ORBzine - Twenty-First Century British Isles Horror - Movie Reviews

13 Hours

13 Hours A young woman returns to her family home, in an old stately home in England. She hangs out with her obnoxious brother and his slacker friends, then a monster starts to kill them off.

As in all good monster movies, and as befits the relatively small budget, the monster is implied rather than seen.

As Joss Whedon revealed in his deconstruction of the slasher genre, Cabin in the Woods , there are five main archetypes in the story:

  • athlete
  • scholar
  • fool
  • slut
  • final girl
    Strangely, this seems to overlap with the five main archetypes in a comedy story - three stupid men (the protagonist, the ladies man and the buddy), the love interest and her slutty friend.

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    Botched

    Botched A Russian gangster hires American jewel thief Stephen Dorff ( Blade ) to steal a valuable item from the penthouse of a Moscow skyscraper. Dorff seems to be the most unlucky robber ever, but technically this time it is not his fault.

    Dorf, along with his associates (a kill-crazy loonie and a raw amateur) end up taking a group of hostages. Unfortunately, there is a family of serial killers in the building!

    While the external shots are taken from exotic locales like France and Moscow, the interiors are all shot in Ireland.

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    The Boy

    The Boy Lauren Cohan is hired by Jim Norton ( Babylon 5 ) and his wife to babysit their son while they are away. Their son turns out to be a porcelain doll. This is not the creepiest thing, however. She soon discovers there is an unseen presence in the house.

    This certainly ticks the boxes for a modern horror. It is a supernatural suspense thriller, set in an isolated location - an old mansion in the English countryside. However, it is relatively original.

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    Byzantium

    Byzantium Narrated by Saorse Ronan , this is the tale of herself and her mother ( Gemma Arterton ) - a pair of renegade vampires on the run from their own bloodline.

    We get a series of flashbacks to her fall, first as a harlot and then as a vamp, at the hands of the Captain (Jonny Lee Miller - Trainspotting).

    Neil Jordan delivers a slow-moving character drama, with characteristic visual flourishes like dream sequences of a river of blood.

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    The Calling (2001)

    The Calling (2001) The Final Girl ( Laura Harris ) suspects she is re-living Rosemary's Baby , but if the baby had grown to pre-adolescence ... more like Damien in The Omen , with an English accent and scary pale eyes that seem reminiscent of The Midwich Cuckoos .

    There seems to be a satanic cult on the island. It embodies a confusion of Xian Satanism mixed with Keltic Paganism and Viking runes in a massive mixture of different cultures.

    The only thing that seems original about this story is that it is set on the Isle of Man. However, even the setting seems to owe more to the Scottish island in The Wicker Man

    This was filmed only three years after The Faculty , but Ms Harris makes the transition from schoolgirl to motherhood as well as can be expected.

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    The Canal

    The Canal A young family move into a Victorian-era terraced house near a canal. It is set in England - all the cast have English accents except for the nanny, who has an Irish accent. Predictably it was filmed in Dublin, where the architecture can pass for England but the tax regime is much more forgiving.

    The father of the family (Rupert Evans - The Man in the High Castle ) discovers that a murder once took place in their new home. A cheating wife was murdered by her angry husband in the year 1902, and he later went on a killing spree. Soon, the protagonist begins to suspect his own wife may be unfaithful. Then she mysteriously goes missing ...

    As the story develops, the protagonist is more and more stressed out by mysterious events. He begins to psychologically unravel, as he suspects his house is haunted by the murderer. This basically seems like a low-budget version of The Shining from the father's perspective.

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    The Children

    The Children A bunch of parents with small children meet up at a remote country mansion. Unfortunately, their pre-teen offspring start to bump them off. Even the teenage daughter is a target for the youngsters.

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    Comedown

    Comedown This is a genre film set in a London tower-block, like in Attack The Block . Some teenagers are hired to set up a transmitting station for a pirate radio station. The chosen location is on the top floor of a disused apartment block.

    Getting in is easy, but then they start to get bumped off by a serial killer.

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    Containment

    Containment The residents of a tower block in England wake up to discover they have been sealed in.

    A crew of people in hazmat suits are rounding up the residents. Strangely the hazmat crew have no weapons, so they are easy prey for the violent locals.

    This is nowhere near as good as the similarly-themed Cassandra Crossing .

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    A Dark Song

    A Dark Song This is a British film, set in Wales but shot in the Republic of Ireland.

    The protagonist is a woman who is recovering from a mentally traumatic event. She hires an online exorcist in order to summon an angel, so it can grant her a wish.

    Are we seeing events from the perspective of a character who is halucinating? Is the exorcist a con-man? Or is it all actually real?

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    Devil's Business

    Devil's Business Two hitmen break into a man's house and wait for their victim to return home from a performance of Faust. The older one is a middle-aged Ulsterman, while the younger is an English rookie. They do not appear to be forensically aware, but that is the least of their problems.

    Unfortunately, the victim turns out to be involved in black magic. This increases the suspense quite a bit.

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    Don't Let him In

    Don't Let him In This starts with the Final Girl on the run from a cleaver-wielding killer, and then flashes back to show the setup.

    The Final Girl and her BF go for a romantic getaway in a remote cottage. The BF brings his bimbo sister, who brings a yuppie git she just had a one-night stand with.

    The stereotypical Gypsy girl gives them a warning, as does the local Police officer. Apparently they already knew there was a serial killer working in the area. Talk about genre blindness!

    There are some interesting takes on certain tropes. They actually have cell-phone reception in the countryside, which is a change from the usual .

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    Eden Lake

    Eden Lake Michael Fassbender ( X-Men: Days Of Future Past ) and his girlfriend are a couple of yuppies who take a vacation, a romantic camping weekend in rural England. As always in this kind of thing, the city folk fall foul of some local yokels.

    There is a generation gap at work. The thugs they fall foul of are younger, just tweenagers. Their leader is a young-looking Jack O'Connell ( ).

    Naturally, things escalate. Quite beyond the level of suspension of disbelief, in fact. Bullying becomes torture porn, but the actual ending is so shocking as to be unbelievable.

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    Elfie Hopkins

    Elfie Hopkins Elfie ( Jamie Winstone ) is an English Nancy Drew, living in a tiny village where she plays at being a detective. A new family comes to town, suspects something is amiss. People start to go missing. The town butcher (Ray Winstone - Robin of Sherwood ) tells her it might be a killer stag ...

    The new family's daughter was Nathan's girlfriend in Misfits .

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    Estranged

    Estranged A young woman is injured in a car crash while on holiday in an exotic third world country. The bad news is she is left in a wheelchair. The worse news is that brain damage gives her amnesia, so her boyfriend takes her home to her estranged family in the hope that she can rest and recuperate there..

    The family live in an enormous stately home in the English countryside. Yes, this is basically a larger version of the old Cabin in the Woods trope. The Final Girl cannot remember anything about why she left, but it must have been quite serious. However, the longer she stays the creepier her family becomes.

    James Cosmo ( Braveheart ) is the head of the household. His wife is on some form of medication, and they have two full-grown stay-at-home children.

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    Evil Aliens

    Evil Aliens TV producer Norman Lovett ( Red Dwarf ) sends ace reporter Emily Booth to investigate an Alien Abduction report from exotic Wales.

    This may have the low budget and cheap SPFX of a typical US SyFy made-for-TV movie, but the script and direction put it a notch above them. It is incredibly tongue-in-cheek, with a level of humourous in-jokes matched only by the level of uncensored sex and violence.

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    Exam

    Exam A Supervisor (Colin Salmon - The World Is Not Enough ) invigilates an examination for the recruitment of staff to a mysterious MegaCorp. Jimi Mistry (The Guru) and Gemma Chan compete against a group of random caucasian candidates, the only notable one of whom is Pollyanna McIntosh .

    There is only one question on the paper, and eighty minutes to answer it. The result is a real-time psychological drama about a diverse group of people trapped in a confined environment.

    Rather than use their real names or their candidate numbers, they decide to use nicknames. These nicknames are reminiscent of the codenames in Reservoir Dogs, although they end up having unfortunate racist overtones.

    This was written, directed and produced by a single person - typical of the lower end of the straight-to-video market, to be honest.

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    F

    F A middle-aged, alcoholic teacher is separated from his wife ( Juliet Aubrey ). He is terrible at teaching class in his dodgy inner-city school, and ends up putting his own daughter in detention.

    That night a gang of four faceless, free-running hoodie-wearing thugs break into the school and start bumping off the staff. First they isolate the building, like in Assault on Precinct 13. Then they stalk and kill them, like in Aliens . That is about the level of this film.

    Roxanne McKee is a junior member of staff, seen working out in the gymn. But unlike her role in Game of Thrones , she does not contribute any toplessness to this film. A pity, because the film has nothing else to recommend it.

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    The Facility

    The Facility A group of half a dozen mismatched strangers attend a residential session of a pharmaceutical test session. It is in a remote clinic, which is not a Cabin in the Woods but it may as well be.

    The original story is let down by shakey held-held camerawork.

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    From The Dark

    From The Dark In remote County Offaly, rural Ireland, a farmer digging peat discovers a bog body. Rather than leave it be and call in the Government's archaeologists he fiddles with it, and removes a stake that had been thoughtfully inserted through its heart. In the tradition of the Keltic legend of Abhartach, the stake does not kill the vamp - it only keeps them dormant. And now the ancient evil is awakened, to wreak havoc on locals. Yes, this is the equivalent of 1980s monster-movie Rawhead Rex , shot for a modern audience as a grittier, lower-budget effort.

    A male and female, bickering as always, are driving through countryside. Their car breaks down on a lonely country road, so the man goes to a local farmhouse for help. They get chased around in the dark quite a bit.

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    The Gathering

    The Gathering Some ravers at Glastonbury discover a Roman church, apparently built by Joseph Of Arimathea This would be the oldest Xian church in the world. The Orthodox Church was not established until the Council of Nicea, three centuries years later, and the Church of Rome did not exist as an independent entity until the Great Schism a thousand years later. Strangely, the Church of Rome is given control of the site - not the British Government or the Anglican Episcopalian Church.

    The Cardinal calls in archaeologist Stephen Dillane ( Freakdog ). The archaeologist's wife (Kerry Fox ) hits a pedestrian - Cassie ( Christina Ricci ), presumably named after Cassandra the Seeress of Troy. As with the character in the Aeneid, she forsees disasters but nobody believes her.

    The local village is full of creepy characters like Mackenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ). Luckily, there is also a potential love interest in the shape of Ioan Gryffud ( Forever ).

    This is one of a handful of recent horror movies filmed on the Isle of Man.

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    Grabbers

    Grabbers An asteroid crashes into the sea off the south of County Cork in Ireland. Some alien monsters were aboard, and they make for the nearest island. Meanwhile, the local cop (Richard Coyle - Prince of Persia ) has a new colleague (the female detective from Humans ). They soon discover that the aliens are eating the locals ... but alcohol is toxic to the monsters, so to save the population all they have to do is get everyone drunk. The down side is that action-adventure heroics are difficult when the protagonists are too drunk to walk!

    Why this is set in County Cork is never explained. This was actually filmed in Northern Ireland, as anyone who has been to locations on the North Antrim coast can verify. Certainly, if those areas can pass for Westeros in Game of Thrones they can pass for County Cork, but why should they have to? The story could have been set on Rathlin, or even on an island off County Donegal. The result is that there are no actual County Cork accents in this film!

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    The Hallow

    The Hallow A handful of unfamiliar faces spend the night in a Cabin in the Woods , despite warnings from the local yokel. Soon, things start to go bump in the night. An ancient curse has been awakened. Does this sound familiar?

    The victims are a tree surgeon, his wife and their baby son. They live in a house in remote untouched woodland that the government is about to sell off to a logging company. Unfortunately, the man discovers that the forest is host to a parasitic fungus. The local monsters are not like Warwick Davis in Leprechaun , they are more like the albino creatures in The Descent .

    Classic 1970s Italian horror film Zombie Flesh Eaters was banned in the UK and labelled a Video Nasty primarily because of a scene involving a victimís eyeball being impaled. However, this effort has a full cinema release despite having TWO scenes where a characterís eyeball is jeopardised..

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    The Hike

    The Hike This starts with a Final Girl running through the woods, pursued by person or persons (or monsters) unknown. Her travelling companions also fall victim to whatever is pursuing her. This is actually the best bit of the film, and the film-makers could have produced a decent effort if they had just expanded this section and used those characters in the rest of the film.

    Five young women meet up before they head off on a hiking expedition. Yes, this is meant to be a low-budget version of The Descent , but it is far inferior. The women all look like models, although one is meant to be ex-military. Another one is meant to be a glamour model, so she wears slightly more makeup than the others. Also, she has a bossy boyfriend (Tamer Hussein - Wrong Turn 3 ).

    The five models go for a walk in the woods. They soon discover the place is overcrowded. A dodgy Russian man and his two women are camped nearby. Also, three lads are camping in the woods - potential love interests for the girls. Of course, that night people start to disappear.

    This is a very disappointing film, and the terrible cast is not the worst of it. For example, there is a skinny-dipping scene with full-frontal nudity ... but despite having FIVE females in the group not one of them gets naked. Yes, the nudity is all male! Likewise, the kill scenes are all lacklustre and boring.

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    Honeymoon

    Honeymoon Bea ( Rose Leslie ) and Paul (Harry Treadaway - Penny Dreadful ) have just gotten married, and spend their honeymoon in a Cabin in the Woods . What could possibly go wrong?

    This is the first film by female director Leigh Janiak .

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    Inbred

    Inbred This starts with a film-within-a-film starring Emily Booth . This may be intended to make the protagonists seem genre-savvy, but it is just irrelevant.

    A group of Young Offenders get sent to do some manual labour in a remote village. It turns out that one of the British railway companies somehow dumped all their disused carriages in a field in the middle of nowhere. The bad boys (and girls) must strip out the valuable metals. Unfortunately the local yokels are a violent bunch. They are so remote they do not seem to have television, so they make their own entertainment. It seems that their favourite is torture-porn, and since they cannot watch Saw they just act it out using whatever they find lying around in the farmyard.

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    In Fear

    In Fear Tom (Iain de Caestecker - Agents of Shield ) has invited Lucy ( Alice Englert ) to attend a Festival in rural Ireland with him. They have been Dating in the American parlance for two weeks, so it is third date territory. Tom books a room in a nearby hotel. All this is established in the opening credits, then we get into the main story.

    The protagonists are driving round narrow country lanes with high hedges

    For some reason, despite being set in the Irish Republic this was actually filmed in Cornwall in England.

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    Intruders (2011)

    Intruders (2011) A young Spanish boy is stalked by a spectre that looks like a toned-down version of something from a Guillermo Del Toro movie. As the story progresses, he also falls victim to a few J-Horror cliches like a patch of Dark Water over his bed that weeps blood onto his face.

    John Farrow (Clive Owen - King Arthur ) is a welder working on the top of a skyscraper in the middle of London. This is the perfect location for some Omen -style antics. Our hero lives with his wife ( Carice Houten ) twelve-year-old daughter Mia (Farrow, an in-jokey reference to Rosemary's Baby ) in a house in the suburbs. The daughter discovers an old scrap of paper that someone hid in a hollow tree. Soon, she is stalked by the ghostly spectre named Hollowface.

    The two childrens' stories are intertwined, but seem to be in different genres. The Spanish monster is CGI, while the English one is a more human, more real threat. In Catholic Spain the boy's mother wants the local priest (Daniel Bruhl - Captain America: Civil War ) to conduct an exorcism. Back in England, Clive Owen takes his daughter to child psychologist Kerry Fox . Of course, both strategies backfire.

    The twist in the end is actually quite predictable, but the film is well-made and reasonably watchable. However, despite the ending being easy to guess it seems a lot of people on the internet did not understand it.

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    Let's Be Evil

    Let's Be Evil Three tweenagers, two boys and a girl, are hired to help in a secret project run by a crooked MegaCorp. Their job is to act as chaperones for some creepy super-genius children in an underground bunker run by an artificial intelligence. What could possibly go wrong?

    The children are not zombies, like in The Girl With All The Gifts , or telekinetic alien-spawn like in Children Of The Damned . Despite being creepily silent they somehow communicate with each other. Their super-genius abilities allow them to override the bunker's automated systems.

    This is an updated type of Found Footage, where everything is seen first-person by video files from the protagonists' headsets. However, it suffers from the main problem of all small-budget horror films. It was written and directed by a single person.

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    Mindscape AKA Anna (2001)

    Mindscape AKA Anna (2001) Mark Strong ( Stardust ) is a Memory detective - he can enter a person's mind and relive their memories with them. Like in The Cell . His boss (Brian Cox - Manhunter ) sends him to interview a teenage girl ( Taissa Farmiga ) who has been accused of acts of wanton violence.

    This is basically a formulaic film noir, with the twists that the Private Eye is psychic and the Femme Fatale is a teenage girl. Farmiga is blatantly manipulative and untrustworthy, so the obvious Primal Fear twist could hardly be unexpected. It never occurs to Strong that someone might be able to Inception him.

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    New Town Killers

    New Town Killers Sociopathic businessman Alistair Raskolnikov (Dougray Scott - Mission Impossible 2 ) and his sidekick play The Most Dangerous Game with a young working-class lad from a council estate in Edinburgh.

    The high point is when a pretty girl ( Karen Gillen ) flirts with the victim at the bus station.

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    Panic Button

    Panic Button Four twenty-somethings (two male, two female) win a free trip on a luxury jet, courtesy of a Social Network website contest. They end up as victims of psychological suspense that borders on torture.

    The victims discover they all have something in common. To go with the Social Network theme, their transgression involves Internet bullying. Now they get a taste of their own medicine as they are mentally tortured by a stranger on the other end of a computer connection.

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    Prevenge

    Prevenge Alice Lowe is the most murderous pregnant woman since Series 7: The Contenders . She hears the voice of her unborn child telling her to kill the people she holds responsible.

    The gynaecologist tells her that she no longer has control of her mind and body, and that the baby is now the one really in charge. Unfortunately the baby seems obsessed with bloodthirsty revenge on the people responsible for its father's death. Or perhaps the mother's love of late night black-and-white horror movies has something to do with it.

    Despite being a low-budget indie movie, this has the advantage of the film-makers' connections with the well-established acting community in London. A couple of the targets ( Kate Dickie, Gemma Whelan ) are recognisable faces from Game of Thrones .

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    Puritan

    Puritan A pretend psychic named Simon Puritan is hired to help a grieving woman ( Georgina Rylance ) get over her sister's death. Naturally, things get spooky ...

    The psychic starts a torrid affair with his client. Unfortunately, she is married to rich American David Soul ( ). This turns into a typical film noir with a supernatural twist in the end.

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    Sawney: Flesh of Man

    Sawney: Flesh of Man This is based loosely on the Legend of Sawney Bean, whose cannibal clan has inspired genre films ( Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes ).

    The visuals are impressive, as it was shot on location in the Scottish highlands. This is strange, because Sawney Bean and his family are supposed to have plagued Ayrshire and Galloway on the south-west coast

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    Splintered

    Splintered Five tweenagers go camping in the grounds of an old abandoned Borstal - a prison for juvenile offenders. Something or someone sharts to bump them off, one at a time.

    The best way to describe this is by saying it is like Shrooms , only good.

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    Tony: London Serial Killer

    Tony: London Serial Killer This is a London-based story about a serial killer whose MO is reminiscent of Denis Nielsen in the early 1980s. Unlike Nielsen he is not a homosexual, he is just socially isolated, but the term killing for company definitely comes to mind.

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    The Torment AKA The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010)

    The Torment AKA The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010) This is set up to focus on Found Footage, like Paranormal Activity There is a lot of steadicam work, but the film is mainly from the perspective on one of the characters.

    The protagonist is mentally deranged, and believes he is being stalked by demonic entities. In an effort to fend them off, he will not sleep. As a result, he is suffering from sleep deprivation ... which is known to cause halucinations.

    He hangs out with two of his friends, a married couple in their late twenties. They let him stay at their apartment, but slowly begin to realise how mentally troubled he is.

    There is a mysterious power cut in the middle of the night. The characters run around in the dark, clutching kitchen knives. No good will come of this.

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    Tower Block

    Tower Block This is a reverse version of Harry Brown, itself a virtual remake of Death Wish 3 . Basically, the residents of a crime-ridden London tower block are targeted by a lone gunman. The targets include a nurse ( Sheridan Smith ), a neighbourhood crook (Jack O'Connell - ) and an alcoholic loner (George from Being Human ).

    Surely with guns and gangsters it is a simple crime thriller. How is it a slasher movie? Well, look at it this way. There is a mad killer out for revenge, and he wants to kill everyone in a certain area. Certainly, the climactic Third Act - with its Final Girl and a nail-gun - would do well as a scene in any mainstream slasher film.

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    Truth or Dare

    Truth or Dare A bunch of tweenagers have a drink-and-drugs party. The class nerd, Felix, is the victim of a cruel prank. A few months later, five of the kids present are invited to his birthday party. They turn up at his family mansion, and are directed down a muddy lane to the Cabin in the Woods ...

    The host is Felix's brother, a war veteran who survived three tours in Afghanistan. He wants to get answers about what happened to his brother. The victims are not particularly likable, but their host is a deranged sociopath who puts them through a Torture Porn version of Spin the Bottle. This is a nice counter-blast to revenge films like I Spit On Your Grave ... The audience's sympathies are twisted to alternate between Felix and the others.

    The cast is high quality, illustrated by the fact that some of the actors have gone on to bigger and better things as royalty in glossy TV shows. Jennie Jacques became the mistress of Linus Roache in Vikings , while Alexander Vlahos became the brother of Louis XIV in Versailles .

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    Umbrage: The First Vampire

    Umbrage: The First Vampire A greedy antiques dealer (Doug Bradley - Hellraiser ) takes his bickering family to a remote farmhouse. You know, a sort of Cabin in the Woods ). Predictably, something in the shadows starts killing people in a gorey fashion.

    A beardy vampire in a cowboy hat is hanging around the barn. He has a feud with the mother of all vamps, Lillith herself. As

    In common with all the bad horror movies these days, this was written, directed and edited by a single person. The result is typically self-indulgent crap.

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    Wake Wood

    Wake Wood A young girl gets savaged by a dog, and dies of her wounds. Her parents - Aiden Gillen ( Game of Thrones ) and Eva Birthistle - are grief stricken. They move house to get away from the site of their loss, and move to a remote Irish village named Wake Wood. The village mayor (the very English Timothy Spall) has pagan magic, and can bring their daughter back for three days.

    This was the first Hammer Horror movie in thirty years, and as such is quite a disappointment. It was written in England but filmed in Ireland on the cheap, the Timothy Spall character seems to be a reference to Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man but the plot basically rips off Pet Sematery . Unoriginal and uninspiring.

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    Wicker Man (2006)

    Wicker Man (2006) This is the infamous inferior US remake of the classic 1970s UK Horror film, Wicker Man (1973) .

    US Highway patrolman Nicholas Cage ( Face Off ) is traumatised by a road-traffic accident.

    Cage goes to the mysterious island of Summers Isle, which is run on strict Feminist principles. Females are educated and given positions of authority, whereas males are beasts of burden to be exploited for physical labour. Just like everywhere else in the English-speaking world.

    The film's overly-convoluted plot leads to the inevitable climax. The film-makers wanted a family-friendly certificate, so they could not show the torture scene. Instead they just have sound-effects while Nicholas Cage narrates what is happening to him In other words, they turned it into an unintentional comedy.

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    The Wicker Tree

    The Wicker Tree This is a sort-of sequel to the original Wicker Man (1973) , featuring a flashback clip where Lord Summerlee (Christopher Lee - Rasputin ) is the villainís mentor. It was written and directed by the original film-maker, Robin Hardy , and was filmed in England instead of Scotland.

    A pair of American bible-bashers, a young singer and her cowboy-hat-wearing boyfriend, are invited to preach in a small town in Scotland. Yes, apparently some people in Scotland have stopped believing in Angels!

    The locals do not seem to have much of a Scotch Presbyterian heritage, instead making numerous references to the ancient Pagan gods. Things happen predictably, but this time there is a Final Girl instead of the male protagonist of the original.

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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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