The last decade, the first of the 21st Century (please don't make me call it the Noughties because that makes me want to commit suicide), was a great ten years for British horror films.
Just take a look at some of the genre films this country produced during that time: 28 DAYS LATER, MUM AND DAD, DEAD WOOD, THE DESCENT, DOG SOLDIERS, EDEN LAKE, NATURE MORTE, CRADLE OF FEAR, CUT AND PASTE, SUMMER SCARS, CREEP, URBAN GHOST STORY, NAKED TRIP, SEVERANCE, BROKEN, THE LAST HORROR MOVIE, TERROR NATION, TORMENTED, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, DONKEY PUNCH, SPIRIT TRAP, WISHBABY, HUSH, DOGHOUSE, NAKED NAZI, CHEMICAL WEDDING, THE CHILDREN, FANTACIDE, THE DEVIL'S MUSIC. Those are just off the top of my head: there were many more.
But what of the folk behind these films? What of the home-grown talent that have collectively helped to make the last ten years so grisly, so scary, so outlandish on these shores? What are these up-and-coming mavericks who've forged the shape of post-Millennial British horror up to now?
Stu Willis has gone behind the scenes to catch up with several of the new Century's most promising British directors, to find out what projects they're presently working on and how life as up-and-coming genre icons is treating them.
Okay, here 's the sweet and lowdown:Jason Impey
Mr Impey impressed in the last couple of years with his digital nasties, which included CUT AND PASTE and NAKED NAZI. Often starring in his own projects, the young entrepreneur's raw talents were boosted by a propensity for graphic violence, some confrontational female nudity and a cloying sense of humour.
Give Impey a sufficient budget and greatness awaits. Really. As for now, in his own words:
"I've gained distribution by World Wide Multimedia (WWMM) who have re-released my feature films - 'Sick Bastard' & 'Home Made'. They have also released 'Tales of Terror 1 & 2', 'Woods of Terror', 'Cut & Paste', 'Troubled', 'Home Made 2 The Footage'.
I collaborated and co-directed 'End Transmission' which was put as a 10 part mini horror series on the Gorezone magazine website, but makes a 35 minute zombie/vampire feature.
I then went and made a sequel to 'Cut & Paste' - 'Cut & Paste 2' and have now completed my new film 'Tormented' which is the third entry in my unofficial trilogy - 'Troubled - 2007', 'Tortured AKA Sex Slave - 2008' and now 'Tormented - 2010'.
Tormented has been my biggest film since 'Tortured AKA Sex Slave' and I am pleased with it. It was shot over 2 days and I edited it over the Xmas break and finished the beginning of it this year. I want to try and gain a distribution deal. It comes in at 40 minutes, but I fill is a strong intense movie which focuses on 2 characters set mainly in 1 location.
'Tortured' has been cut by 10 minutes and has been renamed 'Escaped Convicts' for re-submission. There is a 6 disc ultimate edition DVD-R set that I independently sell through my website. All the films are uncut on the set. I am in pre-production on an art house feature I am making called 'Sterling'. This will follow a bank note that travels from person to person making an anthology of various stories."
Having viewed TORMENTED recently, SGM can confirm it is stylistically and rhythmatically Impey's strongest film yet. Performances notwithstanding, it stands as a solid piece of typically British genre filmmaking and would find a grateful audience on DVD, given the chance.Alex Bakshaev
A really refreshing young filmmaker who loves his Eurocult and classics, and feels neither desire nor need to fall into the trap of meeting modern expectations. Bakshaev has a strong visual thrive and I admire his resolute attitude towards employing the arthouse in favour of the grindhouse (albeit, of course, being open to both).
Aside from overseeing the subtitle translation of the notorious gore epic PHILOSOPHY OF A KNIFE, Alex had the following to tell us:
"In February 2009 I wrote and appeared in a short film "Outside" by a Kidderminster-based indie filmmaker Thomas Lee Rutter. It's a story of an illegal immigrant who rents a room off a strict English lady. The immigrant wants to be a writer, but can't/doesn't want to go get a job so the landlady kicks him out on the street. Some drama follows in this gloomy and vaguely surreal exploration of a clash between dreams & reality."
"More recently I co-produced (and directed a couple of axe murders as Second Unit Director) "Cut & Paste 2" with Jason Impey. It's exactly like the first film - 80 % stock footage plus a goofy wraparound story about film-in-film.
I'm not directing anything for the foreseeable future. I haven't got the resources, plus "Bittersweet" and "Naked Trip" still need to be promoted."
Are you feeding your passion for films in the meantime?
"Of course! I keep myself occupied by blogging at TrashFilmAddict: This blog is dedicated purely to obscure trash and arthouse films. Please come by whenever!"
And the last piece of news:
"Naked Trip" might be getting a Region1 DVD release. I haven't a 100% percent confirmation yet, but Impey has approached small distribution company WWMM on my behalf and they liked it! They promote it as "film noir thriller" and a sort of "star vehicle" for Jason. There's no release date set but I'd like to hope before the end of 2010. It will most probably be a no-frills, on-demand DVD-R release from amazon.com. That will suit me, I just want the film out there. As long as it doesn't get totally lost and forgotten it's all good."Shane Mather
From EXCREAMER, through the hugely enjoyable splatterfest FANTACIDE, to the scarily advanced TERROR NATION, Mather is a talent who is a joy to watch grow and grow between films. All the while, you just know he'll deliver the goods in terms of ultra-gore and offbeat humour. And he never disappoints. He is genuinely one of Britain's best underground filmmakers.
In his own words, Mather explains where he went from FANTACIDE as well as offering a valid insight into the quagmire that is independent filmmaking:
"I wrote a script called "Ripped Apart", which was kind of a Cannibal Ferox/Hunter's Blood hybrid that I started to get excited about. Pre-production was underway and it looked like this would be the follow up to 'Fantacide'. But a familiar pattern emerged, as is to be expected with no-budget film making, and the whole thing fell apart.
So the talking started up once more. With no financial return on 'Fantacide' it seemed pointless to attempt another all-out gorefest, so the talking was all about making something that would be entertaining yet cost next-to-nothing, which is as difficult as it sounds. With so many varying plots being discussed one kept coming back to me, and it involved a fairly straightforward structure beginning with a heist ... and so the camera's rolled on 'Terror Nation' on May 16th 2009.
Principal photography went smoothly and on schedule. But the smoothness came abruptly to an end when my brother, who was handling the make-up FX, walked from the film. We'd had some creative differences and now I had no ending, as well as numerous missing gore shots.
Over the next few weeks I worked out how I could complete the film, and then went back on location with my partner and co-producer Nicola Fenny and shot the required sequences. It wasn't what I'd wanted, but you rarely get that with no-budget.
The premiere was held and the feedback was really positive. I began to work on the final cut for DVD when I became ill. I abandoned the work, figuring I'd be well enough to carry on soon. That was three months ago and I'm still having occasional bouts of dizziness, yet in that period I've watched 'Terror Nation' many times and it's helped me to fine tune the film to an improved final cut. This means going back to shoot more scenes, including more graphic violence that couldn't be shot previously.
With a bit of luck this'll be completed by February 2010, and then I'll send the finished product to 'createspace', who will make it available on Amazon. That's my plan and if all goes well I may dust off my first script and get my fourth feature made later this year, although I get the feeling I'll be talking about it for a couple of years first before actually doing it. That's why I use the name Masochist Pictures, because it really is painful making movies with no cash. Yet, when you do pull it off and make something that will entertain people it's all the more special because of it."
Amen to that.Adam Mason
Mason cruised beneath most of our radars with debut feature THE 13TH SIGN before hitting the bull's eye with the brutal BROKEN, which left audience members at the Dead By Dawn premiere stunned. Have you seen BROKEN? If not, it comes highly recommended - it's a singularly harrowing and unrelenting yarn that might just be the purest British horror film of the 21st Century so far.
Following BROKEN, Mason continued his working relationship with writer Simon Noyes and together they delivered THE DEVIL'S CHAIR to mixed responses.
When I contacted Mason, I was delighted to hear that he now resides in Los Angeles. He even called me "man" in conversation!
While chatting, Mason arranged for a sales assistant named Sarah from the company he's making films for - Epic Films - to send out a screener of latest film BLOOD RIVER. And I have to say, it's another corker.
Shot on film in gorgeous 2.35:1 cinemascope, BLOOD RIVER makes marvellous use of it's American highway settings. It follows a married couple who are travelling across-country to announce the woman's pregnancy to her parents, only to suffer a blowout and find themselves forced to walk in the sweltering heat to a deserted farmhouse on search of help. Wayward drifter Joseph (Andrew Howard) turns up and upsets the apple cart massively. But who is the real villain? What are the character's agendas?
The less you read about BLOOD RIVER, the better. Just believe me when I say that it's a great, visually amazing and emotionally involving triple-header (it relies primarily on a cast of three) that descends gradually into the patented Noyes-Mason brand of bleak, ugly violence that comes commendably free of any such let-offs as a tongue in the cheek. These guys want to disturb you if they can, and they certainly do on this occasion.
It's great to see that Noyes and Mason have continued to collaborate, as they bring a Stephen King novel-type drama to their horror (especially in the heavily religious BLOOD RIVER), and I'm excited to discover what their forthcoming LUSTER (with Holly Valance!) will bring ...David Bryant, Sebastian Smith, Richard Stiles
After impressing with the imaginative and unexpected DEAD WOOD (if you haven't seen it, then do - it's a triumph of originality and style), the triple threat of Bryant, Smith and Stiles have happily been looking to collaborate further into the future.
As Bryant told me, "Since the release of Dead Wood on DVD Sebastian Smith, Richard Stiles and myself have been developing various projects, trying to find the right one to do next. We have been developing a higher budget project entitled Hunting Ground. We're still working on it but at this stage a lower budget project seems a more realistic project."
So, have the three of you got anything lined up in the meantime?
"We are now working on two low budget projects. Sebastian will be making a dark serial killer script he is writing and I'm developing a vampire movie set in an English seaside town. Hopefully these two projects will be shooting soon, and we can move on to higher budget projects if those do well."
All of which sounds hugely promising, and we wish this formidable threesome all the best.
And check out that Hunting Ground link if you can - although it's coy at the moment, you can just feel the potential coming your way ...Pat Higgins
The extremely affable - and very tall - Pat Higgins, who professes to have not slept since 2003 (read below and you'll believe him too) has made some great low budget horror films under his Jinx Media Ltd umbrella. You may recall that SGM have reviewed THE DEVIL'S MUSIC and TRASHHOUSE, both of which come highly recommended as prime examples of home-grown low-budget terror.
As for current activities, Higgins explains that "'The Devil's Music' has just been released on both sides of the pond. The US special edition DVD, (with deleted scenes and a couple of very interesting Easter Eggs), came out the week before Christmas. UK viewers, however, can still catch the movie absolutely free of charge from the wonderful Indie Movies Online.
What else is happening in the wonderful world of Jinx Media, you may ask ...?
"We're looking forward to bringing 'Bordello Death Tales' to festival audiences over the next few months. It's an old-school anthology horror from myself (with a chapter called 'Vice Day', starring Danielle Laws and Cy Henty), James Eaves (director of 'Bane' and 'The Witches Hammer', bringing a chapter called 'The Ripper') and Al Ronald (helmer of 'Jesus vs the Messiah' and my regular DP, in this case presenting the wonderfully dark and quirky chapter 'Stitchgirl')."
Wow, it sounds fantastic already!
"It's a great movie and I can't wait for folks to see it; I feel that it delivers something for every type of horror fan."
"Still in development and in pre-production we've got 'The House on the Witchpit', which is the darkest thing I've ever written. No messing around with comedy/horror for that movie; its sole purpose is to scare the shit out of the viewer. Further back on the slate we've got our long-promised apocalyptic epic 'Brainbath', which is still waiting for the right budget before going into production."Darren Ward
You want rock-hard characters, loads of ultra-gory violence and a tough gangster backdrop? Don't bother with Fulci's CONTRABAND any longer, because Mr Ward is in the business of making the most brutal gangster/horror dreams materialise, as anyone who's seen his impressive 1997 film SUDDEN FURY and the frankly brilliant 2009 effort A DAY OF VIOLENCE will attest...
At the time of writing, Ward is understandably concentrating on his latest success:
"'A Day of Violence' has been signed to Jinga Films who are acting as world-wide sales agents. It has played a few festivals: Abertoir Horror fest, and Portsmouth film festival where it won 'Best Special Effects'."
And, of course, I assume the following is safe to share with SGM readers at this time: "Later this year the film will be shown at the FAB Press festival in Edinburgh. Nick Rendell (Mitchell) and I will be attending for a Q&A after the film. They will also be showing my multi award winning short 'Nightmares'. A DVD release of 'A Day Of Violence' will hopefully follow shortly!"
And of the future?
"In terms of new productions I am currently writing a new crime thriller and there are several scripts gathering dust on the shelves which once I have finished running the gauntlet on 'ADOV', we can get the wheels turning for the next film."Michael J Murphy
The Godfather of modern British DIY horror filmmaking - whether he or any of the other British genre filmmakers of today realises it - is currently busy restoring a few of his earlier works for upcoming Special Edition DVD releases from Sarcophilous Films.
Look out for remastered and uncut versions of his classics ATLANTIS, THE RITES OF SPRING and ultra-gory BLOODSTREAM. All are due to be released later this year.
If you haven't done so yet, you owe it yourself to check out the superb DVDs that Sarcophilous Films have already given Murphy's unique films INVITATION TO HELL (a classic of pre-cert VHS horror) and SKARE.
Elsewhere, Tom Shanklands (THE CHILDREN) is working on a TV production of Agatha Christie's "The Mirror Crack'd" starring Joanna Lumley, and Neil Marshall will hopefully redeem himself after DOOMSDAY with this year's CENTURION - a period action film starring Dominic West and Michael Fassbender. Christopher Smith (CREEP; SEVERANCE) has already completed BLACK DEATH, a gory take on the plague with - gasp - Sean Bean ...
Okay, that concludes our review of where the most promising home-grown directors of our generation are presently at, and where they hope to take us in the near future.
These are troubled times, what with the British Film Industry in a state of perpetual financial disarray and recession haunting the country in general. But if the last decade is anything to go by, there are spirited folk such as these mavericks detailed above who are willing to rise about the obstacles created by our government and create great films in spite of (because of?) them.
Long live the new British flesh.