"I am your storyteller", writer David McGillivray (FRIGHTMARE, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, SATAN'S SLAVE etc) addresses us, on stage in front of a red curtain. He's dressed for the occasion, complete with top hat, tails and white gloves. He wastes no time in introducing us to several short films designed to explore, you guessed it, our worst fears.
First up is "Tincture of Vervain". This 16-minute offering tells of a coven of pensioners committing ill deeds in a country village, each one hopeful of one day being promoted to leader of the Satanic cult they belong to. But current cult leader Fenella Fielding has a surprise in store for them...
Professionally shot and edited, this atmospheric curiosity piece is of a higher calibre than I expected. Solid performances, interesting visuals and a typically British quirkiness to proceedings lend Claxton's film an agreeable sense of macabre fun.
"Wednesday" finds eager young immigrant girl Lilli (Rebecca Santos) taking on a cleaning job for a most peculiar old woman (Anna Wing). Some marvellously manic performances and a bout of violence which reminded me of McGillivray's earlier FRIGHTMARE make this one another tantalising prospect, even if the twist was a little predictable.
McGillivray writes and co-stars in the next offering, "In the Place of the Dead". This makes good use of its Moroccan locations. All in all though, this one didn't hook me in like the first two shorts did.
"Mrs Davenport's Throat" benefits, as the films before have done, from superb cinematography by Sam Hardy. Again shot overseas (partially in Portugal), this one has a tighter and more satisfying screenplay: Mrs Davenport (Celia Williams) is met at the airport by a chauffeur (Luis Castro) who is not all that he seems. Then again, neither is she...
A gory throat-slashing and deliciously dark twist work well in this one, along with fine central performances and a savvy McGillivray script.
"Child Number Four" is an earlier effort (2004) but does a fair job of getting across the insidious nature of scarecrows. It's a tad insubstantial story-wise but is a fun watch regardless.
"After Image" is a better proposition. It's also the only short here that was written or co-written by McGillivray (that honour goes to producer Andrew Cartmell). McGillivray does, however, feature in a key role.
I really enjoyed this tale about a photographer who embarks on a strange relationship with a mysterious female acquaintance. Its only flaw is that the audio wasn't recorded particularly well.
"We're Ready For You Now" brings McGillivray back to the writer's chair for a most enjoyable finale, a tale of psychic premonitions, lesbian love and Satanic cults in the heart of France. It's stylishly shot and well-acted by its two female leads - Rebecca Santos and Maria Walsh.
Keith Claxton directs each film with confidence and quiet skill, while McGillivray's enjoyably colloquial dialect can be heard in all-but-one of the screenplays. The performances are generally solid throughout and, overall, this is a hugely entertaining collection of short horror stories.
There's a sense of the theatrical to proceedings, certainly - even the gore is very much presented in a Grand Guignol fashion. But for those with a passion for the highs of British horror through the ages, WORST FEARS truly delivers everything we've grown accustomed to ... odd characters, macabre goings-on, subtle creepiness and oodles of entertainingly dark humour.
Of course, as is the way with 99% of portmanteaus, it's somewhat uneven. In this particular case, I think the film would've benefitted from excising two of the stories. Still, as it stands, it's a fun if overlong undertaking.
The disc opens with trailers for CRAZE (one of the most purely enjoyable previews in an age) and the excellent FIFTY SHADES OF EROTICA.
Following those, we're introduced to a main menu page which may look static, but upon closer inspection is subtly animated (check out the faux scratches and flecks). From there, an animated scene selection menu allows access to WORST FEARS via 8 chapters.
Extras begin with a great 30-minute McGillivray interview entitled "Facing His Fears". Speaking in front of a lovely Graham Humphreys-produced backdrop, he begins by explaining writer Jonathan Rigby was responsible for getting the WORST FEARS project off the ground. His recollections on how the shorts for this project were made make for great entertainment: a mixture of sincerity, candour and wit ensure that McGillivray (who looks very good for his age - 68 at the time of the interview, I believe) is a most engaging raconteur at all times. Tales of last-minute casting calls; filming without permits; mad directors; scrimping on paying actors' expenses; trying to get Marianne Stone, the world-record holder for most roles in British productions, to appear in one of the short films - followed by a refreshingly honest take on why that didn't happen ... Whether you're a budding filmmaker or casual fan, this featurette is eminently watchable.
We also get the film's trailer (billed on this screener disc as a "temporary trailer" but edited so perfectly that I'd be surprised if a better one transpires).
Next up is Haydon Bridge's 30-minute mockumentary called "Horror Icon" where journalist Joe McCallum (Joe Cushley) - who confesses that he doesn't like horror films, and hasn't even seen one - takes a delve into McGillivray's illustrious 70s career. Contributions from the likes of Kim Newman, Fenella Fielding, Julian Clary, Alan Jones and Norman J Warren are more than a tad disparaging: it's all tongue-in-cheek of course, and very funny at it. It's all made even better by the voices of Pete Walker and Marianne Stone, along with some wonderful vintage interview footage interspersed throughout - and all manner of accusations made in jest against the subject. Priceless.
"Being Iconic" sees McGillivray speaking for 3 minutes about the aforementioned mockumentary, describing it as a variation on the principles behind the marketing of SNUFF. 4 minutes of deleted scenes and 6 minutes of bloopers, including references to goat sex and more Clary.
A nice stills gallery follows.
Finally, we get trailers for GIVE US TOMORROW and VIDEO NASTIES THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE 2: DRACONIAN DAYS.
An enjoyable old-school film on a great disc. It's nice to see Nucleus Films strike gold again.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Nucleus Films|
|see main review|