Saturday, 24 September 2011



Richard Driscoll is back. First off he made The Comic, which generated such an ugly mood at the Splatterfest in February 1990 that it was slowclapped at three o'clock in the morning, and another film which he'd only produced, a serial killer movie inspired by Dennis Nielsen entitled The Cold Light Of Day, was hastily dropped from the running order and replaced with Evil Dead II to mollify a disgruntled audience. Rumour had it at the time that Driscoll was escorted out of the Scala Cinema for his own safety. Years later, there was Kannibal, an unfathomably bonkers piece of outright trash that was a combination of dull lesbian softcore, incompetent police procedural and Sir Anthony Hopkins impressions. (It looks to have gone to the BBFC again recently under the title of Head Hunter, and despite its incoherence I urge you to rent it as soon as it's released because you genuinely will not believe your eyes.)

And now here's The Legend Of Harrow Woods, a random assemblage of atrocious acting, star cameos, dodgy CGI effects and people wandering around in the woods in the dark. A group of friends who call themselves The Internetter's Birthday Club (not only making up words but misplacing the apostrophe) have a tradition of celebrating their birthdays by going out and investigating paranormal activities, and broadcasting their footage online; and this year they're looking into Harrow Woods, not only the site of a witch who cursed the land as she was burned at the stake but also the last known location of a horror writer and his family, who mysteriously disappeared a few years ago in the same cabin in the woods. But the psychic traces of the past horrors are still there....

While the principal characters, who stumble around the drab woodlands uttering dialogue that I refuse to believe was scripted by a grown adult, are played by people who simply can't act, the supporting cast in the flashback sequences is filled out with a surprising array of talent. Norman Wisdom turns up as a toilet attendant for one scene, which is then repeated verbatim except that Wisdom has been replaced by Rik Mayall. No explanation is given for this. Robin Askwith, no less, is the horror writer's brother who's possibly having a long-term affair with his wife. Eileen Daly is in it as a psychic. One of the Internetter gang is Jason Donovan and the writer-director-auteur-genius himself shows up as the legendary horror writer under a pseudonym. Most intriguingly is the presence of Christopher Walken (!!!!!!) who despite prominent billing is not actually in the movie at all; it's just his voice reciting Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, sometimes over a rhythm track that threatens on occasion to turn into a rap.

The lack of any kind of competent script and several performances that don't warrant the term "performance" (and indeed barely justify the words "speaking out loud") from the rightfully unknown main cast aren't all that's wrong - they've decided to release it in red/green 3D despite the fact that most of the action takes place at night and all the flashbacks are in sepia, and despite the fact that red/green 3D simply doesn't work. You don't get decent separation of the two images and everything turns brown. Nor does 3D work terribly well when you're playing with the speed settings within the shot - a technique known as ramping, where bits of the shot speed up or slow down. (The DVD has both 2D and 3D versions; I only watched the 2D.) And it's presumably got its 18 for the nudity in the flashbacks as there's little onscreen violence apart from some below feeble CGI blood splatter and a brief double breast impalement.

Bizarrely, it's one of the few horror movies where one of the dunderheaded corpses-to-be doesn't wave a mobile in the air and bleat that they can't get a signal. Why? Well, it appears that chunks of this were actually shot back in 2001, and more in 2008. It's also unclear how this connects with Evil Calls, for which the IMDb lists the same cast and characters, but which doesn't appear to have been released, or Back2Hell, which would appear to be a sequel but has an even more unlikely star cast (Sylvester McCoy, Patrick Bergin, Bai Ling, Lysette Anthony, Colin Baker, Oliver Tobias) as well as several recurring from this one. Maybe it'll all make sense when viewed as a giant entity. Or maybe, and more likely, it won't because Driscoll simply isn't capable of making even halfway watchable films. This is rubbish: it isn't even fun rubbish, it's pretentious, dull, it looks like a fifth-form student film, it's hopelessly inadequate on all fronts and despite the star turns is worthless, wretched and depressing. If you rent it, more fool you and I have no sympathy for you.


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