Director: Alex ChandonReleased: 2011
Starring: Seamus O’Neill, Jo Hartley, James Doherty, Mat Fraser, Emily Booth, James Burrows, Neil Leiper, Chris Waller
,Nadine Rose Mulkerrin, Terry Haywood, Damien Lloyd-Davies
Plot: Following two care workers and their four delinquent charges, as they head to a remote part of the Yorkshire countryside to the seemingly sleepy village of Mortlake, which is seemingly so far off the beaten track that it just about makes it onto the map, which is just how the villagers like it. Despite a questionable greeting at the local pub “The Dirty Hole” were they meet the colourful landlord Jim (O’Neill) and some of the equally colourful locals the group are soon setting about the task of salvaging copper from an abandoned railway. However after a violent encounter with one group of the locals the group, suddenly find themselves less welcomed than they thought, while also the star attraction as the village entertainment.
Review: Having been brought up on the rain soaked coasts of Cornwall (just put your finger on the very end of England and your in Cornwall) this film carries a strange sense of familiarity for me, especially with its setting which is introduced during the opening titles of seemingly non threatening shots of the countryside are only given a sense of creeping dread thanks to Dave Andrews soundtrack which finally gives us a new horror theme music, than just trying to grab the audiences attention with some nu-metal track. Equally refreshing is the choice to set the film in the Yorkshire countryside were the broad northern accent of the locals makes a much needed change from the usual Londoner drawl and cockney rhyming slang, which is worrying becoming a central element of British horror, something which will hopefully be abolished in the wake of this film, as I could happily go for more northern based horror.
A highly inventive movie, which while it might not exactly break the mould when it comes to the setup, with the seemingly questionable locals unsurprisingly turning out to be a crazed bunch of psychotic inbreds (think redneck or yokel) or the group taking no time to upset said locals, even if this time the trigger point is less clear than usual. Were the fun comes from through is the sheer inventiveness once the crazy is unleashed, for while this might have all the makings of being another torture porn release from the outset, with the group being taken one by one to the barn, were an audience of frenzied inbreds, watch on as pub landlord Jim, now dressed like a Papa Lazarou tribute act which is kind of fitting seeing how “The League of Gentlemen” is a definite close relation of this film.
At the centre of this rabid mob of locals Jim is clearly the one calling the shots acting not only as the voice of authority when it comes to pursing the group, but also leading the grotesque Cabaret style variety show they hold in the barn. O’Neill is truly a revelation in this role with his broad accent and booming voice, he true embodies the role while never dominating the film, as his banter with several of the other colourful villagers ensures that they all get chance to shine in all their repulsive glory. Meanwhile the teens are by the large your typical mix with a spattering of characterisation for colour, while their care workers are essentially polar opposites of each other with Kate (Hartley) being keen to work with the kids on their level while also processing a surprisingly feisty streak, while Jeff (Doherty) is the dorky disciplinarian and ultimately marks himself out as an easy first kill. Elsewhere we also get a opening cameo from Emily Booth, who here continues in her bid to establish herself as a horror starlet as she takes a break from trying to be the British Elvira on “The Horror Channel”. Ultimatly this cameo is so overacted, even for the fake film she is supposed to be staring in it is left largely forgettable, unlike a surprising cameo by Mat Fraser which threatens to steal the film as one of the villagers complaining about the declining in standards of showmanship being used, while his naturally short arms (the result of a genetic condition known as Phocomelia) only adding to his onscreen presence as he combats the issue of holding a hammer by simply strapping it to his arm.
The gore however is were the film really comes into it’s own with director Alex Chandon, combining a mixture of old school effects and CGI to really paint the screen crimson, as we are treated to exploding heads, torture by vegetables and even death by shire horse to name but a few of the numerous gory highlights. Needless to say if gore is not your thing then this won’t be one for you, but for the gorehounds they will no doubt find much to enjoy especially in the sheer terms of creative ways he has found to maim and kill various members of the cast over the course of the movie. However the real strength here is with the pitch black vein of humour which runs throughout the film, which features such fun moments as the questionable pork scratchings served at the dirty hole, which come in the varieties of Hairy or Smelly, while the humour is used to never turn the film into farce and ensuring that your wincing and laughing at the same time. Equally memorably is the villagers folk song, which is so catchy I have found myself still singing it days after seeing the film, thanks to it’s random appearances throughout including the villagers taking a break from attacking the farm house to sing a few verses, while possibly being the only murderous mob to have their own banjo player!
Okay while this weeks new movie review might not perhaps be a new movie per say, seeing how it has skipped the theatres outside of a handful of horror festivals and only now ended up on direct to DVD release, it still makes for a ghoulish Halloween treat, while the former shame of having the film released like this is far from a bad thing, especially as it has been proven many times in the past that this is not exactly the kiss of death it might once have been considered especially with the DVD market now holding as much sway as the theatre takings. Just look at “Family Guy” or “Futurama” both pronounced dead shows, only to be resurrected on the strength of their DVD sales. I can only hope that this film now finally finds its audience on DVD as it is a genuine cult classic in the making while also being one of the most original and inventive British horror films since “The Kill List”.