Lifeforce (1985) Dir: Tobe Hooper Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay
Loosely based on Colin Wilson’s novel ‘The Space Vampires’, The Golan-Globus Cannon empire was at the height of its powers when they released this insanely entertaining slab of sci fi horror.An Anglo US space mission encounters a mysterious alien spaceship riding the tail of Haley’s Comet. Of the crew only Steve Railsback makes it back to Blighty with one of the aliens (euro strumpet Mathilda May) in tow. The naked-for-the-entire-film May then proceeds to break out of the secure facility she’s in and reveals herself to be a gribbly space vampire in disguise and proceeds to turn most of London into slavering zombies. SAS man Cain (Peter Firth) is on the trail replete in roll neck sweater mowing down hordes of undead in his Ford Cortina estate right up to the final showdown on the steps of St Paul’s. With earnest support from Patrick Stewart and a scenery chewing Frank Finlay, this features a great score, brilliantly imaginative production design and a bonkers exploitation plot that the whole cast do a great job of taking seriously. I waited weeks for this to come off loan in the video shop back in the day, and I still hold affection for it now. Simply incredible.
Escape from Cannibal Farm (UK 2017) Dir: Charlie Steeds Kate Davies Speak, David Lenik, Rowena Bentley, Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Toby Wynn Davies
The Harver clan head out into the English countryside for a camping holiday in an attempt to bury familial tensions and patch up their differences. Clearly no one told them that family holidays are usually the worst recipe for promoting such harmony, but this being a horror flick, we know that our fresh faced middle class protagonists will soon be plunged into some nightmarish scenario that will indeed force them to discover unforeseen strengths and work together to survive. Just your average bank holiday in the UK then… Said nightmare begins when the Harver’s mobile home is sabotaged by an unseen intruder and mum Katherine (Bentley) narrowly avoids being killed when her tent mysteriously catches fire. The bickering band of soon-to-be-victims head to a seemingly deserted nearby farm, in search of help and contact with the outside world (anal retentive step dad Wesley has suspiciously banned mobile phones from been taken on the trip…he’s played by Toby Wynn Davies, so we can be pretty sure he’ll turn out to be a wrong ‘un.) There the Harvers encounter the owner, the demented Hunt Hansen (De La Roche) and his hideously disfigured son (Sam Lane), and soon enough the whole family find themselves caged like animals and awaiting slaughter by the Hansens for delivery to ‘The Meat Eater’, a mysterious figure organising a steady supply of longpig to secret ring of discerning customers… ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (CANNIBAL FARM in the US), is the debut feature from writer/director/editor Charlie Steeds’ Dark Temple outfit, a UK retro horror studio that has already seen its second feature WINTERSKIN recently released to the US market and reviewed here on this very site. Various issues with distributors have delayed the release of Escape to the UK market, but happily, the excellent 88 Films have finally submitted a release date of October 21 this year. I’ll freely admit I was expecting a Chainsaw Massacre set in the Cotswolds pastiche, based purely on the snippets served up in the trailer, but I was pleasantly wrong footed as Steeds’ script piles on the plot twists and is surprisingly sympathetic towards the films villains, portraying them as victims of tragic circumstance, driven insane by their misfortune. Even a dash of social commentary about generational wealth divides is thrown in for good measure. The director is certainly not shy on the gore either, favouring practical effects (much to his credit!) and piling on the severed limbs, cooked bodies and bone slicing power tools with relish. From a production values standpoint, the direction and camerawork are very assured for a debut feature and Steeds has a great eye for colour and lush visuals which go a long way towards compensating against the film’s tiny budget. The cast is uniformly excellent with British horror’s new favourite ‘final girl’ Kate Davies Speak valiantly holding her own against scenery chewing villainous turns from De La Roche, Cosgrove and Wynn Davies, last seen in Richard Rowntree’s excellent folk horror update DOGGED. If there’s a fault to be had with the movie, it’s that the script maybe piles on one two many plot twists and thus risks overreaching. Much of De La Roche’s and Cosgrove’s dialogue too, is at times incomprehensible (I guess that’s what subtitles are for.) These seem like minor quibbles in what is an assured debut from the new studio, which curiously felt like a more rounded experience than its follow up feature WINTERSKIN. Although I doubt it will do much for west country tourism ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM is a glorious technicolour love letter to the golden age of much maligned lo-fi straight to video horror flicks of the video nasty era from an exciting new player in British horror film making. Long may they reign!
David Lenik, Rowena Bentley, Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Kate Davies Speak
In the frozen wilds of North America, Billy Cavanagh (Lenik) becomes separated from his father (Cosgrove) while on a deer hunting expedition.
Chancing upon a secluded cabin, Billy is shot in the leg by persons unknown, and awakes inside to find himself being nursed by the kooky Mama Agnes (Bentley.)
With no means of communicating with the outside world and temporarily crippled by his leg wound, Billy is warned by Agnes not to venture outside after dark for fear of being attacked and killed by a malevolent creature she cals ‘the Red Man’. Later Billy lets out Agnes’ dog, only for the animal to turn up dead on the doorstep after having being skinned.
The following night, Billy is attacked in the cabin by a hideous skinless humanoid creature and barely survives the encounter.
Meanwhile, a band of hunters led by Old Man Ruth (de la Roche) are scouring the wilderness looking for Billy and his father…
The third feature from upcoming British indie production house Dark Temple Motion Pictures is a tightly paced slice of isolation horror that mashes up elements of the likes of MISERY, SOUTHERN COMFORT and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but which exhibits just enough of its own original DNA and stylistic elan to prevent it becoming just another forgettable bargain bin horror flick.
Writer and director Charlie Steeds here concentrates on establishing a fast moving and efficient narrative, and coaxes scenery chomping performances from both Bentley and de la Roche respectively (the climactic confrontation is the film’s highlight.) Newcomer Lenik is also admirable, anchoring the narrative as the increasingly tense and paranoid Billy starts to realise that all is not quite as it may seem…
Despite a plot twist you can spot a mile off, Steeds pared down script and confident direction keeps your attention, and bodes well for future Dark Temple output.
Although the studio’s third feature after ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM and THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE, I haven’t yet been able to secure copies of these movies to review yet. The former is set go be released this year by 88 Films, so look out for a review soon (hopefully!) I mention this as it’s difficult to glean from watching WINTERSKIN whether Steeds has yet managed to impress a ‘house style’ on his movies yet, as despite marketing Dark Temple’s output as ‘retro horror’, such a ‘feel’ doesn’t come across that strongly.
This is a very minor quibble it has to be said, and WINTERSKIN boasts some strong performances from its cast, conjures up a foreboding yet strangely ethereal atmosphere on a limited budget, and frankly original horror output of this quality from an indie start up outfit is something that we should all be roundly encouraging.
As far as I can tell at the time writing, Dark Temples’ next release will be the fantastic looking THE BARGE PEOPLE headlined by the wonderful Kate Davies Speak (here making a cameo.) Check out the intense trailer at the Facebook page or head over to the Dark Temple website here.
Muchos apologias for the long bout of radio silence, what with Christmas, having the builders in and generally juggling the life admin, I’ve had little to no time to devote myself to the site.
Four months into 2019 and I’ve finally managed to put fingers to keyboard and there’s a backlog of ace looking releases coming up, the first of which comes from British retro horror outfit Dark Temple Pictures. Check out the splattertastic awesomeness of WINTERSKIN –
From acclaimed filmmaker Charlie Steeds, and starring David Lenik (Escape From Cannibal Farm) and Rowena Bentley (The House Of Violent Desire), comes a frostbitten frightfest that snatches the breath, Winterskin, available on digital May 21 from High Octane Pictures.
Gunned down in the snowy wilderness and desperate for shelter, Billy Cavanagh is taken in by kooky old lady Agnes, unaware that her isolated log cabin is being stalked by a bloodthirsty skinless creature hellbent on getting inside.
From Dark Temple Films, and also starring Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Kate Davies-Speak, John Lomas, Harrison Nash and Dylan Curtis, Winterskin is available May 21 on digital in North America.
More news on a UK release when I get it, but in the meantime UK and European horror fans can feast their eyes on the trailer and promotional images –
That’s all for today folks, I’m hoping to post a review of WINTERSKIN in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime keep your eyes peeled on the site as I’ll be adding more new release news to the site this week!
This October, GRIMMFEST, Manchester’s International Festival of Fantastic Film celebrated its tenth anniversary with the biggest line-up of film premieres ever, along with audiences to match.
Now the Festival Jury’s votes are all in, and the audience ballots all tallied up, Grimmfest is proud to reveal this year’s award-winners:
Horror Channel Lifetime Achievement Award: BARBARA CRAMPTON (RE-ANIMATOR, YOU’RE NEXT)
Best Feature: TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
With Special mentions for ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE and PIERCING
Best Director: JOHN MCPHAIL, for ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE
With Special mentions for ISSA LÓPEZ (TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID), and CLAYTON JACOBSON (BROTHERS’ NEST)
Best Screenplay: ISSA LÓPEZ for TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
With Special mentions for CLAYTON JACOBSON (BROTHERS’ NEST) and ANDY MITTON (THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW)
Best Score: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE
With Special mentions for PIERCING and SUMMER OF ’84
Best Actor: JUAN RAMÓN LÓPEZ for TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
With Special mention for AIDAN DEVINE (I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD)
Best Actress: MIA WASIKOWSKAfor PIERCING
With Special mentions for ELLA HUNT (ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE) and ABIGAIL CRUTTENDEN (AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS)
Best SFX: GIRLS WITH BALLS
With Special mentions for AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS and FRAMED
Best Kill: GIRLS WITH BALLS
With Special mentions for PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, OFFICE UPRISING and SATAN’S SLAVES
Best Scare: THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW
With Special mention for SATAN’S SLAVES
Best Short: WE SUMMONED A DEMON
With Special mentions for CONDUCTOR, DEAD COOL and THE OLD WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS
Finally, as voted for by Grimmfest 2018 attendees:
The Audience Award: TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
With Special mentions for SUMMER OF ’84, WITCH IN THE WINDOW, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, and BROTHERS’ NEST
The Festival Jury Panel consisted of; Actress and Writer Lauren Ashley Carter, Film Sales Agent Caroline Couret-Delegue, Acquisitions Consultant, Festival Programmer and Producer Annick Mahnert, Writer, Actress and Producer Joanne Mitchell, Dread Central Journalist Anya Stanley and Rue Morgue Executive Editor Andrea Subissati.
Grimmfest is even more delighted to announce that the winners of the BEST FILM and BEST DIRECTOR categories will each be awarded £40,000 worth of post-production services by Festival Award Sponsor BCL Finance Group, which can be used against a future film.
TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is a Mexican magic realist movie written and directed by Issa López, the film has gained huge festival acclaim and awards around the World. It has been championed by Guillermo del Toro who will be producing Issa’s next film. Issa López said: “It’s an incredible honour to receive so many beautiful awards at a festival with such an incredible slate…Grimmfest is the very image of genre cinema’s credibility and substance, and it means a lot to the entire ‘Tigers’ team to be recognized by the festival’s jury and incredible audiences.”
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a UK Christmas set Zombie musical directed by John McPhail. Since its debut at Fantastic fest last year, it has been making waves around the festival circuit, winning the audience award at the Edinburgh International film festival. It will be released theatrically in the UK and US in time for the festive season. John McPhail, Director of ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, said: “I am over the moon to receive this award, to know my peers enjoyed the film… I only started directing 6 years ago, and to receive Best Director award from a film festival like Grimmfest really puts the icing on the cake.”
BCL have already agreed to partner with the festival next year, when they will again be offering big prizes for BEST FILM and BEST DIRECTOR categories and Grimmfest is also excited to announce the introduction of a new award category WORK IN PROGRESS, in association with BCL. The winning filmmaker will receive access to all-important post production services that will enable the completion of their film.
Michael Laundon, Managing Partner at BCL, adds “All of us at BCL are delighted to be prize sponsors for Grimmfest, as they enter their second decade. BCL was established with a quest to truly help independent movies to not only get made but to be finished. We hope to continue our support of Grimmfest in the years to come.”
Finally, Grimmfest is thrilled to announce that Barbara Crampton has agreed to become head of the Festival Jury for Grimmfest 2019.
Grimmfest 2019 will take place in early October in Manchester UK. Film submissions will open December 2018 via Film Freeway. More information about the festival can be found at www.grimmfest.com
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.
Hailing from the rainswept northern climes of the UK, Elliott Maguire is the writer and director behind the dark psychological horror film THE FERRYMAN, which is currently available on the Vimeo platform (you can rent or buy it here.)
Filmed exclusively using iPhone 7’s on a micro budget in and around his home city of Manchester, THE FERRYMAN tells the story of Mara (Nicola Holt), an emotionally fragile young woman who, whilst recovering from a suicide attempt finds herself stalked by a vengeful spectral entity. You can read our full review here if you haven’t already, but in the meantime, Elliott graciously agreed to sit down and talk to us about his experience making the film along with his influences and future plans.
TSL Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into filmmaking. Do you have any formal training in screenwriting or directing?
EM I’ve always been more of a film fan than filmmaker to be honest, until I got my hands on a copy of THE USUAL SUSPECTS at quite a young age and became really obsessed with screenwriting and storytelling. In terms of training, I did okay in college but I’m a two time university dropout, it just wasn’t for me. Not sure why really. So other than college I really just trained myself, with a bit of help from google. It wasn’t until very recently that I did anything other than the writing side of film though. Directing and stuff, well everything I learned from watching other films basically.
TSL How did the idea for THE FERRYMAN come about? What gave you the impetus to make your own film?
EM I’d always been interested in the image of the coins in the eyes since THE HITCHER and FROM HELL, and began looking into the Greek myth Charon and just thought it was ideal for turning into a new, iconic boogeyman. The Ferryman started off as a very Blumhouse-style supernatural horror, loads of jump scares, high body count, but as you can probably tell that changed a lot over the development. I’d always wanted to move into directing as well as writing and I had that many scripts get a bit of interest, almost happen, this that and the other, I just thought “I’m not ready but I never will be, so let’s just crack on and make something”. In hindsight I should’ve picked something a bit less complex production-wise but oh well.
TSL As a child of the VHS era, I’m pretty obsessed with horror, fantasy and sci fi, in particular post apocalypse movies. What are the films that have your biggest influences?
EM For THE FERRYMAN specifically, it really developed as my taste in cinema developed. The films of Nicolas Winding-Refn, Ben Wheatley, Nicolas Roeg, and David Lynch really stayed in my mind while filming. I wanted it to feel like you were in Mara’s head, in this psychological nightmare where everything is just slightly off…and then you drop right off down the rabbit hole.
TSL If there are any aspiring filmmakers reading this, I’m sure that they’d love some advice on getting their own projects rolling. How did you set about finding actors, makeup artists and scouting locations for instance? Did social media play a big part in finding suitable collaborators?
EM Social media was everything for me really, in terms of cast and crew it was basically a case of reaching out on Facebook. Except for Nicola and Shobi, I found them on Mandy and they blew me away with their self-tapes. But yeah everyone else was either an actor or filmmaker I knew through social media, or a friend of there’s. I got really lucky with everyone, I couldn’t say it’s the right way to do it, all I can say is it worked for me. Locations were really just places I had access to, my house, parents house, where I work, anywhere I could get for free really as paying was out of the question. In terms of advice, it’s such a cliche but it’s the right answer, you just have to go and do it. Think about something you can do with what you’ve got to hand and do it. If I can, trust me, everyone else can. If you wait around for funding, or for sometime else to do it for you, there’s a big chance it’ll never happen, so take control. Even if you’ve never been to university or anything, I can guarantee there are a thousand tutorials on every aspect of filmmaking on YouTube, and that’s free! Create your own university while also making things happen.
TSL What would you consider to be the most important thing you’ve learned in your filmmaking career so far, and what would your advice be to other aspiring filmmakers?
EM Organisation in the pre-production stage 100%. I got swept away in the excitement and started setting dates and deadlines for things without figuring out how to meet them, which really messed up one or two locations and led to a few last minute recastings. It worked out in the end but the stress of it really sucked the fun out of it a few times. So be organised, and have back up plans, and back up plans for your back up plans. But also, don’t think of this as a business, not until after post-production anway. This should be fun, it should be your passion, something you want to do regardless of the money. Stick to your guns and make the film you want to make, not what they tell you would sell more DVD’s.
TSL Do you have a preference for a particular aspect of the craft, either writing or directing?
EM I’ve just started writing again and I’ve missed it so much, as I feel in complete control and maybe that’s just the way I have to be. But the chaos of being on set and seeing stuff come to life and coming up with scenes on the spot and working with other filmmakers is amazing too so I don’t know. Maybe ask me after the next one…
TSL Certain films, particularly in the horror genre have gained a reputation for strange coincidences and unnerving occurrences during production. As lovers of film trivia, can you tell us if anything like that happened during the filming of THE FERRYMAN or indeed, any other interesting anecdotes relating to the production?
EM It was filled with drama actually, nothing supernatural even though my house and my parents house are definitely haunted. But yeah there’s been lots of stuff but I really couldn’t divulge any of it come to think of it. Some of it very private to cast and crew and some of it may get the FBI coming after us all if they’re not already (seriously).
TSL Finally then, do you have any upcoming projects or ideas bubbling away that you can tell us about?
EM Oh yes loads, I have a back catalogue of scripts that are no longer in anyone’s hands but mine and my plan is to basically work through them in terms of budget and scale. I have my slasher film set in the homeless community, my cult thriller Follow The Leader, a supernatural horror centred around security and CCTV, and I’m also hoping to start development on a film based on the Hexham Heads true story. But the next one is going to be very small, smaller than Ferryman even, but much more visceral than psychological, Buried-meets-Wicker Man is how I’d describe it with a bit of French New Wave ultra violence thrown in. Hopefully sometime this year.
TSL Thanks for volunteering your time to talk to us. We look forwards to your future productions!
House on Elm Lake(2017) UK Dir: James Klass Becca Hirani, Andrew Hollingworth, Tara MacGowran, Tony Manders
The Jones family move into a seemingly idyllic lakeside property in the British countryside, having purchased it for a knockdown price due to it having been the scene of a ritualistic family annihilation three years earlier. Hayley (Hirani) hopes the fresh start will repair their marriage after husband Eric’s (Hollingsworth) infidelity.
No sooner has the family settled in than things start to go bump in the night, daughter Penny (Faye Goodwin) acquires an imaginary friend and Eric’s personality becomes more and more aggressive. When Hayley begins to start witnessing apparitions she begins to delve into the dark history of the house along with a psychic investigator.
So far, so THE CONJURING, and indeed this mini budget British horror flick doesn’t stray too far from any of the tried and tested tropes of the haunted house/demonic possession sub genres.This is likely to be a marmite movie for some. It doesn’t really do anything groundbreaking with its well worn set up, and becomes a little too distracted with reliance on jump scares rather than building a sense of dread. On the plus side it is a well written and directed example of its sub genre, with lead actress Becca Hirani in particular giving a great performance as Hayley, riven with self doubt, but determined to protect her family against increasingly deranged hubby Eric (Hollingworth, channelling his best Jack Torrance.)
Filmed in eight days on a budget of £3000, the finished production transcends it’s microbudget origins, delivering an effective and at times genuinely unnerving haunted house chiller. Unlike most of its higher budgeted US produced counterparts, has a bleak and cold atmosphere that you only really find in British made horror flicks or those set in these rain swept isles (Cronenberg’s THE DEAD ZONE is an excellent exception). Lacking the slick glossiness of similar US fayre like THE CONJURING and SINISTER ends up being no great disadvantage to the film, rather acting as a boon to those of us who prefer our horror with a sliver of ice running through it. Fans of haunted house and demonic possession flicks will find a solid if unoriginal addition to the sub genre here.
Kate Davies Speak is a British thesp hailing from sunny Bristol, who has been busy making a name for herself in several genre pictures and tv series as a bona fide ‘Final Girl’ and all round kick ass heroine. Her recent credits include the VOD alien invasion series HORIZON, the dark fantasy romp KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED and three exciting upcoming releases from new British production outfit Dark Temple Motion Pictures – ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and THE BARGE PEOPLE. As well as all this, Kate is a qualified Personal Trainer and fitness instructor and is the founder and manager of ‘Showreel Share Day’ via Twitter (@ShowreelShare) an initiative set up to aid her fellow actors in finding work.
In between fighting off marauding cannibals and mutated amphibians, Kate graciously agreed to talk with The Stricken Land about her career in film.
TSL What gave you the acting bug? Is your first love theatre, or film?
KDS Thanks for your questions! I originally got bitten by the acting bug many years ago when I became interested in musical theatre (prior to that I had wanted to be an illustrator and creator of video game characters). I was just finishing my A-Levels at college when I joined a production of West Side Story, I fell in love with performing and decided to embark on a career change. After performing on stage for roughly 10 years, I then decided it was time to chuck myself into working in film, I started on lots of small projects to gain experience and to fundamentally understand the difference between stage acting and screen acting. From that point onwards I became obsessed with screen work, I adore the film industry and literally love every second of being on a set. I sometimes miss being on stage but for now I am happy to work mainly in film.
TSL I’ve always been fascinated by the process behind making films and how actors approach material. What are the big differences between film and theatre acting?
KDS In the theatre the actor must perform to a huge space, therefore every ounce of energy they use must go into projecting their voice, movements, intentions, expressions. Everything appears pretty ‘big’. When you work on screen you have to pull the performance back so much, internalise everything, think the thoughts of your character without necessarily showing them. It’s the eyes of the viewer who will really decide what is going on in your character’s mind, much like real life when you read the emotions and expressions of the people you interact with. It can be so delicate and enjoyable to do. I love it. Working in horror is a little tougher as you are in such extreme and frankly ridiculous circumstances yet you must find an element of truth in order to tell your character’s story. Within any acting (theatre or film) it’s really all about listening to the other characters, whether you chose to show that is a different matter but it must always be done. If you’re truly listening, you are acting.
TSL As noted in the intro you’ve starred in several horror/sci-fi/fantasy pieces. Are you a fan of these genres yourself? What attracts you to these kinds of projects?
KDS I have many genres that I enjoy to watch but I have always been a fan of horror, sci-fi, action and thriller. Some of my favourite movies of all time are films in those genres from the 80s/90’s such as THE TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN, SCREAM… Too many to mention! I am mainly drawn in by my love of simply being involved in the types of films I would go and watch at the cinema. If I read a script and I know that it’s a film I would wish to see, there’s every chance I will accept the role. I am also a sucker for a tough female lead, with idols such as; Lara Croft, Sarah Connor and Ripley – it’s often important for me that the women I portray show a toughness or strength (not just physically) that I hope will go on to inspire a new generation of young women. Not all horror films have to have weak women in them. I really enjoyed THE DESCENT for the fact that it was a great horror with an all-female cast and some really interesting characters.
TSL It’s often noted that the horror genre in particularly puts its women characters at the forefront, and the best examples feature believable, well written characters (Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Laurie Strode), usually placing them in very extreme situations. Jessica Harver in ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM and Kat in THE BARGE PEOPLE look set to join this pantheon. What do you think it is about the horror genre that makes it lean towards female characters fighting against the odds?
KDS I think people genuinely like to see a female protagonist put through her paces and hopefully survive and come out fighting. I think that many of the classics (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, CUJO) do focus on victimising women more, I remember really enjoying Sidney Prescott in Scream as she had an edge, a toughness to her that stood out at the time. We learn to engage and connect with these characters, then they are in peril and we truly want to watch them survive so it’s very cathartic when they get the better of their enemies. I can’t wait to see Laurie Strode return to take on Michael Myers once again this year. I hope that people enjoy both of my roles that you mentioned, both are very different; Kat is certainly more of a victim than Jess but I tried to make her as believable as possible, she doesn’t do stupid cliche things (like falling over when running away) but at the end of the day she’s scared, vulnerable and has no experience of confrontation. Jess is broken, damaged and a bit unhinged, she counteracts her victim status by turning the tables and losing an interest in doing the right thing.
TSL I have to ask; with you being a qualified personal trainer fitness enthusiast, do you do your own stunts? Have you ever had any near misses or anything go wrong during a shoot, a lot of your characters find themselves in physically demanding situations?
KDS I always do my own stunt work so far, most of the time my combat sections are given quite a good allocation of time for me to learn the moves, meet the other actors, rehearse loads and refine until we are all happy. Over the years I have had a couple of mishaps, my first ever short film involved me and another actress fighting and we (foolishly) decided to keep practicing when the crew had gone on their lunch break, we moved too fast and got a bit sloppy, I accidentally punched her square in the face. That was definitely a lesson to me to be more cautious. I hurt myself last year shooting THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE when one of the cushions that had been set in place for me to land on when I had to fall backwards down the stairs was moved by a crew member as it was intruding into the shot, I just hadn’t been aware and ended up cracking my head against a brick wall, that hurt and definitely taught me to be more careful. I will have lots of stunts in my upcoming film OFF GRID, I will therefore be having several meetings and talks with the film stunt team before we do the shoot. I think sometimes I forget that you get a bit more fragile as you get older it’s only when I hurt myself I remember to take it steady lol!
TSL I remember Emma Thompson responding to the criticism of the film industry not offering interesting roles to older actresses, by telling her peers to go out and write their own films (I seem to remember that she was promoting her self penned project NANNY MCPHEE at the time.) Have you, or have you ever been tempted to put pen to paper and write your own screenplay with a role for yourself in mind?
KDS I prefer not to write as it’s not my greatest skill (although I used to when I was in my teens) however I often have a ton of creative ideas which I love to talk over with filmmakers, I love nothing more than to meet up with my screenwriter friends and bounce ideas around. I often meet with Christopher Lombard (the writer of THE BARGE PEOPLE) and talk about our next film projects including ideas for a sequel to the film…They are all just ideas right now but then again THE BARGE PEOPLE started out that way originally so who knows?
TSL Social media and the internet seem to be revolutionising how creatives make and market their material to the wider world. For instance, platforms like YouTube and Vimeo give indie and DIY operations a way to channel and promote their films. As a working actress do you see this as a big positive, in that it lowers the barriers to entry into the industry for filmmakers, special fx people and performers themselves?
KDS I think that although it can be a good way to open a few doors and get people on the radar I also think that it makes it a little harder to really establish the difference in quality for projects, it seems that almost anyone can go out and shoot a film now, which is of course both good and bad. I believe that a valuable way for anyone to learn their craft is to go out and work at it so it’s important that people are able to do so. I know that when the team I worked with on HORIZON set out to make the show we were just thankful that we were able to have an online platform to generate an audience, it would have been tough to do all of that work and not have a way of sharing it with the world. The audience was more important than the revenue, a true passion project.
TSL Tell us about #showreelshareday and the work you do helping to get the word out there about your fellow actors and actresses.
KDS #showreelshareday happened almost by accident on a day when I was sharing my showreel on Twitter. I had finally made myself a reel that I was happy to share (I’d always been very insecure about sharing my acting work) but on this occasion I think I’d figured that after all of the work myself and the filmmakers had gone to creating it that it deserved an audience, but I still felt a little awkward about just putting it out there for all to see. So I tried to make it a little more inclusive by inviting friends and followers to join in with the hashtag #showreelshareday. The next thing I remember was friends saying to me ‘do you realise that your tag is trending on Twitter?’ I couldn’t believe it! Thousands of actors were coming together to join in. It was brilliant – actors, agents, casting professionals all joining forces in sharing and watching each other’s work. It generated a real positive energy of creativity and I loved every second of it. I have now run 5 of the #showreelshareday events and will continue to do so if the actors are still enjoy themselves…
TSL Your IMDB profile states that you have a hashtag trending on Twitter – #katedaviesforbatgirl that campaigns to get you an audition for Joss Whedon’s upcoming addition to the DCEU. Have you had any comeback on this? The Stricken Land thinks you would make a fine Barbara Gordon, are you reading this Mr Whedon?!
KDS Aw that’s very kind of you! That whole thing was such a wonderful example of what can happen when you get a nice bit of support from friends and followers. It was doing well for some time however sadly even Joss is no longer attached the movie, it’s all gone a little silent. I can always take the traits of Barbara Gordon and many other iconic ladies and implement them into my future roles.
TSL Finally do you have any upcoming projects that you’re allowed to tell us about?
KDS This year I am looking forward to the releases of THE BARGE PEOPLE, WINTERSKIN, DEAD AIR, season 2 of HORIZON, MINDING MAMA, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and the UK release of ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM. My next film project will be OFF GRID (I’m so excited to be working alongside acting legend James Cosmo), and several more projects with Dark Temple Films… Watch this space! 🙂
TSL Thanks for taking the time to chat, and all the best for the future!
KDS Thanks for taking the time, much obliged, stay cool x
Good Friends Bad Movies
Good Friends, Bad Movies is a new podcast reviewing the lousiest, corniest and most ludicrous of motion pictures.
Just the Discs
Just The Discs is a podcast about Blu-rays. Each episode, Brian Saur (of Rupert Pupkin Speaks) will go through a stack of discs from various distributors and talk about them.
Welcome to the Polterguys podcast! In a podcast of all things spooky, scary, sci-fi and mostly dumb, join the “Polterguys” themselves, Ross and Matty, as they break down the best (and worst) of horror and sci-fi movies and shows.
Pure Cinema Podcast
A weekly film podcast hosted by Elric Kane and Brian Saur featuring discussions of new films, old films, double features, cult movies, filmmakers and movie lists!
The Science Fiction Film Podcast
The Science Fiction Film Podcast is what you listen to if you are tired of the high-brow drivel that sounds like it comes right out of the film critic handbook.
The Scream Cast
With special guests, celebrity interviews, top 10 lists and reviews we celebrate all things retro, cult and fringe in horror!
The UK’s newest monthly film magazine, FILM STORIES has published hundreds of pages, given breaks to loads of new writers, and talked about all sorts of films, big and small with a UK emphasis.