ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Raising the Dead - The reanimation of the British horror film industry
By James Whittington, Wednesday 14th March 2007
Rosie Fletcher is a horror writer and journalist whose work has appeared in many places, most regularly at the website www.horrortalk.com. Here she gives Zone Horror readers an exclusive on set report from a new zombie movie and lets us know exactly what it’s like to play one of the undead. By the way, she’s third from the left in the snap!

Day with the Dead

Sunday morning at ten o’clock is traditionally a time for sleeping in my household but today I’m going to drag myself out of bed, traipse to a cul-de-sac in Twickenham and be a zombie for the day. I tell myself the early start will be worth it, even if the shoot is horribly amateur and disorganised, simply because of the pleasure I’ve had explaining my plans for the weekend at the pub the Friday before (“No, I don’t mean I’m going to be tired and hung-over, I’m going to be a zombie”).

I’m here because I want to see what goes on behind the scenes of a low budget British horror movie. I’ve long been a fan of the genre and I want to see how a production company, which claims to work with almost no budget, goes about making a feature length zombie film.

The movie is Colin; first feature from low budget production company Nowhere Fast Productions.

“The film is about a guy who’s bitten, dies and comes back to life in the first ten minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is from the zombie’s perspective,” Director Marc Price explains. “I think the best stuff that can be done with the genre has already been done and so the best we can hope for with this film is to show an alternative perspective and make something that’s kind of interesting, and also challenging.”

From their myspace page they seem almost evangelical about the fact that they have no financial backing.

“Nowhere Fast Productions is about as cheap as it can get. Most of our projects are made for under £20 […] It was very important to us from the start to attempt to make this film using nothing more than the enthusiasm and inventiveness of those involved”

Horror films seem to lend themselves to low budget film making; in horror-history films like Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to name two seminal American examples, have been highly influential and were made for very little money

Despite notable exceptions, the likes of movies such as 28 Days Later, Severance, Neil Marshall’s excellent Dog Soldiers and The Descent, and of course Shaun of the Dead, the British film industry seems to be some way away from its hey-day in terms of producing internationally renowned horror movies.

I asked Adrian Hennigan, of the BBC Film Network (a BBC website that hosts and showcases new British filmmaking), about the types of submissions they get.

“Generally we're inundated with comedies, gritty dramas and cheap 'n' cheerful animations (in that order), but only receive a handful of horror pics. Sadly, most of these seem to be inspired by Hammer Horror and believe that the secret of horror is to have someone being pursued through woodland by an unseen killer.”

But perhaps new British filmmakers like Price could be about to inject some new life into the British horror genre.

At the heart of low budget filmmaking in the UK there’s Raindance. Raindance runs training courses for low budget filmmakers as well as the Raindance Film Festival and Raindance Film Productions. Its founder, Elliot Grove, thinks that horror can be a natural avenue to take for ambitious filmmakers without a budget.

“Horror films can get a release without named actors based solely on the concept of the “horror”. And horror films, in a peculiar way, are easier to film on a low budget simply because horror suits itself to low budget effects (and people will excuse cheesy effects). With the right script, audiences can easily be asked to suspend their disbelief.”

Sadly, as a film reviewer I’ve seen numerous examples of low budget-horror films that seem to think nothing of sacrificing acting ability, decent effects, characterisation, and narrative structure, perhaps precisely because of low expectations of the genre. However, when I looked at the clips and shots available on the Nowherefast myspace page “low-budget” isn’t what struck me at all. What I saw was big-cast crowd scenes, beautifully made up zombies convulsing among convincing body parts, a stake emerging from a man’s chest and a haunting image of hideously blinded girls crawling out of a basement, all backed by a John Williams-esque score.

Price is full of smiles and enthusiasm, and sporting an impressive handlebar moustache. He tells me he’s grown it so he can be in the film as an extra if need be, but I’m not sure I believe him. Some of the cast and crew are already here including chief make-up artist Michelle Webb. Before Colin, Webb was living in LA, working on music videos for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Simpson and on high profile blockbusters such as X-Men 3. Needless to say she’s not getting paid for this job and is supplying all her own equipment.

Webb has no trouble getting paid work – she’ll be chief make-up artist on a much bigger budget zombie movie later in the year, and is soon to take on the role of art director for her first feature. I ask her why she’s agreed to do this. She tells me she thought it would be a nice opportunity to meet some new people and get some new experience.

“I think whoever you are and whatever you do you can never know everything. It’s always good to try new things.”

While she carefully gives me a full “Chelsea smile”, complete with broken teeth (fragments of extra strong mints) poking out of the side of my face, I grill her about Hugh Jackman (lovely man apparently).

Hollywood ambition, British heart

Marc Price is certainly not alone in terms of British filmmakers who haven’t let a lack of budget suppress their ambitions.

After three years in the making, at age 24 Neil Oseman completed his epic fantasy/Sci-Fi movie Soul Searcher. With this film he managed to create spectacular set pieces, including an impressive sequence with a fight on a moving train (the Train to Hell, no less), which subsequently explodes. The film looks amazing, and has had some critical success. He achieved this for only £26,000 (peanuts in the filmmaking world).

“The best resource you have as an indie filmmaker is your own drive, vision and determination.” Oseman tells me. “I was far better off making an ambitious fantasy-adventure movie that my heart was truly in and which I'd stop at nothing to complete, than a typical micro-budget three-actors-and-one-set character piece that was going to bore me to tears.”

Pat Higgins, writer and director of indie horrors Trashhouse, Killerkiller and soon to be released Hellbride says he loves the versatility of the genre.

“Although on paper I've made three horror movies, they aren't particularly alike. From my point of view I've made a midnight movie (TrashHouse), a dark thriller (KillerKiller) and a romantic comedy (Hellbride). They all just happen to feature the elements that make them easily definable as horror films.”

He tells me that in terms of visual style he tends to work very instinctively. Higgins’ movies have had their fair share of set pieces, too, including a large scale wedding scene in Hellbride, which combines complicated hair and make-up with a couple of monsters and a great deal of blood. He says he thinks dialogue is paramount to a good movie.

“It can bring you back to a movie time and time again, which holds true with everything from Casablanca to Clerks, and I try to never forget that. Even when I'm having characters get stabbed through the head by undead cheerleaders with bladed pompoms.”

Bloody faces and bloody kids

Back on set and by mid morning the zombies are made up and their human opponents have chosen their weapons (including a golf club, a catapult, and a wallpaper scraper). We’re going to have a zombie/human street fight. Our first shots involve a lot of shuffling from the zombies and a lot of running around shouting from the humans. At one point a “bomb” goes off in our zombie throng – Leigh Crocombe, Price’s housemate, regular extra (he’s played 11 different characters in the film) and general dogsbody, creates a blood splatter effect by spitting a mouthful of fake blood full-on into lead actor Alastair Kirton’s face.

Kirton trained at LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), one of the biggest and most influential drama schools in the UK. I’ve seen him act before – he was critically acclaimed in Gone, an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone, which won best play in the Guardian Fringe awards at the Edinburgh Festival. Later he’ll be lying in the road having his head staved in with a hammer.

A group of neighbourhood kids have gradually gathered to watch us film. One girl of about six comes over with her mother. Apparently she’s upset by the body parts strewn around the street. Price picks up half a Styrofoam leg and shows her that it’s not real. He lets her look at the camera and explains how he sets up a shot. She’s placated but perhaps still a little unsure. I give her a big grin, forgetting that it probably won’t help

By 2.30pm Kirton needs half of his head blown off. We sit in a crew member’s living room watching big brother and playing with a small dog, while Price films some dialogue shots with another LAMDA trained actor, Justin Mitchell-Davey, who’s playing a zombie slayer for the day.

When we return to the street, Kirton’s face suitably messy, the neighbourhood kids are all very curious. One girl comes to call in her brother, who’s been quietly watching us film for almost an hour. He protests he wants to watch the zombies

“Your room looks like a zombie’s been in it!” she tells him, and he follows her indignantly.

At last my big death scene comes. I’m to be shot in the head by a £1 coin with a razor blade embedded in it, fired from a catapult by Mitchell-Davey’s character. I’m in the background of the shot but I still give it my all, throwing myself to the floor dramatically as the imaginary missile strikes me in the forehead. Later I’m allowed to stay in the background, dead with eyes open and draped across the curb while, in the foreground, Kirton rises from the street, half his face missing. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had lying in the road in shirt sleeves in January with a couple of extra strong mints glued to my face.

By 4.00pm we’re all getting a bit tired. The neighbourhood kids are throwing hobnobs at the cast, the catapult has broken and the make-up and latex on my face is starting to itch. Webb is trying to glue half a Styrofoam hammer to Kirton’s head but it won’t stay. They’ve tried professional glue and latex and now they’re discussing the possibility of sellotape. Eventually more latex and a secreted elastic band seem to do the trick.

Price is still running around outside with various cast members, cheering encouragement. When Kirton shows him his head, complete with hammer, Price laughs uproariously.

“You’ve glued the wrong side of the hammer to your head”. He says. They’ll have to lose the effect.

As far as I can tell from my day as a zombie Colin is a feature made with an enormous amount of care and love from all participants. Although Marc Price hardly has a budget himself, he’s managed to get a cast of professional actors, an experienced and talented head make up artist, some decent equipment and awful lot of support. This seems to be partly because of the company’s professional approach and partly because, despite the budget, there’s a fair chance this film is actually going to be quite good. These things, along with Price’s enthusiasm and apparent eye for detail mean Colin could well be worth looking out for when it’s complete.

Marc Price, Pat Higgins and Neil Oseman, are among British filmmakers who love film, love Hollywood, love spectacle and want to make their own original, ambitious and exciting movies. And they could be just what is needed to reinvigorate the horror/Sci-Fi genre in this country.

“I'm hoping to take set pieces that would be complicated to manage with a budget of a few hundred thousand and work out a way of doing them with absolutely no money.” Price tells me. “At the same time I want to make the film look like a lot of money has been spent on it, and on top of that try to tell an engaging, emotionally-charged story that an audience can really enjoy.”

He sums it up, “It's a bit tricky, but I'm optimistic.”

MORE FEATURES
Horror Channel to celebrate the films of John Carpenter in June
Posted on Wednesday 23rd May 2018

From horrific hauntings and supernatural sorcery to alien invasions and blood-sucking battles, Saturday nights on Horror Channel at 9pm in June will be devoted to John Carpenter, one of the true Masters of Horror.

The celebratory season is highlighted by the network premieres of Carpenter's classic car-rage chiller Christine, with the superb Harry Dean Stanton, and John Carpenter's Vampires, a horror Western starring James Woods, as a vengeful, stake-wielding bloodsucker hunter. It also includes iconic favourite The Fog, the high-kicking fantasy thriller Big Trouble in Little China and his timely sci-fi political thriller They Live.

The Fog on the 2nd is set in a Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over a...

SHARE: READ MORE
13 reasons why you need to watch The Evil Dead
Posted on Sunday 20th May 2018

Sam Raimi's horror masterpiece, The Evil Dead is rightly regarded as a true horror classic.

So, it's weird to think then that there are still some viewers have yet to enjoy this ultimate experience in gruelling Horror.

Here's 13 reasons why you need to see The Evil Dead when it's shown on Horror Saturday May 26th.

1: The film spawned a cult hero in star Bruce Campbell and gave the world Ash Williams.
2: The BBFC deemed it to be placed on the Video Nasties list in 1983 even in cut form and not released uncut until 2001.
3: Stephen King liked it saying in 1972 that it was "The most ferociously original horror film".
4: The cover art for the VHS was the first...

SHARE: READ MORE
Exclusive: Director Johannes Roberts talks 'The Strangers: Prey at Night'
Posted on Tuesday 1st May 2018

This weekend sees the release of a long-awaited sequel to one of 2008's most beloved slasher films. Yes, nine whole years after The Strangers premiered, UK cinema-goers will be met once again by Dollface, the Man in Mask and Pin-Up Girl in The Strangers: Prey at Night.

Starring Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, and Lewis Pullman, son of the late Bill, the film sees a family of four being stalked and tormented shortly after arriving on what was supposed to be a quiet family trip to a remote mobile home. The family must decide whether to take on the dreaded strangers hell-bent on wreaking havoc, or to run for their lives.

We had a chat with the film's direct...

SHARE: READ MORE
Acclaimed sci-fi thriller Radius amongst four UK TV premieres on Horror Channel in May
Posted on Tuesday 17th April 2018

The gates of Hell are well and truly opened on Horror Channel in May, as the UK's most popular TV destination for genre fans plays host to chilling Chinese legends, sinister sorcery, deadly zombies and a rampaging Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There are four prime-time UK TV premieres this month, headed by Caroline Labreche and Steeve Leonard's unusual and compelling sci-fi thriller Radius on the 25th.

Premiered at FrightFest in 2017, it weaves an ingenious plot from the moment Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) wakes from a car crash with no memory of who he is. As he makes his way into town to look for help, he finds only dead bodies, all with strange pale eyes. Liam's first assessment is that a virus is present in...

SHARE: READ MORE
Cinematic Psycho Sequels
Posted on Saturday 7th April 2018

Everyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock's monochrome masterpiece Psycho will know that how it created one of the most enduring horror icons of the 20th century, Norman Bates. Played to chilling perfection by Anthony Perkins and based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch which was first published in 1959 the movie was a benchmark in the horror/thriller genre and Hitchcock sent the rest of his career trying to match it.

Bates was a reflection, an amalgam of several real-life killers, most notably Ed Gein, whose ability to be in plain sight of his hometown whilst committing hideous crimes is almost as hideous as the crimes he committed. Much has been written about the movie Psycho, but what about the c...

SHARE: READ MORE
John Krasinski talks directing and starring in 'A Quiet Place'
Posted on Friday 6th April 2018


In case you hadn't heard, A Quiet Place has opened in cinemas nationwide.

The film, starring real-life couple, John Krasinski (US adaptation of The Office and 13 Hours) and Emily Blunt (Sicario, Wind Chill and The Devil Wears Prada) takes place in a post-apocalyptic(-ish) environment, in which strange wild creatures that hunt by sound have destroyed a significant amount of the population.

Krasinski and Blunt's characters, husband and wife Lee and Evelyn try to lead a life with their family as quietly (and by that we mean literally) as possible, in able to ensure their survival.

We sat down with the director and one half of Krasinski-Blunt to talk about the film, what scares him the most, and which...

SHARE: READ MORE
The 10 best lines from the Evil Dead movies
Posted on Thursday 5th April 2018

Horror Channel is sponsoring a "groovy" night of gore on April 7th at the Stockport Plaza Cinema in conjunction with those fine folks of Grimmfest.

The Evil Dead Marathon will start at 1.30pm (doors at 1pm) and is made up of The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987), Army Of Darkness (1992), and finally Evil Dead (2013). There's also prizes up for grabs and merch stall. More info on the event here.

But what is your favourite line from this amazing series of movies? Here's our Top 10!

10: Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This... is my Boomstick! (Army of Darkness, 1992)

9: What kind of a virus makes someone cut their face off with a ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Norman Bates stalks Horror this April
Posted on Wednesday 28th March 2018

Fans of Anthony Perkins and the Psycho franchise are in for a treat as Sunday nights in April are devoted to the network premieres of Psycho II, Psycho III, and Psycho IV: The Beginning. Each movie starts at 9pm.

Set twenty-two years after the famous murder of Marion Crane, Psycho II (showing April 1st) sees Norman Bates (Perkins) declared sane and allowed to return to his now dilapidated motel. But, when the murders start up again, Norman realises an old friend is awaiting his return - Mother! Co-starring Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, and Dennis Franz, this sequel to the Hitchcock masterpiece is now viewed as an unmissable classic thanks to the way it carefully continues the legend without shying away from expa...

SHARE: READ MORE
Top 5 worst horror movie remakes!
Posted on Wednesday 21st March 2018

Remakes, love them or hate them if there's money to be made they'll always be with us. Hollywood loves to look back at past glories and try and wring some more blood out of a well rung stone. Here's my list of frightful fright-flicks that failed to restart an already dead franchise.

5: Poltergeist (2015) "They're here". The original Poltergeist movie from 1982 was a tour-de-farce of effects and atmosphere. Directed by Tobe Hooper with Steven Spielberg as writer and producer, it took the paranormal into new territory. Forward to 2015 and Gil Kenan is given the task of resurrecting the story. Poor guy, the film is a mish-mash of re-visited scenes and not so special effects. The scary clown has been given an update, but the movie lacks...

SHARE: READ MORE
Get infected this April on Horror
Posted on Tuesday 20th March 2018

April on Horror Channel sees an Infection Season spread across Saturday nights with a highly contagious collection of outbreak action, headed by the network premieres of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and the equally impressive sequel 28 Weeks Later, starring Robert Carlyle. There are also welcome re-showings for Breck Eisner's critically-acclaimed remake of George Romero's 1973 movie, The Crazies, and M. Night Shyamalan's boldly unsettling survival movie The Happening.

28 Days Later on the 7th was one of the most successful genre movies of 20...

SHARE: READ MORE
Top 5 horror movie remakes
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

Hollywood: a place of constant invention and where everything should be shiny and new. Well, sometimes for at the moment it seems to be looking to the past for inspiration. This is not always a bad thing as sometimes a remake (or re-imagining as they like to call it!) hits the spot so perfectly that it can be considered an equal to the original so here's our Top 5 remakes! Do you agree and which movies would make your own top 5?

5: Evil Dead (2013)
Fans of the original movie, The Evil Dead had been waiting years for a cinematic sequel. Rumour after rumour followed but no one expected a remake of the story especially when rookie director Fede Alvarez was given the job to bring it back to life. It was backed by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert and given a decent budget, but few fans expected it to be so good. Bloody, ultra-violent and incredibly fast paced, it...

SHARE: READ MORE
Unmissable movies on Horror this March
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

The nights may be getting lighter but we're turning to the dark side this March on Horror with a slate of premieres that will have you praying for the dawn. So, beware all you virgins, actors, wayward teens and heroic crusaders, Horror has something to get under your skin!

We start with the network premiere of Cherry Falls on the 2nd where a serial killer seems to be going after virgins, rather than promiscuous types! So, sex parties are the order of the day to try and survive! Sounds like a good idea to us. Then the next night we've a true classic which stars Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, and Eli Wallach, The Sentinel where a young actress (Cristina Raines) ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Features Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Final Girl
FINAL GIRL
Monday 28th May
9.00 PM
The Descent
THE DESCENT
Wednesday 30th May
10.45 PM
Curse Of Chucky
CURSE OF CHUCKY
Sunday 27th May
9.00 PM