Fans of cult film may well be familiar with the output of a certain Texan director by the name of S. F Brownrigg: movies like Don't Look in the Basement (1973), Scum of the Earth (1974) and Keep My Grave Open (1976) did more than enough to help Brownrigg carve out a niche in genre film history and, despite his limited output, he's still remembered today (and will no doubt be remembered even more fondly if the rumoured 2011 remake of Don't Look in the Basement comes to pass). Well, you may or may not know that Sherald Brownrigg's son Anthony is also in the business - and has also made a slick, darkly-comic film titled Red Victoria (2008), which I was able to see at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival earlier this year.

But let's get one thing straight - Anthony Brownrigg was initially very resistant to making a horror movie, or indeed even a film which has as many horror elements as Red Victoria. He told us that having loved horror as a kid and growing up seeing his dad's output, he simply wanted to do something else - perhaps, as a guy with a keen interest in literature, something in a classical vein. However, whether due to the current financial climate or due to his heritage, the spectre of a horror movie just would not go away. As frustrating as this was, it provided Tony with the germ of an idea… And so Red Victoria was born. This film, written directed and starring Tony Brownrigg, starts with a pastiche on Tony's own experiences as a frustrated screenwriter desperate to do anything but reel out lowbrow horror pictures. Jim (Brownrigg) has his pride mortified when his agent assures him that horror 'is where the easy money is': if he doesn't want to get dropped it seems he has no choice but to attempt to write a horror screenplay, but he knows nothing about the subject, cares even less, and despite help from his best-friend-and-horror-aficionado Carl (Edward Landers), his creative mojo just can't get going.

In other hands, this sort of agonised puffery about sinking to the lowly level of horror writing might irritate genre fans, but there is a sense of familiarity with the scene here which avoids that feeling. Tim's wild-eyed annoyance with where his life is heading - plus the generalisations he makes about the horror scene when he's in this state - raised a lot of laughs in the screening room. Also, one-time actor Landers as Carl provides a touch of genius: he's hugely watchable and likeable, a real comic foil. However, sadly his enthusiasm for genre film isn't rubbing off on Jim, and there's a deadline lurking. What's a guy to do? Perhaps what Jim needs is a horror muse… Enter Red Victoria! Played with style by Arianne Martin, Victoria appears on the scene as a corpse and then in different stages of decomposition (though sometimes looking perfectly normal) throughout. If having a rotting body popping up in your apartment isn't enough of a crash course in horror, Victoria then 'helps' Jim by literally turning his life into a horror story, causing death and destruction at every turn. After all, how can you write about something you haven't experienced? Victoria's calm, self-assured demeanour in the face of all the hell she is unleashing in Jim's life works very well alongside Jim's increasing levels of lunacy, his attempt to forever be done with the project which summoned her, and his thwarted efforts to get rid of Victoria for good.

Brownrigg - a consummate raconteur in real life - has obviously plumbed the depths of his being to create his character in this film, and has found a good cast to bring his brand of black humour to the screen. In some ways Red Victoria put me in mind of the Cook/Moore classic Bedazzled (1967) - the relationship between the two lead characters is similarly fraught with one-upmanship and gleeful cruelty. It makes for a very enjoyable watch, especially with a group (the film went on to win the Audience Award at the festival) and manages a fair few surprises along the way.

Red Victoria is a very funny film which boasts an original plot; here we have a warm and knowing black comedy, directed by a person with enough kinship with his audience to make this a very entertaining piece of film. Tony Brownrigg may have fought against the expectation that he would create horror cinema, but regardless, he's turned that resistance into something really rather unique.

Review by Keri O'Shea

Released by Well Go USA
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review