Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

Possum is a deeply disturbing feature debut for Garth Marenghi himself, Matthew Holness

In the fourteen years since writing and starring in cult horror spoof Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, one of the finest British comedies of the 00s, Matthew Holness has been relatively quiet. While co-stars Richard Aoyade, Matt Berry, and Alice Lowe starred in award-winning sitcoms and became independent film directors, Holness stayed out of the limelight, writing stories and directing short films. His feature-length directorial debut, Possum, hints at why he didn’t reach the mainstream like his co-stars; his ideas were just too bleak.

Adapted from Holness’ own short story, Possum is a grimy, disturbing portrait of madness, claustrophobia, and lingering trauma. Gone are the winking references to bad eighties horror and over-the-top gore, replaced by nightmarish imagery and a suffocating atmosphere. Opening with an eerie children’s poem, Possum soon introduces us to Philip (Sean Harris), a failed puppeteer returning to his burned-out childhood home. Philip lives a lonely existence. Antisocial and anxious, he can barely even make eye contact with local youths on the train, let alone function like a normal human being. What is the source of his paranoid behaviour? Perhaps it’s the titular puppet in his leather bag, a truly-hideous creation with huge spidery legs and a sinister white face…

Possum 1

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Leeds International Film Festival: British and International Fantasy Shorts review

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Leeds International Film Festival’s British and International Fantasy Short Films screenings in the gorgeous Everyman Cinema. A mixture of gory shlock, Twilight Zone-esque sci-fi, eerie character studies and classical horror tropes, the two screenings were an absolute blast. I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the fourteen shorts I saw, with a short review of each.

(As these are short films mostly made by first time filmmakers, I’m not going to be too harsh on any of them, especially as I enjoyed the vast majority)


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Inside No. 9 Live – A chilling, thrilling homage to that other famous live Halloween broadcast

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD (seriously, don’t read this if you haven’t watched the Inside No. 9 live special):

We should have seen it coming.

Given that Inside No. 9 creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are a) huge horror buffs, b) responsible for some of the most darkly funny episodes in British television, and c) genius writers who refuse to be predictable, it made perfect sense for their live Halloween special Dead Line to be an elaborate homage to that other classic live Halloween broadcast. That’s right: Inside No. 9 went full Ghostwatch, and the results were terrifying.

Inside No 9

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Sunday Short: The Hedgehog (2015)

How often do you see a genuinely unique film? Other than avant-garde artists or surrealist inventors (looking at you, David Lynch), it’s rare to see a film that doesn’t feel in some way indebted to another filmmaker, genre or story. Even the greatest filmmakers in the world wear their influences on their sleeve, and it’s fair to say almost every plot has been recycled or re-purposed in the last century of filmmaking.

Today’s short film, Chris Lee and Paul Storrie’s The Hedgehog, is a genuinely unique short film. I cannot think of another film like it. If I had to compare it to any filmmaker’s work, I’d say it captures the dreamy, melancholic weirdness of animator David Firth. Using a gorgeous ambient soundtrack and lonely, vast locations, The Hedgehog is like the saddest, quietest drug trip you’ll ever take. On a production level, it’s absolutely stunning, but more impressive is the cyclical story Lee and Storrie are telling. It’s genuinely haunting, and may stay with you long after the credits roll.

Watch The Hedgehog here:

By Harry J. Ford


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A former Disney star sheds his image with the disturbing My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer is unique amongst biopics about serial killers. Rather than focusing on the grisly murders and eventual arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer, Marc Myers’ directorial debut looks at Dahmer’s teenage years, his formative experiences and the troubling influences and interests that eventual led to him brutally murdering 17 men and boys. Though My Friend Dahmer occasionally paints its ‘origins of a psychopath’ story in broad strokes, it’s nearly always fascinating due to Disney actor Ross Lynch’s committed performance in the title role.

My Friend Dahmer

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Sunday Short: Real Gods Require Blood (2017)

There’s something thrilling about discovering a new voice or an undiscovered talent in short films, especially when it’s a homegrown, BFI-funded effort. Scripted by novelist Tom Benn and directed by Moin Hussain, Real Gods Require Blood is an interesting, deeply disturbing take on an old favourite: the Satanic Horror.

Set in Manchester in 1990 (at the height of the moral panic surrounding satanic abuse), Real Gods Require Blood depicts recovering addict Alice (Anna Berentzen), who reluctantly agrees to watch out for her troublesome neighbour’s children “for an hour or two”, only to find herself trapped in a home filled with eerie sights and tormented children who receive a visit from ‘Bells-A-Buss’ every evening. Gruesome polaroid pictures and a locked box offer hints at what is going in this household, but whatever happens, things don’t look good for Alice or the children.

Kitchen sink horror is a rarity, but director Hussain uses the 4:3 aspect ratio and claustrophobic, dingy flat to give us a sense of a realism and poverty before ramping up the horrific elements. It’s a slow burner at 19 minutes, but the climax is worth it; a truly chilling vision that recalls the wide-eyed terror of Rosemary’s Baby and the repulsive sadism of Audition. Both screenwriter Benn and director Hussain are talents to watch.

Watch Real Gods Require Blood here:

By Harry J. Ford


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The Rider blurs the lines of fact and fiction with impressive results

The story behind Chloe Zhao’s The Rider is truly remarkable. In 2015, Zhao met cowboy Brady Jandreau at the Pine Ridge reservation and instantly knew she wanted to make a film about him. Unfortunately, she couldn’t figure out his story; that was, until he suffered a near-fatal riding accident and had to retire from riding aged just 20. Casting Brady and his friends and family as fictionalised versions of themselves, Zhao blurs the lines of fact and fiction to create a fascinating, unique cowboy movie. If nothing else, The Rider is perhaps the most unconventional Western of the decade.

The Rider 2

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Apostle looks like an ultraviolent blast of folk horror from The Raid director Gareth Evans

It’s been over six years since Gareth Evans exploded onto the action cinema scene with The Raid, one of the most extraordinarily violent and choreographed martial arts films ever made, and four years since he released its ambitious follow-up The Raid 2. Now teaming up with Netflix, Gareth Evans is back with the trailer for upcoming folk horror Apostle, and the results look insane.

Starring Dan Evans as a man visiting a Welsh village to rescue his sister (Lucy Boynton) from a sinister cult led by Michael Sheen, Apostle‘s trailer reveals what looks to be an ultraviolent update of The Wicker Man. There’s buckets of blood, medieval torture devices, bodies strung up in trees, and a whole lot of sinister events. If the sight of blood makes you weak, best avoid this trailer. For gorehounds and horror fans alike, your new favourite film might be here. Given how talented Gareth Evans is (check out his horror segment Safe Haven from V/H/S 2 for an example of how extreme he can get), Apostle is certainly one to add to your watch list.

Check out the trailer for Apostle here:

By Harry J. Ford


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Bojack Horseman takes gimmick episodes to new heights in its outstanding fifth season

Since premiering to mediocre reactions (by critics who were unaware of creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s serious intentions) in 2014, Bojack Horseman has gone from strength to strength. Praised for its honest depiction of depression, furious political attacks (on subjects as controversial as sexual assault, gun control and abortion) and unique gimmick episodes, the show has rightly been called the Best Netflix Show of All Time, and it’s hard to argue that this strange little animated dark comedy features some of the best writing, animation and voice acting of the decade. The anticipation for season five couldn’t be greater, and the writers have once again delivered a hilarious-but-devastating look at the former star of Horsin’ Around.

Bojack Horseman 5 1

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The Coen Brothers return to the old west with the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Are the Coen Brothers the greatest living filmmakers? For over thirty years, the brothers have crafted some of the greatest films of all time, tackling everything from seedy noir (debut Blood Simple) and slapstick comedy (Raising Arizona) to offbeat crime capers (Fargo) and musical odysseys (Inside Llewyn Davis). If there’s one genre the brothers seem particularly fond of however, it’s the Western.

Not content with winning Best Picture for their terrific neo-Western No Country for Old Men in 2007, or remaking the John Wayne classic True Grit in 2010, the Coens are returning to the wild west for their latest film, the Netflix-produced The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Originally conceived as a TV miniseries, the Coens have reworked their original idea into an anthology of cowboy stories featuring big names like James Franco, Tom Waits, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson and Tim Blake Nelson. Netflix have just released the first trailer, and it looks to be another broad comedy in the vein of previous hits O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Hail, Caesar!.

Whether The Ballad of Buster Scruggs reaches the heights of previous comedies The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading (or plumbs the depths of their worst film, The Ladykillers) remains to be seen, but with a Best Screenplay win at the Venice International Film Festival, this is one of my most anticipated films of the year. Check out the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs here:

By Harry J. Ford


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