Archive for the British cinema Category


Posted in British cinema, films, horror, horror movie, movies, review on Tuesday, 30 August, 2016 by Ed

Broken drags the viewer by the scruff of the neck through a world populated by damaged characters and the debauchery they employ to hide from their realities.

The premise is a relatively simple one: John (Mel Raido) is a professional musician rendered disabled from the waist down after a drug-fuelled accident; Evie (Morjana Alaoui) is his live-in carer. Where Broken excels is the extraction of intense character interactions and genuine atmosphere from this modest set-up. The viewer is coerced into an uneasy intrigue as to how the story will play out, which provides a gratifying immersive experience.

The decision to shoot in the limited environment of a single house was no doubt aided by budget constraints, but was masterfully utilised to create a claustrophobic sense of mounting tension.

The two lead characters are locked together by necessity of the script. This is where the character of John’s ex-bandmate, Dougie (Craig Conway), is written as a perfect catalyst to the plot linking to the outside world and John’s past. Conway plays him to precision; before actions demonstrate his true nature – his demeanour, delivery and presence all put the view on guard. Intangible tension is the most powerful, especially in the first act.

Raido’s delivery of the wing-clipped hedonist managed to tread the difficult line between overacting and understating such a reversal in fortune. This was a relief, as the film would largely sink or swim on his ability to convince the audience of his situation. Although markedly different characters, there are similarities to Richard. E. Grant’s portrayal of Withnail in Withnail And I insofar as John is simultaneously detestable and endearing; whilst escaping his reality with drugs and booze.

Morjana Alaoui is a fine actress, capable of mastering the most challenging of roles, as anyone familiar with her extraordinary performance in 2008’s Martyrs will attest. Here she captivates on screen, deftly transitioning between a range of emotions and motivations, thereby conveying to perfection the intricacies of her character’s inner arc.

The dialogue was faced with some challenges which it largely managed to overcome. The nature of the characters’ situation required a manner of discourse that could, in lesser hands, veer towards cliché or excessive exposition. Rarely did this occur thanks to the superior writing and the delivery of a very capable cast. Where the dialogue excelled it was scalpel-sharp and truly masterful. In a scene where the plot necessitated the creation of parity between John and Evie’s situations, writer and director, Shaun Robert Smith, trusted himself and his actress to deliver her backstory with dialogue so perfect and descriptive that the effect created a vicarious link to her experience that was not broken for the rest of the film.

Visually the film succeeds in creating the feeling of confinement within which John is trapped. This is interspersed with some creative flourishes using mundane household items, artistically shot, that serve to create mood, much like Argento did with colours in Suspiria. Argento-esque styling was also present in some of the dream sequences in the way that stairs and mirrors were framed, dramatic outstretched hands reaching for the perpetually spinning wheel of wheelchair, uneasy vertical shots etc. This effectively broke up the essential banality of portraying John’s housebound existence.

At its core the film examines what happens to broken people who remain damaged. It correctly, and interestingly, surmises that they attract other people with unresolved issues. Ultimately Broken is an effective horror/thriller that lets these interactions play-out within a confined, insalubrious setting. Evie becomes Carl Jung’s “Wounded Healer” and eschews the drugs and booze everyone else is hiding behind; Dougie is projecting his resentment of John on to Evie; and John is masking his pain with whatever solace his can find. This creates an engaging triad, which mercifully does not resolve with Evie being sanctified or martyred (no pun intended). Instead we are shown what happens as the ripples of abuse are allowed to radiate unchecked, and the price of an individual’s personal catharsis.

There is a sense of restraint in the horrific elements of the film, certainly those wishing to find a graphic revival of Alaoui’s past will not find it here, but it is executed in a manner that exudes a palpable uncertainty that the full horror of the situation could be unleashed at any moment. The transgressive heart of the piece comes from Conways delivery as Dougie continues his descent (no pun intended, again) into realising his character’s path of sadism, bitterness and self-gratification at any cost.

Sometimes art emerges at a time that feels synchronous. Society currently finds itself in the hands of people who are savagely cutting funding to those with mental and physical disabilities, and to the wider health service. The monetisation of care, and who gets it, couldn’t be more relevant, and this is the cultural atmosphere that the film is being ushered into. Broken feels like a film of our times.


The Herd: Brutal new horror with a purpose.

Posted in British cinema, extreme cinema, films, horror, Short film with tags , , , , on Monday, 7 April, 2014 by Ed

Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) and featuring a score by Laurent Bernard of Gallows, THE HERD is a study into the most unimaginable human suffering, yet it depicts a violence that is perpetrated every day on a massive scale.

THE HERD is written by Ed Pope (Transgressive Cinema) and directed by Melanie Light, and features the additional acting talents of Victoria Broom (ABCs of Death 2, Stalled), Jon Campling (Sleeping Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) and Charlotte Hunter (Dungeons and Dragons, Vitality).


Imprisoned within inhuman squalor with other women; Paula’s existence and human function is abused as a resource by her captors.

Escape, on any level, is hopeless as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their imprisoners for one reason only – their milk.

Enslaved, inseminated and abused – every facet of their life is violated. At first the premise seems exaggerated and absurd; but is, in fact, disgusting in its stark normality.

Deliberately avoiding the lack of finesse associated with “torture porn” and sexploitation, THE HERD eschews these in favour of a vicarious descent into the visceral nightmare of relinquishing the most innate rights of existence.

pens final

Existing principally as a dark and transgressive horror short; THE HERD also asks questions as to how we approach the sentiency of other beings and the importance of the concept of individual freedoms in modern society.

Advocates of high quality independent horror cinema can find out more about the film and, should they wish, how to support it here:

The Seasoning House.

Posted in British cinema, horror with tags , , , , on Tuesday, 1 April, 2014 by Ed

seasoning houseThe Seasoning House is a stark tale of repression and the point at which revenge becomes a necessity, not a desire. Girls are abducted to a literal den of iniquity and forced into a life of sexual slavery at the hands of Viktor (Kevin Howarth) as a commodity for his abhorrent clients. The protagonist is a young deaf girl, Angel (Rosie Day), who is spared the sexual abuse of the other girls, but is required to prepare them for clients and has to avoid the ever-present threat of violence that accompanies her captivity.

Set in the war-torn Balkans in 1996 (perhaps ’96 to deliberately place it outside any of the Yugoslav Wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo of that decade?) The Seasoning House uses its set and setting to perfectly encapsulate the horrors that are to come. The cheapness of life and absence of basic humanity are thematically represented in both the macro and microcosm of this film.

Within the first six minutes the Director (Paul Hyett) lays bare the full tragedy of the premise. New girls are delivered to Viktor and he immediately slaughters one to ensure the obedience of the others. This warns of a difficult cinematic experience ahead, but it is performed with such accomplishment there is confidence that all will be handled competently.

The appalling reality of the house is further revealed as the girls are bound and Angel is forced to administer Heroin to them – their compliance now assured in a tether of violence and narcotic submission. Hyett employs an appreciated lack of sensationalism to the process, which keeps the film grounded and focussed on the absorbing tale that is beginning to unfold.

Indeed, this atmosphere of vile oppression is unrelenting and the film is harrowing throughout. The death of Angel’s mother at the hands of laughing, complacent soldiers is depicted with heart-breaking clarity in flashback. Angel’s life from prior to her abduction is shown this way to enhance her character development, beyond what would be possible with a deaf mute in a single location. Whilst being unobtrusive to avoid slowing the pace of the film, the flashbacks still provide a stark contrast between Angel’s previous life and current situation.

Hyett uses most of the first act to build the immersion into the emerging story. There is no doubt as to the hellish existence of the girls, the utter revulsion at the men who pay to use them or the callous barbarism of their captors. Thus, as the first major plot point arrives, suspension of disbelief has been expertly crafted.

It is soon revealed that Angel uses vents in the building to secretly move around the house. This adds an interesting extra dimension not just to her character (an inevitable harsh penalty for discovery still can’t fully contain her) but also to the set, as over an hour of the ninety-minute running-time takes place in this building, which is now made an extension of Angel’s private world. The irony that the structure which imprisons her becomes her greatest advantage is an obvious but enjoyable one. Naturally this was reminiscent of The People Under The Stairs, although The Seasoning House is a far more tangible and oppressive movie.

Right on schedule at the half-way point of the film, the soldiers who killed Angel’s mother turn up at the house. Angel hears the screams of the only girl she has befriended in the house, as one of the military men rapes her to death. To this point the film’s pervasive sense of helplessness made it easy to forget that this is a story of revenge; so Angel’s first act of retribution came as a genuine shock, not least because it was so utterly brutal in its ferocity and violence.

A fantastically anxious final act then follows with the soldiers and Viktor hunting Angel down through the house and beyond. Hyett hit the balance between ultra-violence and adrenaline-inducing thrills very well. The earlier craftsmanship to create such empathy towards Angel reaped its rewards as it transformed into a vicarious tension as she is pursued.

Sean Pertwee, as Goran – the captain of the militia, was typically excellent. This is the kind of role he excels at (such as in Dog Soldiers). The south-eastern European accent must have been a challenge to maintain, and this occasionally shows, but not too much to be intrusive. Indeed, the acting across the cast is very good, with Rosie Day another stand-out, as Angel, hitting the perfect note in every scene, and avoiding the easy clichés of playing victim or heroine.

It is true to say that every aspect of this film has been done before; but originality is a harsh yardstick to hold any movie to, especially horror. The Seasoning House proves that if a tale is well told and the production values are high, lack of innovation in the story and set pieces are not sufficient to prevent the film being an effective one.

Quality scriptwriting ensured that it was gratifyingly uncertain as to how the ending of The Seasoning House would arrive. Would there be salvation, retribution or the brutal realism of an unhappy ending? The Seasoning House makes its choices, leaves an intelligent degree of ambiguity and executes its conclusion in the same satisfying manner afforded to the rest of the piece.

Cradle Of Fear

Posted in British cinema, extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , on Wednesday, 15 June, 2011 by Ed

The first thing you need to know about Alex Chandon’s 2001 low-budget horror is that it has many imperfections – however like any treasured possession these can, and should, be overlooked. What lies beneath the odd shortcoming is a dark and twisted tale guaranteed to churn the stomach and shred the nerves. Let’s get the negatives out of the way and forgotten about from the start…

The acting is good in places but a bit wooden in others, however it is never terrible and certainly never bad enough to spoil a scene and take the viewer out of their immersion in the film. The texture of the film takes a bit of getting used to; the way it is shot looks from time to time like a cheap commercial – as do a few of the sets. Finally there is one piece of very ill-advised CGI that never fails to raise a smile, such is its cheapness. However none of these issues matter and the film has a sense that it is aware of its failings and doesn’t care. It knows where its strengths lie and sticks to those. With that out of the way, on with the important stuff:

Cradle Of Fear oozes with enthusiasm for horror. It is clearly made by people who love the genre and are not afraid to push the boundaries; in fact there is an obvious relish for doing so. The film consists of four separate vignettes which are tied together by a central story line concerning an incarcerated serial killer and cannibal, called Kemper, and his desire for vengeance on those involved with his murder trial and subsequent imprisonment. He does so using the rites of black magic from his cell in a lunatic asylum and the service of his supernaturally murderous son, known as The Man, played by Dani Filth of goth-metal band Cradle Of Filth.

As soon as the movie opens to graphically depict a disemboweled girl on a bed, the viewer is left in no doubt as to what they are about to let themselves in for. Herein lies Cradle Of Fear’s strongest card and why it is to be adored by lovers of true horror film-making: the special make-up effects are sensational. It is an irony that the film proves beyond a doubt why physical effects are scary and CGI effects are not. This is an ultra-gory film and is very violent, however it is also held together by a solid narrative and storyline with pacing delivered in a manner which is likely to engage those not usually predisposed to enjoying excessive gore.

The aforementioned gutless young lady provides the starting point of the first of the quartets of terror that Cradle Of Fear inflicts on its audience. Starring British B-Movie scream queen favorite Emily Booth as a beautiful goth out on a drug fueled night of clubbing, it quickly descends into terror involving demon rape, vile and genuinely frightening hallucinations and a conclusion that literally turns the stomach.

Next, two girls are introduced who intend to break into an elderly mans house and steal the money he keeps in a tin. Lessons are learned about the nature of greed, and how far some people are prepared to go for money. Bloody, violent lessons – naturally.

The next tale begins with a husband a wife snorting cocaine whilst speeding through the streets of London in an open-top sports car. When they run over and kill a tramp, they are relived that the car is not damaged and continue on their way home. After a bout of amputee sex (the husband is missing a leg) is ended prematurely by impotence, the distraught man goes about finding a corrupt doctor and brand new limb.

Finally Richard, an IT worker, is introduced who is obsessed with violent websites, and eventually stumbles on a difficult to access members-only site called The Sick Room. Here webcams can be viewed showing abducted individuals. The user can pay to select the criteria and level of abuse which is then enacted on the person onscreen. This becomes so compulsive that Richard loses his job, possessions and house until he decides to track down the operators of the website for some firsthand action.

The story of Kemper is entwined throughout these stories and the evil gothic presence of The Man is present in each. The film then proceeds towards its ending with more blood and guts until the screen is dripping red and few acts of violence imaginable have not been depicted.

The realism of the special make-up effects is what will turn horror addicts on and repulse all others in equal measure. During the course of the movie we see, amongst many other atrocities, disembowelment, razors slashed across a face, a broken bottle smashed into an eye socket and a leg hacked off. What separates this from run-of-the-mill physical horror is the skill with which it is executed. So brilliantly is each effect constructed the camera can linger for a long time, possibly too long, until the viewer is squirming in their seat and in some cases averting their gaze. This sense of realism is not avoided by the director either, if a limb is being severed with nothing but a knife – it takes a long time and is a messy job, with extra effort being required to get through the tough bone. Make no mistake, this film is horrific and where other films fail because the gore is too over-the-top to the point of humour – Cradle Of Fear manages to keep the mood repulsive and sinister.

The physical effects are not the only strength of this low budget shocker though. The whole atmosphere of the film is dark, gothic and ominous. Alex Chandon does not lose sight of the main plot point which is that Kemper is a baby murdering cannibal who uses black magic and the assistance of his demonic son (who is suitably clad in industrial goth fashion) to exact revenge on those he feels have wronged him. Large parts of the film feel like a very bad acid trip or a nightmare that only the most deranged of minds would be capable of conceiving. This leads to a very effective fluctuation between the heightened tension of fear and the powerful revulsion to the grotesque imagery.

If the viewer is able to overlook the obvious failings of Cradle Of Fear, and appreciate it for what it is, and for refusing to pretend to be something it is not, then the horror fan will find a grim treat. More than most, this feels like a film for horror fans made by horror fans and it does not care if film-snobs and mainstream audiences hate it. It is a film with an uncompromising attitude, viewers with a similar nature will find it rewarding.