Imagine a boss-eyed Sammy Hagar lookalike with a Midlands accent and a penchant for Sherry. Well, that's our narrator Sebastian (Adam Woodhouse) who opens proceedings, Roald Dahl-style, inviting us in to a tale of terror.
And so ...
Five people gather at a rural Gothic mansion for an evening with celebrity spiritualist Keef Raven (Mark Lee Jones). We have effervescent Jay (James JT Taylor) and his pretty wife Tiffany (Vicki Clarke), who is so hard-of-hearing that she doesn't realise how patronising he often is. Then there's sensation-seeking Donnie (Baron Mynd), who attends this indoors event in sunglasses. To his left is the high-pitched enigma that is Santos (Tom Rutter), who is constantly being perceived as an evil entity on account of his goatee beard and black fingernails. Finally, there's transvestite Tanya (James Underwood) - who believes he was a car mechanic called Paul in a former life.
As Keef arrives and greets his guests, we learn that their surroundings for the evening are the former home of the late Angus McGoverney - a man who was blessed throughout his life with extraordinarily good luck. Rumour has it that this was due to the fact that he'd managed to capture and contain a powerful demon inside a magic box. Keef informs his guests that the box has never been found, and that all those who have searched for previously have met grisly ends.
The purpose of this motley crew's meeting? To hold a seance in which Keef hopes to contact the spirits of those who died while searching for the box, and locate its whereabouts once and for all.
As the seance gets underway, a faulty lightbulb prompts Keef to temporarily retire to the basement - where his hired help for the evening, bungling electrician Rio Tard (Richard Robotham) is supposed to be controlling the old house's power for the evening. After berating him for falling asleep on the job, Keef leaves Rio to it - and the electrician promptly finds a shiny silver box. Whatever could be contained inside?
The following morning, Rio returns to the caravan he shares with gay couple Mike (Woodhouse again) and Aaron (Joel Smith). He can't remember anything of the previous evening - certainly not that he unwittingly unleashed a demon into our dimension by opening said box, or that it now possesses him.
Oblivious to the electricity-bound demon lurking within him, Rio sets about his jobs list for the day. His first house call is to Donnie, whose oven light isn't working. Rio rips him off - a running joke throughout the film at the expense of "no job too small" handymen everywhere - and leaves. But not without the demon leaving its mystic electrical powers inside the oven. Which spells serious trouble for Donnie ...
And he's not the only one. Before long, Tanya has met a violent end too. It seems the demon wants all attendees at the earlier seance dead.
Indeed, when Keef gets wind of what's going on and visits his old flame, the mysterious masked Griselda (can't say who portrays her, would ruin the twist) and her shady blind brother Augusto (Woodhouse AGAIN) for advice, they reckon that's exactly what is happening: the demon has been unleashed into this world, is using Rio's body to get around, and is determined to keep its presence a secret by killing all who attended the seance on that fateful evening.
Can Keef and co find Rio and convince him to partake in a voodoo ritual which will hopefully fight the demon off? How many more will perish in the meantime?
These are the burning questions presented by director Bazz Hancher's WHITE GOODS.
While en route to finding the answers, we're treated to a fast-paced comedy with enough irreverence and gore to sate the most jaded indie horror fan.
In terms of the grisly stuff, prepare yourself for melting faces, vomit and shit eating, gory drone attacks, auto-cannibalism, death by tumble dryer and a show-stopping exploding gunshot wound to the head. Rachael Painter's FX work is impressive given the low budget, offering an array of creative effects which err on the side of cheesy in an agreeably 80s fashion.
Speaking of the 80s, the synth-heavy score certainly evokes that decade's genre films in an enjoyable, convincing manner. Hancher contributed to this, alongside others including co-producer Michael Walcott.
More than anything, though, it's the humour that defines this film. It gives it its energy and also marks WHITE GOODS as a very British undertaking. There are moments of surrealism - characters breaking the fourth wall; the way in which the narrator becomes embroiled in the plot - which reek of Monty Python, while the merging of crude comedy with gory theatrics is pure The League of Gentlemen. Having said that, I also have Troma, early John Waters and even THUNDERCRACK! noted here as possible influences. Look forward to incest, remote fellatio (you'll have to see it to find out what that is) and much more. It's politically incorrect, for sure - Mike and Aaron speak nothing but gay innuendo - but never mean-spirited or offensive.
Performances are all upbeat and entertainingly hammy, and it's novel to see such a heavy ratio of Midlands accents on offer. We also get a lot of random scenes crow-barred into proceedings simply to introduce more peripheral characters for comedy value alone. I have no issue with this, as it allows for cameos from Hancher (searching for a dog called Scruffy Bollocks in what must be the film's most expensive sight gag; appearing later into proceedings as a demonic clown), James Thompson as a paedophile who's reformed his wicked ways and moved on to stalking women, and Matt Freckingham as a man with a facial tick and the world's worst stutter. Oh, then there's George (Arran Edgenton) and Bri (Shaun Blackwell) who enjoy a most illuminating conversation about the merits of Only Fools & Horses ...
Co-written by Hancher and Robotham, this is a genuinely funny proposition with surprisingly good technical assets. The editing is extremely tight, Walcott's cinematography makes full use of the countryside-set locations and HD cameras being utilised. The occasional onscreen timeline captions are a nice touch, both in terms of comedy and as possible reference to the likes of Godard, Noe and Tarantino.
WHITE GOODS is a well-made, funny, entertaining, gory entry into the UK indie horror cycle. It's crazy enough to bag itself a tidy cult following. And it marks out Hancher as a director well worth keeping an eye on (though those of us who've seen the likes of FILMS FROM A BROKEN MIND and FOOD OF VIOLENCE already knew that!).
We'll keep you updated about release dates.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Bazz Hancher|