakes in Konga and Trog, and, of course, the potty doctor in Horror Hospital. And let us not forget his turn as Alfred in the original Batman films. Tis a sad loss, although he had a good innings. In a way he seemed a lot older than 94, given his appearance as a seemingly middle aged man in Hammer's Dracula waaaaayyyy back in 1958...

He appears right at the end of this clip from Norman J Warren's Satan's Slave, in which he plays a (drum roll) psychotic nutcase. "Stephen! The fire extinguishers!"

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Bradford Film Fest announce horror line-up

Next week sees the 17th Bradford International Film Festival take place, and there's plenty for fans of British horror (and horror in general) to get excited about, including the screening of Scot-shot-pot-shot-at-clots horror Blooded, Hammer's Wake Wood and a special guest in the form of Marc Price, he of the "£40 - yeah, right - horror film" Colin. See below for for details...


Bradford International Film Festival has announced a horror strand for its 17th edition, running from 16th to 27th March. All-new for 2011 is a mini “fest within a fest” - Bradford After Dark, which will focus on some of the freshest and most shocking horror films on the circuit, alongside a rare chance to see the classic Suspiria in Widescreen, a chance to talk to low budget zombie filmmakers including Marc Price (Colin) and the World Premiere of a terrifying chase across the wilds of Scotland.

Blooded - World Premiere
Friday 18th March, 8.30pm, Cineworld Bradford (screened again on Tuesday 22nd March, 5.30pm).
Director Ed Boase's startling debut feature, in which five young people are kidnapped whilst on a hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands. Stripped and abandoned in the far corners of the bleak wilderness, they are forced into a deadly game where the hunters become the hunted. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Boase and actor Nick Ashdon.

Bradford After Dark
Saturday 19th March, 4pm-1am, Cineworld Bradford
On Saturday 19th March, over nine blood-drenched hours, BIFF 2011 is collaborating with Celluloid screams, Sheffield’s Horror Film Festival, to present five hotly anticipated horror films at Bradford Cineworld. 
Beginning at 4pm with Mother’s Day from director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Repo! The Genetic Opera), and closing in the early hours of Sunday morning with the outrageous mayhem of Hobo With a Shotgun, Bradford After Dark begins with a Grindhouse remake and closes with a gore-splattered Grindhouse homage. In-between horror fans will find the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Roadman - the latest in a line of stand-out Australian horror films (Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones); Wake Wood - a dark tale of paganism marking the return of the Hammer name in its trademark style; and Stake Land, Jim (Mulberry Street) Mickles’s ferocious vampiric vision of post-apocalyptic America which feeds fresh blood to the genre in an innovative and unapologetic style.

Suspiria at Widescreen Weekend
Sunday 27th February, Pictureville Cinema, National Media Museum
See Suspiria as you’ve never seen it before! Since 1993, the National Media Museum’s Pictureville Cinema has been showcasing classic and timeless cinema to Widescreen enthusiasts from around the world. As part of Widescreen Weekend, BIFF 2011 is offering an extremely rare chance to see classic Argento horror Suspiria in all its large format glory. With Goblin’s legendary soundtrack presented in 4-track magnetic sound, this is a must for all fans of classic chillers.

Trouble Shooting panel and networking event
Saturday 19th March, 7pm, On Location Suite, National Media Museum
Making a feature with a massive budget is hard work; making a feature with little to no budget is near impossible.
Trouble Shooting brings together very special guests from the zombie movie world: Marc Price (director of Colin, known around the world as the ‘£40 zombie movie’), and directors whose films are screening in BIFF’s Northern Showcase strand, which includes the zombie-comedy Harold’s Going Stiff. All will be discussing the trials and tribulations of no- and low-budget filmmaking. With Nik Powell (Oscar-winning producer of The Crying Game) and chaired by Bill Lawrence of Reel Solutions, this is an event for anyone who wants to hear from the people who have made it work, offering inspiration to get out there and start shooting the next low budget sensation.
Special guest: Marc Price
The success of Colin has taken Marc Price around the world to as far afield as Japan, where Colin recently opened at cinemas across the country. Currently working on a follow up feature and several short film projects, Marc will reveal how a zombie film with no budget can achieve fame, acclaim and distribution around the world.
The panel discussion will be followed by a FREE networking event, providing aspiring filmmakers with the chance to meet key influential figures from the industry over a drink - an opportunity not to be missed!

For further details on the programme, screening dates, venues, strands and guests please go to:
National Media Museum Box Office: 0844 8563797

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hammer's The Resident: Strangest movie tie-in ever?

In what has to rank as the most bizarre thing I've read for a while, the latest Hammer release, The Resident, is  being sponsored by Timpsons the key people. Apparently as well as being a bit shit, The Resident is a salutory tale reminding people to lock their doors, lest some nutcase breaks in and does something nasty. You are reading this right, I am not pissing around. What next? Swan Vestas present The Wicker Man?

LONDON, 8th March 2011 -- Icon Film Distribution has teamed up with Timpson Ltd. for the upcoming release of new Hammer horror film THE RESIDENT to offer a 10% discount to people changing their household door locks in a move to raise awareness of home security.
Produced by British horror institution Hammer Films, ‘The Resident’ stars Oscar® winner Hilary Swank, alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan and BAFTA Fellow Sir Christopher Lee, who first made his name in the Hammer films of the 1950s. A tense thriller, the story follows Dr. Juliet Deverau (Swank) as a woman who moves to live alone in a new apartment, only to slowly discover a terrifying fact: that someone else also has a key, and is creeping into her apartment while she sleeps.
While the film’s story is deliberately told for terror, the general issue of security that it raises will nonetheless hit home with many of the UK’s tenants and homeowners. “It’s surprising how many people never even consider changing the locks when moving into a new home, despite the fact that so many people would also admit to still having a key to an old residence of their own”, says Adam Jackson, co-founder of the UK Locksmiths Association.
Around 37,500 homes change hands every year, with many buyers unaware that at least one spare set of keys is still in circulation with a third party. According to a survey conducted by NOP on behalf of insurer NIG, over half (58%) of British residents give away spare sets of keys to their home, and the rate at which spare keys are not reclaimed is highest in rental properties, where 7% of tenants do not reclaim spare keys when they move on. Another survey, conducted by Halifax Home Insurance, found that 12 million adults have lost their keys over 6 times in the last ten years alongside identification or address details and still did not change their locks.
“Moving house is a highly stressful experience so it is no surprise that securing your new home by changing the locks can be overlooked,” says Tony Sharpe, Head of Business Development-Lock & Key Services at Timpson, “but this simple procedure guarantees that you are in control of who has access to each and every set of keys.
A 10% discount is available on bookings made with Timpson Locksmiths by calling their freephone hotline on 0800 0187 187 and quoting “The Resident”. The discount applies to the installation of door and window locks at domestic residences only. www.timpsonlocksmiths.co.uk
The UK Locksmiths Association is also encouraging its members to honour the offer. A list of their licensed locksmiths can be found at www.uklocksmithsassociation.co.uk.
The Resident is released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 11th March, rated 15. www.facebook.com/theresidentmovie

Review - Scream... And Die! (1973)

Val (the astonishingly beautiful Andrea Allan) is a model, whose latest job is cut short when she refuses to do any nude shots. “Are you suggesting I’m porn?” asks the affronted photographer. “Just a bit lurid,” comes the reply.
She’s picked up by her boyfriend Terry (Alex Leppard), who takes her out into the countryside to “pick up a few things”, but they get lost in the fog-shrouded, atmospheric woods and end up stumbling into the grounds of an out-of-the-way cottage. Before you can say “illegal entry”, Terry has broken into the building, and Val follows. They have a bit of a poke around and unearth dozens of passports belonging to young, foreign women (“Bit dodgy, innit?”), but their search is stopped when they hear someone else arrive.
It’s another couple, and Val and Terry watch as the girl strips and mounts the unseen man. Things suddenly take a turn for the horrible as the man picks up a knife and proceeds to slash her to pieces.
Val takes to her high heels, and is followed through the woods and into a scrap yard, finally managing to lose her pursuer and getting a lift back to London. Back at home she notices that Terry’s car is parked outside her flat, but there’s no sign of him. Later on she visits a friend’s house, where she wastes no time in telling them all about her experience. “All I know is… that’s when he attacked her with a knife!” she deadpans. “Must be impotent!” cracks a sensitive male friend (it’s worth pointing out her that no-one – not Val, not the bloke, not the naked girl with the monkey who just happens to be there, has mentioned going to the police about this).
Obviously deciding that the best thing to do would be to forget all about any silly murders or missing boyfriends, Val goes back to work – but is troubled by a number of strange occurrences. A weirdo called Paul (Karl Lanchbury) tries to sell her a mask in the studio, and her landlady informs her that she’s let the downstairs flat to a glove-wearing man who keeps pigeons (cue obligatory “pigeon in the face” shock). After a trip out to the scrapyard with her friends where they succeed in finding Terry’s car (again), Val decides to go and visit the mask seller, Paul, who she’s taken a bit of a shine to. He lives and works with his elderly Aunt Susanna (Maggie Walker).
That night, as Val taker her time getting ready for bed, we’re treated to the retina-searing view of Paul and Susanna’s home life, as the pair of them get extremely close indeed. Yes, just in case we hadn’t guessed, all is not well up at the mask shop…
That night, an intruder breaks into Val’s flat and rapes and kills her flatmate, Lorna. This latest outrage prompts the girl to go to the police, but this being a British horror film, she doesn’t have a great deal of luck. Paul offers her a weekend away and they drive off into the fog, arriving at a little out-of-the-way house. As soon as he’s through the front door, Paul starts behaving a bit odd (“A lot of people dislike… old country houses”), but this doesn’t stop her from jumping into bed with him. However, when Val wakes up alone the next morning, the penny finally drops about where she is (“Oh no! It’s not possible!”)…
Scream And Die! is a strange entry into the world of British horror, more of an Italian giallo-style movie than a typically British horror film. It’s livened up by a few shocks and some very sexy scenes, but is an ultimately flat and uninvolving experience. As a lead actress, Allan is highly decorative, but sleepwalks through the whole film, seemingly unimpressed at the carnage going on all around her. Worth watching for the lovely backgrounds and the dress-dropping activities of the female cast, but the double-bluff plot (in which the sweaty psychotic-looking bloke is the one wot done it) is hardly a bonce-scratcher.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Rupert Evans and Kate Magowan join cast of cannibal horror film Elfie Hopkins

Rupert Evans (above) and Kate Magowan (below) have signed up to cannibal Winstone flick (as in a cannibal film featuring both Winstones, not Ray eating Jaime) Elfie Hopkins, which started shooting today. WTF? Two items of actual, proper news about BHFs in the same day? What's going on? Don't worry, it'll all go to shit tomorrow...

Rupert Evans (Hellboy) and Kate Magowan (Primeval), are to star alongside Jaime and Ray Winstone, in ELFIE HOPKINS – a twisted tale of cannibalism set in a British rural hunting village, which begins principle photography on March 8 in locations in West Wales.
Evans and Magowan play Mr. & Mrs. Gammon – the heads of a rather carnivorous family who move into a village and cause mayhem.
Director Ryan Andrews said today: “I’m delighted to be able to cast two such great actors – and neither of them are vegetarian!
They join a stellar cast which includes Aneurin Barnard (Spring Awakening, Ironclad), Steven Mackintosh (Camelot, Luther) & Kimberley Nixon (Cherrybomb).

ELFIE HOPKINS is made by Black and Blue Films in association with Ray Winstone & Michael Wiggs’ company Size 9 Productions,
The film is directed by Ryan Andrews, who also wrote the screenplay and acts as co-producer. Billy Murray and Ray Winstone exec produce.

Season of Brit horror on the horror channel!

Now this is more like it... home grown horror channel the... erm... Horror Channel are showing a season of new(ish) Brit horrors during April. You heard it here first (which in itself is a first). Let's hope they make BHFs a more regular fixture in their schedule from now on!

CRUEL BRITANNIA: The Cutting Edge of British Horror

April 8 – April 29, 2011

The Horror Channel celebrates the best of contemporary British horror with a special season of UK TV premieres which showcases some of the finest home-grown directorial talent around.
Kick-starting the season on Friday 8th April is the UK TV premiere of Steven Sheil’s debut feature MUM & DAD - a film described as “one of the defining British horrors of its generation”. Imbued with a terrifying ferocity, it centres around a young Polish immigrant (Holby City’s Olga Fedori) who finds herself imprisoned in a suburban House of Horrors. It also stars Perry Benson (This Is England, Somers Town).
Sheil reflects: “The key to the horror lies in the perversion of parenthood: taking something quite normal and giving it a nasty twist.”

This is followed by the UK TV premiere of Gerard Johnson’s debut, the dark, brutal and bleakly amusing TONY: LONDON SERIAL KILLER, transmitting on Friday 15 April. It has drawn favourable comparisons to John McNaughton’s seminal Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and features a star-making lead performance from Peter Ferdinando - probably the most alarming cinematic anti-hero since Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle.

Johnson explains: “I want the film to lodge in the mind and shake the viewer a bit. We can all meet somebody like Tony. The fact that he is a real human being is probably the most frightening aspect. He is not some exaggerated killer with a hockey mask”.

Next up is the UK TV premiere of SALVAGE, directed by Lawrence Gough, which screens on Friday 22nd April. Starring Neve McIntosh and Shaun Dooley, this “instant British horror classic” focuses on the residents of a quiet English cul-de-sac who are suddenly plunged into a world of violence and paranoia when a special military unit arrives. The threat is more monstrous than any of them could ever imagine…

Gough says: “I find horror a fascinating subject to explore. For me, the key to it is to look at human beings and discover what they can potentially do to each other. The horrific consequences of this fuelled the core idea for Salvage”..

Finally, there is the UK TV premiere of Simon Rumley’s critically-acclaimed THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, which screens on Friday 29th April. Starring Roger Lloyd Pack, Kate Fahy and Leo Bill, the film is a truly nightmarish experience as we watch an aristocratic, impoverished and reclusive family descend into madness and self-destruction.

As Simon comments: “The emotional context of the film is a truly horrific one and because of this I was also keen to make the film a truly disturbing experience, the reality of which I wouldn't wish on anyone”.

Each movie is accompanied by a filmed intro with the directors and the season is promoted on-air with some specially shot sequences presented by femme fatale Emily Booth.

Review - The Offence (1972)

Although not strictly a horror film, Sidney Lumet’s The Offence is one of the grimmest, most horrific films made in the early part of the 70s. An unflinching study of the thin line between the criminals and those who are paid to think like them (I mean the police), it is a film which takes the viewer on a particularly dark journey.
It is also a film which shows that star Sean Connery could actually act – for a generation brought up on watching him sleepwalk through playing James Bond and portraying grizzled old men from all over Europe (but with a Scottish accent) in big budget cameos, this is an astonishing sight. The nearest I had ever seen to a believable performance from the man before watching this was when he got shot to pieces in the middle of The Untouchables. In fact Connery was the driving force behind The Offence – in order to get him back into the Bond saddle after George “The Big Fry-Up” Lazenby’s attempt at the role, the makers had to green-light a low budget police procedural for him to star in. And given the chance to shine, Connery certainly pulls out all the stops.
The film focuses on the actions of one man – Sergeant Johnson (Connery), a big, bruising, old-school copper. The town where he works is being terrorised by a child murderer – three children have already died and the police have no idea who they are looking for. As the police watch frantic parents picking up their children from outside school, a little girl called Janie ignores the warnings and goes off on her own. A middle aged woman sees her talking to a man in the distance, and the next thing we know, Janie has been reported missing. The police immediately start a torchlight search across the common, and (surprisingly) Janie is found, abused but alive, by Johnson. Now things are personal for the Sergeant, and when a suspect is found and brought in he asks to be in on the interview.
The officer conducting the case, Cameron (Peter Bowles) is a modern (for 1971) policeman, and wants to let the suspect “sweat” for a while. But sensing an opportunity going to waste, Johnson manages to get time on his own with the man he is convinced is a child murderer. The burly policeman snaps and starts laying into the suspect, who, covered in blood, refuses to stop laughing. By the time Johnson has finished, the suspect is nearly dead.
This is the offence that gives the film its title, seen in flash-forward at the beginning of the movie, as in silent slow motion the police officers outside the interview room realise that something is wrong and rush to stop the beating.
Johnson is immediately suspended, and as he drives home, visions of dead people crowd into his vision – a hanging corpse, a naked woman tied to a bed, a child dead in a cot, a woman lying in bed with a gaping gunshot wound. At home he cracks and tells his wife of all the death he has seen during his career, downing scotch after scotch as he does so. There is a knock at the door and Cameron and another officer enter – the suspect has died, and Johnson must come back to the station.
The police officer who has dedicated his life to solving crime is now a murderer, and Detective Superintendent Cartwright (Trevor Howard) arrives to conduct the interview. Cartwright is another old school policeman, well aware of the problems Johnson is operating under. Years of thinking like a killer have taken their toll, and Johnson has even begun to fantasise that it was him who was responsible for the attack on Janie (“What’s happening to me?”). As battle between the two heavyweights ensues, Cartwright tells him: “At the end of the day, shut them away. Lock the drawer. You have to accept that you’re two people.”
But by the end of the interview, the Superintendent, who seemed quite sympathetic to Johnson’s predicament at the beginning, has made his feelings quite clear: “It makes me sick, Johnson, what you did. What you are turns my stomach.”
The Sergeant is led away, and the final piece of the jigsaw falls into place – policeman and suspect were the same, both filled with self loathing over what they were capable of doing. Before administering the final blow, Johnson asked his victim: “What are you frightened of?” to which there was just a one word answer.
The Offence is a brilliant, if slightly hysterical, piece of psychological drama. The fractured timeline allows perceptions to change, and then change again as more information is made available to the viewer. But it’s not just about the funky visuals (much of the flashbacks are obscured by a strange white orb, which turns out to be the lightbulb which oversees the whole attack) or the powerhouse performances (Ian Bannen as suspect Kenneth Baxter manages to put in a twitchy, seedy performance which, even in the brief moments he’s allowed on-screen, manages to steal the film from his more heavyweight colleagues). The film is also a pin sharp document of the times – showing the groovy 60s turning into the grim 70s, with Sergeant Johnson an anachronism no longer wanted in the Force, an out-of-date thief taker who looks hopelessly out of place in the gleaming new (half finished) police station where the bulk of the action takes place. He’s an old fashioned policeman who cannot cope with the demands the modern world is putting on him, and for whom time was up a long time before he raised his fists to a suspected paedophile.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Skywalker latest signing for Brit horror flick

You might remember t'other day, when I reported on a new BHF called Airborne. Well, things have moved on apace, with website HeyUGuys reporting that a certain Mr Hamill has signed up. For those of you who weren't around in the late 70s and early 80s, he was in those Star Wars films before they got shit. Or if you prefer, the voice of The Joker in the animated version of Batman...
And for all those of you who don't actually care about this news, here's another picture of his erstwhile co-star in Airborne, pneumatic girl-about-football-grounds, Gemma Atkinson:
As an afterthought, Hamill was of course in late 80s Brit sci fi flick Slipstream, a now all-but forgotten post apocalyptic tale that had something to do with microlights and androids. I liked it cos the soundtrack was by Then Jericho, but I was very young at the time.

Review - Night Must Fall (1964)

The late 60s and early 70s saw the introduction of a new kind of menace to the cinema screen – the pretty-boy psychopath. They were everywhere – Twisted Nerve, Endless Night, The Road Builder, Straight On Til Morning, Blind Terror, you name it, if it had a wide-eyed, long haired, girlish-looking bloke in it, the chances are you’d found your murderer/pervert/murderous pervert. It was as if the sexual revolution had thrown up a new kind of bogeyman – the young lad who can get sex whenever he wants it, so sex has no longer become a goal. He’s looking for a new kind of thrill, and he might be dating your daughter.
Night Must Fall is one of the first examples of such a tale, with Albert Finney taking his disaffected character from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning and tweaking his problems and neuroses up to 11. Without Finney’s astonishing performance, Night Must Fall would be a much duller affair. His character, Danny, is an astonishing example of an eight year old boy trapped in a burly man’s body – all nervous energy and violent mood swings, desperate to be the centre of attention and determined not to let anyone spoil his fun.
But unlike the later films, there’s no ambiguity in this film, no whodunit. In the first few minutes, as we see potential victim Olivia Brunstrom (Susan Hampshire) enjoying her soon-to-be-disrupted idyllic life as she flounces around a sun-drenched garden in a floaty frock, there’s Danny (Finney), busy bludgeoning an unseen someone to death and throwing the body into a nearby pond.
Olivia lives a strange, detached life with her disabled, wheelchair-bound mother – the pair of them looked after by the maid, Dora (another fragile performance by the wonderful Sheila Hancock). Danny is the unsuspecting Dora’s boyfriend, and on a visit to see her he manages to inveigle his way into the Brunstrom’s home, charming the mother (or “Mrs Jam-Spoon”, as he christens her) into giving him a job as a live-in decorator. He arrives the next day on his scooter, the camera lingering on a hatbox he has strapped to the parcel carrier.
Danny, despite all his boasting, is rubbish at decorating, but Mrs Jam-Spoon doesn’t care. She’s fallen for the boy, hook, line, sinker and copy of Angling Times, and he quickly becomes a permanent fixture. Mrs Jam-Spoon may be in love with him (“You could call me mother,” she tells him, her normally strident voice reduced to a simpering, almost orgasmic plea), but young Danny only has eyes for the gorgeous Olivia. Like Danny, Olivia is a child in an adult’s body after a lifetime of being dominated by her mother, and she has watched, powerless to intervene, as the brash, bullying interloper has taken over the house.
But just as Danny seems to have conquered the entire household, the outside world arrives in the form of Olivia’s boyfriend Derek - a four-square, tweed-jacketed, cricket-playing chap of the first order. Danny’s good mood evaporates as he watches through his attic window as Derek arrive in his sports car and instantly becomes the centre of attention for the two Brunstrom women. His composure goes and he flips out, ending up scratching at the walls of his bedroom with his fingernails, over and over again.  He grabs the hat box, opens it, and mouths the word “hello” before retching and throwing it to one side.
But all is not well between Olivia and Derek, and he leaves. Danny begins his seduction of the newly-single girl, as nearby, the police are seen conducting a search of the pond.
Olivia is now falling for Danny’s rough charms, and she wanders up to his bedroom to find out more about him, rifling through his possessions (which include a strangely spooky glovemakers’ dummy hand and little else) to try and find out more about the new object of her affection. He arrives before she has the chance to look in the hat box and reacts angrily to this intrusion (there’s a remarkable ramping up of the tension as she tries to put the jigsaw-like dummy hand back together again), and thinks look like they’re about to turn nasty, but in the next scene the pair of them are laughing and messing about as he teaches her to ride his scooter. Now Olivia, too, is enamoured with the boy (“I just wanted to know you. I love you, Danny.”), putting him at the centre of a bizarre ménage a quatre. And the police have now dragged the pond, and found the body and the murder weapon…
The police come to question Danny (the dead woman used to frequent a bar where he worked) and the scales begin to fall from Olivia’s eyes as she sees that Danny has been playing everyone off against each other. Heartbroken, she tries to speak to Dora about her suspicions, but the maid has had enough and pushes her away.
Back in the house, there is just Danny and Mrs Jam-Spoon left, and they’re having a game of hide-and-seek. But suddenly the game isn’t funny any more.
Night Must Fall was based on a stageplay, and the film occasionally shows its roots (when Derek arrives you can imagine the way it would have played out on-stage – a tape playing of the sound of a car engine, Danny rushing to the window, the sound of voices, but nothing seen by the audience). It’s more melodrama than outright horror, apart from the closing scenes of Mrs Jam-Spoon wheeling her way around the house, the camera close-up on her face as she begins to panic (“Danny, we’re not playing any more”). But there is much to recommend it. The crisp black-and-white photography is wonderful, and the performances are uniformly excellent. The tension is done well and the feeling of powerlessness as Danny ruins everyone’s lives is palpable. Finney is rightly regarded as a film icon, but when talking about his career there is seldom mention of Night Must Fall, which is a shame, as it really is one of his best performances. Much like Oliver Reed’s, his is a genuinely terrifying screen presence, and it is used to perfection here.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Review - Mother Riley Meets The Vampire (1951)

It’s amazing what passed for “comedy” on these islands before the glory days of the 1960s. Cinema audiences looking for something to take their minds off the powdered egg and rampant tuberculosis had a thin choice - Arthur fucking Askey with his irritating bandy-legged shortarse schtick, or this tit gambolling across the screen dressed as an Irish washerwoman. Try as I might, I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of a world would consider a moaning, rubber-faced bloke with a blanket wrapped round his shoulders to be the height of sophisticated humour. They were grim times, alright.
“Old Mother Riley” was actually a music hall comedian by the name of Arthur Lucan, who made a series of terrible films designed to keep the working classes rolling in the aisles during the post war years. Old Mother Riley had a number of adventures, all of them involving “hilarious” misunderstandings in a similar vein to the Arthur Askey and Will Hay vehicles which were doing the rounds at the same time. The 40s and 50s were lean times for British cinema, with most of the output being consigned to the bin marked “best forgotten”. And Mother Riley Meets The Vampire would have gone the same way, if it wasn’t for the inclusion in its cast of a certain turnip headed old smack addict, whose star had faded to the point of obscurity even then. Yes, rather astonishingly the “vampire” in the title was none other than Bela Lugosi. We all know from Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood that towards the end of his career, cinema’s first Dracula had fallen on hard times, but it takes a cursory viewing of this tripe to realise just how hard those times were. Lugosi gives it all he’s got (which was never a lot), but he can’t hide the pain in his eyes as he hammers the last few nails in the coffin of his long-dead career.
In this film he’s Doctor Van Heussen, a mad scientist nicknamed “The Vampire” by the British press, who spends his time kidnapping young girls (30 before the film has started). And absolutely not connected with this plot strand at all, he also plans to take over the world with an army of robots. So far, he has built… one, which is being shipped over from Ireland.
Meanwhile, Old Mother Riley has just discovered that she has been named heiress in her Uncle Jeremiah’s will, and her inheritance is being shipped over from the Emerald Isle. And to the audience’s horror, we’ve just discovered that this film, which is already beginning to wear out its welcome, is a musical. Yes, even as you scramble for the mute button, everyone in Riley’s shop (including the very young Hattie Jacques and Dandi Nicholls) gives us a rendition of a terrible old singalong with the chorus “I lift up my finger and I say ‘tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come’…” (you get the picture).
Of course, thanks to some comedy interference by some sailors, the packages destined for Riley and Van Heussen get switched, and much hilarity ensues. Well, some hilarity. Well, okay, no hilarity ensues. “Vot’s the matter vith me?” splutters Lugosi, as he opens his box to find some old tat. “Haff I gone insane? Vere is my robot? My beautiful robot?”
Putting two and two together, the scientist finds out where the other package went and orders his creation to kidnap Riley. After what seems like hours of running about, the robot fails and ends up getting into a car driven by a drunk (ah, drink driving - a rich mine of laughs which seems to have been overlooked by comedy makers during recent years). Finding out that Riley has a rare blood group, Lugosi then decides to employ her as a housekeeper, Riley immediately discovering that he keeps his kidnapped girls mummified in the basement. The whole thing then deteriorates into an interminable big chase and fight, with Riley, who has run off the call the police, arriving late and missing everything before falling into the sea like a twat.
Some people will tell you that the post war years yielded some neglected and misunderstood gems. This is very true, but Mother Riley Meets The Vampire is not one of them. There is absolutely no reason for sane people to watch this film, apart from morbid curiosity to see Lugosi in the fag-end of his career.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

New BHF featured at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

It has to be said that the British horror film as a genre tend to be populated, in the main, by three types of homosexual - the repressed young man who decides that killing people is preferable to coming out of the closet, the predatory old queen, or the (much more common) attractive lady vampire who prefers the company of ladies.
However, this is 2011, after all, and the film industry is no longer run exclusively by old men whose prime reason for putting a homosexual relationship in a film is to double the amount of gazongas on show.
The Gay Times reports on this new film, featured at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival this week:

Unhappy Birthday
You’ll just have to take our word for it on this one as there are no trailers online, but in the clip we saw from this queer British horror film, there were two rather attractive naked men showering each other with bowls of freezing water. What more can you ask for?

Find out more here.

Review - The Medusa Touch (1978)

The Medusa Touch is often overlooked during surveys of British horror – probably because it’s a big, glossy star-packed affair, and when people think of “British horror films” what immediately springs to mind is meagre budgets, wobbly sets and “him off the TV” character actors. The purists might also moan that it’s not even wholly British, but ropes in some European cash to bolster the budget – however, these days this is a tactic uniformly adopted by so-called “British” horror films from Dog Soldiers to Underworld. There is also a tendency by the public at large to think of The Medusa Touch as a more of a disaster movie than an outright horror – but these disasters, spectacular as they are, have been caused by a psychic phenomenon. And that’s about as “horror” an idea as you can get.
The film seems to start with the death of its biggest star, as Richard Burton sits down to watch the news on his telly, only to have his viewing pleasure curtailed by repeated blows to the bonce. Even the officers which attend the scene of the crime are shocked (“talk about beating someone’s brains out…”), but it seems that this victim is made of strong stuff – as they watch, the body starts to breath again.
Identified as “John Molar”, the injured man is whisked off to a nearby hospital, the staff there already stretched to capacity as they deal with the aftermath of a plane crash. We are introduced to Molar’s GP, Dr Zanfeld (Lee Remick), which kicks off a dizzying number of flashbacks and flashbacks-within-flashbacks, all narrated in Burton’s fruity brogue (“I have a gift for disaster…”).
Throughout his life, Molar has convinced himself that he was responsible for the deaths of a variety of friends and family – whether by measles, faulty handbrakes, fire, suicide or ill health. When his baby was born deformed, his sanity began to fail. But it wasn’t until the death of his wife and her lover in a car crash that he began to realise that this might be more than just an astonishing streak of bad luck - “I made it happen… it wasn’t like the others, where I knew it would happen!”
Zanfeld now explains that Molar demonstrated his power to her by causing the plane to crash (in a scene frighteningly prescient of 9/11), and in a great twist, Burton announces his intention to use his powers to do good… as he sees it.
“I have the power to create catastrophe!”
Things race to a tense and exciting climax – but how can they stop this monster? As his miraculous recovery from the brutal attack has shown, the man seems to be indestructible.
The Medusa Touch is fantastic – a film which delivers on all levels, being truly terrifying and a fantastic thrill ride. Burton is a solid and terrifying monster, and the wonderful star-a-minute cast are all playing to their strengths. It’s a common lament, but in this case, totally justified - they just don’t make films like this any more.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Is that... Caroline Munro?

This pile of poo appeared on the corner of my screen when I was looking at something else for possible inclusion on the blog... and I thought "is that Caroline Munro?"
Apparently, yes. I have no idea what this film is, or what this guy is doing, or why it got made, or anything. But it is a clip with Caroline Munro in it... so, there y'go.

New short film from London To Brighton makers looking for sponsorship

Not (by the sound of it) horror, but the company behind the borderline BHF London To Brighton are looking to raise funds for their next venture, details below...

Cold Warrior is the latest short film from award winning writer/director, Emily Greenwood, and is being produced by BAFTA nominated production company, Wellington Films.
A Cold War drama/thriller set in Romania in the run up to the 1980 Moscow Olympics follows the story of Ana, a young gymnast struggling with the limitations of her body against the mighty powers of a Communist state that’s pushing her to win gold at any cost.
The film is inspired by abortion-doping allegations that have come to light in recent years. It has been said that gymnasts, some as young as fourteen, were impregnated through artificial insemination under the guise of state ordered pregnancy tests. The girls would then be forced to undergo traumatic abortions after a 3-4 month term. The pregnancy and the consequent abortion would lead to a natural boost of red blood cells and hormones giving the gymnast an undetectable increase in strength.
Cold Warrior follows Ana through her training to the Olympic stage where, with the world watching, she finally shows her life-long coach, and her country, just how strong she truly is.
The film is being part funded and supported by Screen South. The remainder of the funding they hope to raise through crowd-sourcing website, IndieGoGo. To find out more about the content of the film and to support it, please visit the website www.indiegogo.com/Cold-Warrior.
For fixed donations towards the film’s budget, the team are offering various perks, from a day on the film set shadowing the director, to being granted a credit on the finished film as an Executive Producer. Once you have donated you will be kept up to speed with the development and production of the film, through weekly updates and video blogs from the team.
If the target amount of $10,000 is reached on the project’s IndieGoGo page the team will donate $1,000 to the NSPCC.

Attack the Block - new official trailer

This really does look rather good... "that's too much madness for one text message!"

Review - Straight On Till Morning (1972)

Hammer’s horror department spent much of the early 70s experimenting with their formats – they tried transplanting gothic horror into the “modern day” (or a kitsch interpretation of it, anyway) in Dracula AD72, ramped up the sex (ie. added more boobs) in films like Lust For A Vampire and The Vampire Lovers, turned Dracula into a Bond villain in Satanic Rites, and dispensed with all sense of decency and plot with To The Devil… A Daughter. None of which had an effect on their ailing fortunes. But it was a nice try, and made for some astonishing films.
Perhaps their biggest gamble was this little oddity, in which they dispensed with all the ingredients moviegoers wanted from a Hammer horror film, and decided to make a character-driven drama.
Having seen the promotional material for Straight On Till Morning you’d be forgiven for expecting a “pretty boy on the prowl” shocker in the same vein as Twisted Nerve or Endless Night, set in a swinging London full of Carnaby Street types wearing big floppy felt hats, mini skirts and enormous thigh length boots. But it’s not like that. Not really.
Yes, there is the obligatory boutique full of “hip young things” wearing a lot of purple and orange shouting over some VERY LOUD  instrumental music with a lot of wah-wah guitar effects, and a sexy party with a lot of bright young things and James Bolam, but the swinging really is kept to a minimum.
You can tell this is going to be nowhere like a traditional Hammer film from the opening scenes, as Rita Tushingham’s childlike character Brenda announces to her mother that she’s pregnant and off to London. It’s like a mid 60s kitchen sink drama , 10 years too late, complete with “grim oop North” terraced streets and rain-slaked slate roofs.
Brenda, a plain mousey creature in a badly fitting dress, finds a rundown flat in the city, gets a job at the aforementioned boutique (who’s that with the Richard Ashcroft hair, Jimmy Saville specs and Jason King suit? Bloody hell, it’s Tom “Prime Suspect” Bell), and finds a much nicer flat with fellow assistant and “man mad” Sally Thomsett lookalike Caroline (Katya Wyeth). Arriving at her new home mid party, Brenda is immediately told to grab a drink and look for someone to hook up with by her new friend. She sets her sights on fellow boutique employee James Bolam, but is left devastated when a bored Caroline grabs n’ shags him while Brenda’s back is turned.
Out getting a bit of fresh air, she chances on Tinker, a scruffy mutt owned by Peter (Shane Briant, in his first performance on screen and perversely one of his better ones). Peter has already been seen by Brenda twatting around the nearby streets in his white E-type Jag, and she decides that, rather than handing the dog back to his owner, the best thing to do would be to take the creature home with her (ie. steal it), give it a bath and take it round the next day, which she does.
Her reasoning is clear – she’s seen Peter, she likes what she sees in his finely chiseled cheekbones and bouffant blonde locks, and she would like him to be the father of her child. She’s not yet pregnant, you see – that was just a ruse to get her out of oop north and into darn sarf.
But what she doesn’t realise is that behind the bone structure and the curls, Peter is a complete nutjob. After a lifetime of being told how pretty he is, he has grown to hate beauty in all its forms (how this equates with him driving a beautiful sports car is never explained) and likes nothing better than destroying beautiful things with his trusty Stanley knife. This includes a succession of women, whose money he keeps in the kitchen drawer to supplement his louche lifestyle.
He immediately takes to Brenda because she’s a bit of a munter, and asks her to move in with him. If she cooks, cleans and looks after him, he might very well do what she asks and give her one (a child, that is). He asks that he can call her Wendy, and just in case we haven’t picked up on the sledgehammer referencing going on, quotes a line from Peter Pan about his bedroom being “straight on till morning” (aha!).
Brenda does what he asks, and the pair (sans dog, which has been butchered by Peter because of Brenda’s sprucing up) start living their blissful, childlike existence. But it isn’t long before the real world begins to intrude – Brenda has been missed by both her mother and Caroline, and the girl, now pregnant and  totally enamoured of Peter but still unaware of his real raison d’etre, has decided to do a bit of sprucing up on herself…
Straight On Till Morning would, with any other name before the credits, be a functional handsome-young-man-is-a-psycho story amongst the many other being farmed out at the time (as well as the already named, there was See No Evil, The Road Builder, and Night Must Fall). With its funky editing, weird voiceovers and flashback overdrive, it’s a nicely put together, if a tad boring, tale of obsession. The inclusion of Rita Tushingham adds a certain amount of class, but because you’re expecting  a Hammer horror, what you see comes as quite an odd experience. Yes, Hammer had experimented with thrillers before, but this is something very different – a strange little genre hybrid that doesn’t quite work on any level. There’s no blood to be seen (which seems very odd, given the times it was made in), no kitsch 70s-sploitation, not even much gratuitous nudity. Very odd.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Review - Revelation (2001)

Filed strictly  under "I didn't know they made 'em like this any more" banner, Revelation is, sadly, not much of a revelation. Apart from the revelation that films like Revelation still get made. Or the revelation that no-one went to see Revelation, and damned what must have been quite an expensive film to the indignities of bargain basement DVD buckets and late-night showings on BBC1.
That must have been a revelation to the makers, at least.Yep, Revelation is a 21st century film made in the style of all those 70s globe-trotting Euro-pudding horror thrillers (Medusa Touch, Holocaust 2000 et al), with an assortment of mismatched Euro stars interacting with the occasional box office tempting Yank to diminishing returns (literally, in this case).
It's also a bit like a horror version of The Da Vinci Code, with lots of running about, clues to be solved and references to Mary Magdalene. And we all know that one film of The Da Vinci Code was one film too many.
This film lays its cards on the table with a quick scene of Christ on the cross, followed by a load of shenanigans with a box. This box keeps cropping up through the ages, being chased by the Knights Templar (oh no, not them again) and appearing to be led by one and the same man - Euro penis-for-hire Udo "Expose" Kier.
As we move to the present day, we are told that the box is "The Loculus" and Terence Stamp is on the verge of discovering its secrets. Stamp's character, one Lord Martell, has a shady past which has resulted in his son Jake (James D’Arcy) ending up in prison.
But now he's out, and is told by his dad: "We need your expertise with codes... this time it's perfectly legal!"
Martell has set up a team of oddballs to investigate all kinds of cosmic junk, and meanwhile a hippy bloke who also works for him has triangulated his way to Greece, where he immediately gets crucified upside-down by Udo Kier. With the hippy dead, Martell entrusts his work to Jake, passing on a CD ROM and instructions to destroy the Loculus.
As this happens, the ghostly Knights Templar attack Martell's castle and murder everyone inside (apart from Jake and his Jenny Agutter-alike love interest, a hippy chick called Myra) by nailing their burning corpses to doors and skinning Martell alive.
Jake and Myra go on the run across Europe, Jake enlisting the help of his old prison padre, Ray, who just happens to also be an ex para with access to an unlimited supply of guns and ammo (every home should have one).
After checking up on the works of Isaac Newton (played in flashback by Ron "gotta pick a pocket or two" Moody) and finding out that the great man failed to find the secret of the Loculus, they are told by Derek Jacobi to go to France. In France the trail leads  to Malta, then Turkey, where the Loculus is found in a church. But it's empty.In a Raiders Of The Lost Ark moment, Jake shoves the box into a slot in the wall and a sunbeam lights up a spot on the floor. For some reason this leads to Jake and Myra having a quick shag on the floor of the church, then they call on Ray for a bit of help (with the Loculus, not the shagging) and he turns up, suspiciously quickly.
It turns out that the Loculus itself is the important thing, not what it might or might not contain. It is held together with the very nails used to pin old Jesus to the cross, and therefore contain his DNA. Yes! It's the second coming! Or, as Ray puts it: "The age of Aquarius? The age of bollocks!"
He then nicks the Loculus and runs off to the Vatican with it, playing right into the hands of old Udo - who's there to receive it. He wants to mix his own cells with those of Jesus, clone them, and raise the resulting child evil (as you do).
There then follows a lot of mucking around and torture, a but more Raiders Of The Lost Ark sand-trap shenanigans, and when the dust clears Udo has got his child and Myra is pregnant and decided that she is actually Mary Magdalene. Then the whole thing just finishes in a hugely unsatisfactory fashion.
It's no real wonder why Revelation failed to set the box office on fire - it's a mish-mash of half-baked religious mumbo-jumbo and conspiracy theories all filmed in a TV movie style with very little sense, which leapfrogs through Europe without pausing to breathe (they literally spend about 10 seconds in Malta before buggering off to Turkey). Imagine an episode of Wish You Were Here in which Judith Chalmers is skinned alive and nailed to a door. Actually, don't imagine that, because it would be far more entertaining than Revelation.