Dogged (2017) UK Dir: Richard Rowntree
Sam Saunders,Toby Wynn-Davies, Tony Manders, Debra Leigh-Taylor

Sam (Saunders), a university student returns to his middle class parents home, a remote tidal island called Farthing to attend the funeral of Megan Lancaster (Abigail Rylance-Sneddon), the 11 year old daughter of family friends who has mysteriously perished from a cliff top fall.
Soon after attending the funeral service given by local vicar Father David Jones (a superbly menacing Wynn Davies), Sam re-encounters Jones’ disturbed son Daniel (a superbly off kilter and menacing Nick Stopien) and hooks up with his old flame, Jones’ rebellious daughter Rachel (Ayisha Jebali). Realising that Jones appears to exert some kind of hold over the town’s menfolk, including his outwardly authoritarian, but weak willed father Alan (a fantastically twitchy performance by Philip Ridout) and the local Doctor Donald Goodman (Manders), Sam and Rachel are drawn to a hippie commune whose inhabitants are despised by the island’s more ‘well to do’ natives. Suspecting that there is more to Megan’s death than just a tragic accident, they team up with one of the hippies, Sparrow (Nadia Lamin) to investigate further.


Revealing any more will mean plot spoilers, so I’ll refrain and instead, highly recommend that you seek out DOGGED for yourself. The film is the debut from writer/director Richard Rowntree’s Ash Mountain Films outfit, co-written with Matthew Davies from an original short film of the same name co-written and directed by Richard and Christina Rowntree, that was entered into BBC Three’s The Fear, a competition to find up and coming filmmakers in the horror genre.
Considering that DOGGED is a mini budget affair (it became the fourth most successful UK based horror feature film to receive funding from Kickstarter on 24 March 2016), Rowntree works wonders with fifteen grand, delivering a bleak slice of very British folk horror that bodes well for future output from Ash Mountain and for a renaissance in British horror in general.

On first viewing DOGGED appears to owe a very large debt to Robin Hardy and Anthony Schaffer’s 1973 folk horror classic THE WICKER MAN, with it’s tale of an alienated outsider in an isolated close knit community, a missing/dead little girl and strange cultish goings on. But it also has traces in its DNA of two other classic British folk horrors of that era; namely WITCHFINDER GENERAL and BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. The film’s themes of religious mania, malevolent authority figures and outward hypocrisy masking a cold hearted evil seem particularly suited to british horror, drawing on the class system and our shared history of puritanism and sectarian conflict.The class commentary aspect is represented by the antagonism between the middle class, slightly incestuous villagers and the hippie community, featuring a scene stealing turn by Tony Parkin as Woodsman Jim, the town derelict driven mad by a long ago trauma connected to the island’s dark secret.
But rather than seeking to ape the style or look of the aforementioned films, Rowntree wisely treads his own path to give DOGGED its own identity, the cinematography drenching the film in bleak, windswept greys, browns and creams, and staying just the right side of making the film look like ITV drafted in Eli Roth to direct one of it’s kitchen sink misery-dramas.
Grounding the horror in a real world setting sans any supernatural elements is another aspect of 70’s horror that runs through the film’s bloodstream. Back then indie filmmakers were reacting against the stylised gothic melodramas of Hammer which by then were looking increasingly irrelevant in the era of Vietnam and Watergate. In our own time a film like DOGGED seems like a return to basics after all the derivative jump horror, bloated franchise sequels and tiresome paranormal  found footage cheapies.
As a writer, Rowntree understands that the most terrifying monster is the fallen nature of the human condition itself, where monsters look just like you or I, and hide in plain sight among us. The script is confident enough to leave just the right amount of ambiguity about just how far knowledge of the island’s secret extends, and the direction is assured enough to make certain that Ash Mountain’s feature debut stands on its own alongside its influences. The creative passion and energy of both the cast and behind the scenes creative team really shine through, an once again prove that you don’t need a massive budget to produce something special on screen.
Based on this outing, both Richard Rowntree and Ash Mountain Films have a great future ahead of them, and indeed are filming their second feature NEFARIOUS (also crowdfunded through Kickstarter) as of this writing.

Of course the best way to support indie filmmakers like Ash Mountain is to buy the fruits of their labours, and I hope this review may go some way to persuading you to part with your hard earned and add a contemporary Brit horror gem like DOGGED to your collection.Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below, or alternatively you can find me on Twitter @thestrickenland or in my Facebook discussion group Movie Babylon.

You can also follow Richard and Ash Mountain Films on Twitter at @r_rowntree and @AshMountainFilm respectively.

Good morning and fine fettle to you, my celluloid loving brethren! The 25th day of this September sees the unleashing of Brit backwoods horror ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (CANNIBAL FARM in the US) on to the home viewing market. This is a title I’ve been anticipating for a while now, ever since it came to my attention from following its leading lady Kate Davies Speak on Twitter. Produced by writer/director Charlie Steeds’ Dark Temple Motion Pictures, the film promises to be an all out retro styled splatter festival that looks a cut above the relentless slew of slick but soulless jump scare horror infesting Netflix, and I’m more than intrigued to see the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE style mayhem transplanted to the bucolic English shires. From the look of the trailer, Mr Steeds won’t be getting a gig scripting The Archers any time soon, though I’m sure his input might liven Radio 4 up a bit.
Dark Temple have a boatload of fun looking horror flicks slated for release in the near future, including the wonderful looking THE BARGE PEOPLE, backwoods survival horror WINTERSKIN and the gothic looking THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE. Wonderful titles alone!
Staying on these shores, I’m currently writing up my long delayed review of DOGGED, writer/director Richard Rowntree’s folk horror released a couple of months back. Richard’s Ash Mountain Films outfit is currently filming their second feature NEFARIOUS, an urban crime horror flick that promises to continue the bleak and contemporary style established in their debut feature, and of which this little site is a proud backer through Kickstarter!
Dark Temple and  Ash Mountain Films are both exciting new ventures flying the flag for British horror and I strongly recommend you check them out.
You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, where they tweet as @DarkTempleFilms and @AshMountainFilm respectively, and also on Instagram where they are darktemplemotionpictures and richard.rowntree

Scream Magazine
I’ve finally bitten the bullet and taken out a subscription to Scream Magazine, something I’ve been promising myself to do since I first came across it in early summer. The mag has just reached its 50th issue, so it seemed an appropriate time to jump on.
The mag’s format is a mixture of features on current releases and retrospectives with the usual review columns and regulars  (VHS Ate My Brain, and the Behind The Screams gossip feature being my favourites.)
The fiftieth issue features a great and now poignant interview with the late BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR star Margot Kidder (you’ll always be my Lois Lane, Margot.) Jamie Lee Curtis and David Gordon Green talk the new HALLOWEEN flick coming next month from Blumhouse, along with part one of a look back at the forty year history of the franchise. Other highlights include retrospectives on ROSEMARY’S BABY and Lucio Fulci’s classic undead exploitation epic ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS, and an interview with Corin Hardy, director of the upcoming THE NUN, the next instalment in the ever widening THE CONJURING universe.
However, my absolute stand out favourite feature in the issue is Paperbacks from Hell, an interview with author Grady Hendrix about his eponymous new book detailing the schlocky paperback shockers that festooned supermarket bookshelves back in the 80’s. Reading through the article brought back memories of thumbing through these titles in Morrisons (a northern english supermarket chain, for those not in the know). Although they were never going to win any literary prizes, the sheer amount of imagination featured in the lurid illustrations that adorned their covers was enough to sear them into the collective memories of any impressionable youth that encountered them. Something they had in common with a lot of the titles down the local video rental shop! Guy N Smith anyone?
Published on a bi-monthly basis, the mag is a steal at twenty uid for a years sub and I’d highly recommend it to film geeks as well as gorehounds and VHS era relics like myself! Check out how to subscribe here.

Grimmfest 2018
I’m pleased to announce that The Stricken Land will be attending this year’s Grimmfest festival held over the 4-7th October 2018 at the Odeon Manchester Great Northern. This is our first time at an event where we have bona fide press accreditation, so rest assured we’ll be scouring the event for all the upcoming news and releases in horror and cult cinema, and posting a full report along with select reviews of the festival’s cinematic offerings. Keep your eyes peeled for on the spot updates via our Facebook page and on Twitter and Instagram.
You can pick up tickets to the event here. Hope to see you there!

Mayhem Horror Festival 2018
While we are on the subject of Festivals, Nottingham’s Broadway cinema is once again hosting the Mayhem Film Festival from 14th to 18th October. This year’s line up includes such delights as the bonkers looking Nicholas Cage led MANDY, dystopian sci-fi PROSPECT, THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, screening of classics such as Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS and Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD along with a whole boatload more horror, sci-fi and cult movies from around the globe. Mayhem is always a great little festival in which to discover new films and the talent behind them that will likely bypass the multiplexes (for the time being anyway!)
To check out the full line up and to bag yourself early bird tickets to screenings, check out their page here.

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!
Ian