I reviewed Mark J Howard's debut feature Lock In, a tale of corporate coulrophobia, in 2014. Three years later, the film was released on DVD on both sides of the Atlantic as Clown Kill, so I took the opportunity to ask Mark for an interview and he provided these great, detailed answers.
"We’d been renting a huge business suite in a modern office block at the foot of Pendle Hill (home of the infamous Pendle Witches in the 17th Century), to serve as production office and edit booths while we were working on a series of TV ads and other advertising films, and it was a bit creepy at night, to say the least. Pipes would expand and contract, floors creaked, dodgy electrics made the lights flicker and go out and the regular winds barrelling down Pendle Hill would howl around the corners of the building, which kind of puts you on edge when you’re in the building on your own. When you’ve been working at the office for 48 hours straight to meet a deadline, your mind doesn’t always think straight. Then, on the way out, the lift got stuck, and I hate lifts, almost as much as I dislike clowns, so the seeds were already starting to grow.
"The story developed over the next few months as we workshopped ideas with the already-cast actors. I think we achieved our goal by introducing a creepy new clown, and I was happy with the comedic chemistry with the security guards, but we dropped a major bollock and didn’t notice until we were in the edit. In the original script the clown breaks the fourth wall as he regularly addresses the audience between kills, which makes more sense once you’ve seen the end scene and know where the character of Jenny is at, but in the edit it suddenly looked like we were trying to rip off Funny Man, and not doing it very well. So, at the last minute I brought in my long-term collaborator, actor and comedian Peter Slater, we sat down at the editor and chopped things away, reduced or removed all of Charlie Boy’s one-liners and pieces to camera, heavily toned down Jenny’s drunken pub attack scene, and added more security guards stuff for balance. The end result is one huge compromise.
What aspect of the film do you think works best, and what aspect would you change if you could?
"The personality clashes between shop-steward Gobby Karen and John the Boss are my favourite performances in the film, Rachel was an absolute revelation, her sense of timing is better than any comedian I’ve ever worked with. She hit every beat, delivered every time, and that’s something I’ve never encountered before. If I could change anything I’d have found a way to reinstate some of the excised clown footage, Roy’s amazing in the role, and some of my favourite scenes are the ones we had to cut out. That’s usually the way though."
How did you assemble your cast, and what effect has Jessica Cunningham’s subsequent reality TV career had on awareness of your film?
"Apart from Rachel (who plays Gobby Karen) and Holly (Sally), the script was written personally for the actual actors who starred in the film. Rachel and Holly were late additions to the repertory company I’ve been building over the last 20 years; so I knew who would be playing what character as I wrote the script. We’d just come off a series of TV commercials with Jessica, and I’d had a big public row with her in a Costa, and I knew I’d found my feisty office worker that day.
"She’s been really busy these last few months with her fashion brand and new-found fame, so we haven’t managed to catch up on things, but before she hit the limelight we had a chat and she did agree to do the sequel. We had two huge fans of Jessica, who are also top-flight footballers from a famous northern club, make an offer to finance a sequel under the Enterprise Investment Scheme, but a week later the Inland Revenue started cracking down on footballers investing in fake films to offset their taxes, and they got cold feet. Got a great script out of it, though, featuring Charlie Boy’s Undead Army of Clowns. If this first film is well received, and if there’s a market there, the sequel might just happen."
What are your favourite slashers and/or clown horror movies?
"I was never a fan of the Halloween films (though I’m a big fan of the third one), but I loved the first couple of Friday the 13th’s. I abandoned that franchise when I went to see Part 3 in 3D on its initial release, and the projectionist got the lens assembly on wrong and completely ruined the presentation. Huge fan of European slashers, especially love Stage Fright and Amsterdamned, but don’t watch clown films. Like I say, clowns and lifts, not my bag. I don’t think I was abused by a clown as a child, but I think something must have happened to fuel my unease about them. The new adaptation of It looks fun, though, but Tim Curry’s a hard act to follow."
"Adverts and pop promos have been the bread and butter that keeps the wolf at bay, We’ve shot a big zombie film set in Liverpool, about a terrorist attack on Ellesmere Port petro-chemical plant, just at the moment they are destroying an experimental battlefield biological weapon developed by the Russians and seized in Syria. The resulting gas cloud threatens an extinction-level event as it slowly creeps across the UK in real time, turning the victims into blood-crazed zombies. The film is called Undead Air and will hopefully be ready by the end of the year. It’s quite heavy on visual fx, but I’ve a great team doing some amazing work.
"At the moment we’re just prepping our new docu-drama American Psychopath – the Ripper of Whitechapel, which is a period piece bringing a post-modern, fresh perspective on the Jack the Ripper case. We’re shooting this in 4K and Super 16, with the murders being covered by raw and grainy Super 8 on my trusty old Beaulieu, filming begins second week of May for three weeks. Because we’re still having to work on promo films for clients, our more narrative films tend to take forever to complete, but we’ve a delivery deadline for the Ripper film so it’s all hands on deck. Both films will feature the same cast and crew, with a few additions, that made Lock In."
Finally, can you tell me a bit about the super 8 films you used to make with Tony Luke?
"I miss Tony so much, and it doesn’t feel like fifteen months since we lost him. We got to know each other in the very early '80s. We were the same age, both at secondary school, both making animated super 8 monster movies, and we both contributed to Junior Filmworld, a magazine/newsletter for wannabe junior super 8 Spielbergs. Tony lived in the North East and I lived in Manchester, so hundreds of miles apart, but he used to ring regularly and we’d post our only prints of our latest films to evaluate each others work. We’d swap ideas, script notes, designs and special fx techniques we’d discovered, and generally encourage each other.
"When we premiered Lock In I spoke to Tony, he asked me if I’d be interested in directing a project he had in mind. I was busy, I said if he could postpone a few months I’d be able to discuss it further and commit. It never happened. A few months later Tony started with his back and neck pain, and he had to focus on getting better. I was sure he’d beat it again, he was a real fighter. It’s a weird thing when someone you’ve known since you were kids dies, makes you put things into perspective. Facebook hasn’t been the same since he left."
Sunday, 14 May 2017
Monday, 1 May 2017
Writer: Ali Paterson
Producers: Ali Paterson, Pip Hill
Cast: Marc Goodacre, Jon Bennett, Doug Booth
Year of release: 2006/2016
Reviewed from: YouTube
This is the first time I have ever reviewed a movie without watching the whole thing. This is not something I intend to make a habit of, but Hunters of the Kahri is literally unwatchable. I mean, I’ve watched plenty of films before which, for one reason or another, were effectively unwatchable. For most people. But I’ve stuck with them, for your sake. I provide a service here. I take pride in my work.
Hunters of the Kahri is 104 minutes long. I suffered through the first 44 minutes; the final hour can frankly go fuck itself. (I did skip through the rest of the film, just in case there was any evidence of a major change in direction or quality. There wasn’t.)
I had this film on my list of never released British horror pictures. It was shot in 2005, had a single cast and crew screening in June 2006, then disappeared. In April 2017 I spotted that Ali Paterson had posted the whole movie onto YouTube the previous October. So I gave it a spin. All I really got out of my viewing experience was confirmation that this isn’t a horror film. It’s a sub-sub-sub-Tolkien fantasy of swords and quests and suchlike but there are no demons or other elements that might make it borderline horror.
Which runs for 104 minutes.
I think it’s set in a post-apocalyptic quasi-medieval fantasy world, rather than a historical quasi-medieval fantasy world, which just about excuses the fact that most costumes are obviously just muddied-up T-shirts and similar 21st century garments. What it doesn’t excuse is the neatly trimmed hedges, fishpond and patio. Bizarrely, some of the film is set in open countryside, so your guess is as good as mine why Paterson didn’t shoot everything away from suburbia. It really seems like he either didn’t care about, or possibly didn’t notice, anything that was in the background of his shots. In one shot, two bicycles are leaning against a tree. In another, a character who has just been killed is sitting up, apparently unaware that they are in view.
It’s all incredibly talkie, with just the occasional brief, dull swordfight. There is a woman narrating the film with lines like “After the slaughter of the Woodpeople, Xenos fled, leaving Narata to take on the rest of Tenzing’s horde.” After a bit she slips into the present tense so it’s like she’s just reading from the script descriptions of scenes that they couldn’t afford to film.
There really is no reason for anyone to ever watch this, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t even have bothered with a review. But there is one aspect of this film which means that it is worth recording, so that it’s not just a title on a filmography, and so that people don’t get overly excited and think they’re missing something.
Most of the cast, as you might expect, have no other IMDB credits. One of them is called Christian Lloyd and the IMDB thinks that’s a British-born, Canadian actor who has numerous film and TV credits since 2001 including Jude Law-starring sci-fi feature Repo Men and Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. No, I don’t think that’s the same guy. Perhaps he came over to the UK in 2006 to make a film in Ali Paterson’s back garden, but I have my doubts.
However, Calum Narata’s son Sagar Narata is played by 14-year-old ‘Doug Booth’ who, as Douglas Booth, has gone on to not just a genuine career but considerable critical acclaim. Being somewhat out of touch with popular culture I wasn't familiar with Mr Booth's work myself, but a look at his IMDB and Wikipedia pages indicates that he’s quite the hot young thesp. His first proper acting job was in Julian Fellowes’ ghostly fantasy From Time to Time, but his filmography starts with Hunters of the Kahri, which is consequently cited in various features about him. A good-looking, talented young lad like Booth undoubtedly has a small army of fangirls by now who may want to seek out this film. Ladies, if you come across this review, let me assure you that although the film is available to watch on YouTube, its only purpose is as somewhere to get screengrabs of Boothy-babe when he was a teenager.
Booth played the lead role in a 2010 BBC drama about Boy George, which brought him to the attention of critics, and also modelled for Burberry. He was Pip in the BBC’s Great Expectations, he was Romeo in a version of Romeo and Juliet scripted by Fellowes, and he was in Jupiter Ascending which, you know, it’s not his fault. Big sci-fi epic by the … siblings who made The Matrix. A young actor’s going to take that, isn’t he? Anyway, Sean Bean was in it and he really should have known better.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and here is where Douglas Booth started. In years to come, maybe when he’s picking up his third Oscar, people are going to be saying: "What’s this on his IMDB page? Hunters of the Kahri, starring lots of people who never made another movie? Must be the Inaccurate Movie Database up to its old tricks." But it’s not. Is there evidence of Booth's talent here? Well, he can clearly act, which many of the cast equally clearly can't, but frankly Kenneth Branagh couldn't make a script like this work, especially with these production values and the abundant non-direction.
Since when Paterson seems to have concentrated on corporate stuff about finance. Which is where the money is, in more ways than one.
Hunters of the Kahri, according to Paterson’s page on Casting Call Pro, features “horses, CGI creatures, battles and choreographed fight sequences”. Just to be clear, there is one shot of someone (dressed in white so it might be bathrobe guy) riding a horse. There are indeed several choreographed sword fights. In at least one of these, the sounds of battle have been added to the soundtrack to try and give the impression of a larger conflict. (It doesn’t work, but at least those bloody songbirds shut up for a bit.)
There are however absolutely no CGI creatures, or CGI anything, or any sort of creatures. Apart from a fallow deer that wanders past the camera about 90 minutes in. If that’s CGI it’s bloody good.
Watching these things so you don’t have to. And thanks for sharing, Mr P. Genuinely appreciated, just so I can knock this off my list.
Oh. If you’re wondering, the Kahri is some sort of precious stone they’re all after. I think.
MJS rating: E-