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!

Winterskin (UK 2018) Dir: Charlie Steeds

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.

Hail there film fiends!

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!

Spread the word!

Ian