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Credo review from Grimmfest 2009

Here’s a review from US genre movie website QUIET EARTH

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Credo is a low-budget horror film directed by Toni Harman, written by Alex Wakeford and set in London. The film starts off with a group of Catholic students attempting to summon the devil himself. Of the five, Simon (the late Stephen Gately, who carries himself very well) is their leader, with his roots in Irish Catholicism; he’s seemingly obsessed with finding Satan, so as better to defeat him. Poor old Seth however, gets cold feet and runs away from the séance. Next morning, his four friends are all dead from suicide…

We then cut to another group of students, several years later, and they’ve just been evicted from their flat. Jock, a boisterous American… um… jock, has held one party too many and the landlord boots them onto the streets. Alice (MyAnna Burning) is a practical and dedicated psychology student who spends all her time in the college library studying for exams. Timmi is a shy brunette who has a secret crush, and Scott is a well intentioned nerd, who also has a secret crush. With their somewhat token and underwritten black friend Jasmine in tow, the five of them break into Eden Catholic Halls to spend a weekend of boozy fun and Ouija board tinkering.

Hands-down the best thing about Credo is this, and if you really don’t want a slight spoiler then skip to the next paragraph: It’s old-school, it’s cerebral and it’s scary, but there is no horror except that which is suggested. I live for a film that can scare me without resorting to buckets of gore, grotesque make-up or weak CGI, and once Credo gets going, it’s really an effective horror film. After a shaky start which has some pretty dodgy acting, the film finds its feet and we follow the characters through a terrifying journey in which Satan will try his best, through hallucination and time-shifts, to convince each person to commit suicide, so they die in sin and he claims their souls.

Harman has wisely chosen an incredible location for Eden, it’s a huge complex of run-down bedrooms and hallways, full of old mattresses and filthy radiators, broken lights and years worth of dust and grime, and it helps to perfectly set the tone and atmosphere for the film. Scott attaches cameras around the building too, and we get shots on his laptop in night-vision which are used effectively and add to the chills. The music and sound design warrant mention too, as they are simply terrific in turning-up the fright factor and keeping the audience tense as to the next scare, especially the microphone that Scott uses to pick up signals that humans can’t normally hear, that freaked me out completely!

In all – An effective and chilling horror film that uses inventive camera work, imaginative sound design and that overlooked little technique known as suspense and suggestion to create some real scares.

Credo at Grimmfest & a thirst for blood up north

I’ve just returned from Grimmfest in Manchester where Credo had it’s cinema premiere at the Odeon Printworks. It was really nice to see the film up on the big screen; it was the first time any of us had seen it projected properly like this. Credo was screened at the London Independent Film Festival earlier in the year, but that was held in a strange bar/cinema venue with an amateurish projection system, so the screening at the Odeon was in a different league (although, with my cinematographer’s hat on, the projection was a little on the dark side! But hey, it was Halloween after all!)

The other great thing was seeing  MyAnna, Credo’s leading lady there. We haven’t seen her since we were in the last throes of post production a very long time ago, so it was lovely to catch up with her. The occasion was all the more special as she hadn’t seen this UK version at all. In fact she had only seen what turned out to be a first cut of the film which has changed massively since then. And I’m happy to report that she hid behind her hands throughout most of the screening, being way too terrified to watch properly!

Afterwards we had a fun question and answer session in a room filled with severed heads, bloody limbs and disemboweled sheep (amongst other gory horror mementos!). I definitely saw Pinhead eyeballing us from the back of the room too!

The occasion was tinged with sadness too, however, as it was Stephen Gately’s cinema premiere too. We really missed him being there, but seeing his performance up on the big screen brought back a lot of happy memories and we will be eternally grateful for everything that he did for us and for the film.

Big respect to the Grimm Up North (Grimmfest) Horror Festival team! It was the inaugural occasion of this festival and  the organizers have done an amazing job. They clearly love horror and they know what they’re talking about. I hope it turns out to be the success that it deserves and they can make it an annual event. And thank you Sim and Rachel not only for putting on the Credo screening, but for getting us up to Manchester and back in the first place.

There’s definitely a real thirst for blood oop north!

Stephen Gately’s film premiere will go ahead

After Sunday morning’s devastating news about Stephen’s passing, our immediate reaction was to request the withdrawal of Credo from the Grimm Up North Horror Festival which is taking place in Manchester over Halloween. It turns out, however, that the Odeon cinema is reluctant to let us remove the film from the schedule as tickets have already been sold.

After days of deliberation and having taken advice from Credo’s UK distributor, we have decided not to fight the Odeon and so Credo will remain in the festival line up. Stephen was a massive supporter of the film and he has been instrumental to the success that Credo has enjoyed over the last few months and hopefully this screening will be an even more special occasion. It will be, after all, his and Credo’s cinema premiere.

I will be there as well as Credo director, Toni Harman,  to say a few words before the screening in memory of and in gratitude to Stephen. There will also be an opportunity to talk to Toni and leading lady, MyAnna Buring, straight after the screening in a Question and Answer session.

All inquires should be made to the festival web site.

Stephen Gately tragic news

Stephen111009I still find it difficult to believe that Stephen is no longer with us. Toni and I are shocked to the core by the news of his sudden death. Stephen was our most ardent supporter and I’m sure he would have done everything in his power to help us. That tireless enthusiasm and boundless generosity of spirit is all too rare in the entertainment industry and we will be by no means the only ones missing him terribly. Our thoughts and condolences are with Andrew and the rest of Stephen’s family and friends. Such a sad, sad day.

The Love Horror Credo review in full

Here’s the Love Horror review of Credo in full:

1 Take 5 students, a degree in the occult, a creepy old halls of residence, and what do you get? The perfect setting for a bit of ouija board and devil worship.
From the onset, it’s easy to think that you know how it’s going to pan out. But this little flick has more to offer than you might expect.

It has been a while since we reviewed a British film, so we were glad to receive Credo. There’s no doubt that I was a little sceptical when I saw that it starred Stephen Gately, but seeing as the lead was MyAnna Buring (Descent, Lesbian Vampire Killers) I put aside my hatred of cheap pop music and hit ‘play’.
A halls of residence at a Catholic university is chosen by Gately and his student friends as the perfect setting for an experiment. The object of which is – to discover whether the devil exists.
Armed with some candles and limited knowledge of demonology the group of 5 head up to a remote tower in the building to begin contact with the ‘other side’.CredoPoster
Early on in the proceedings, one of the gang goes chicken and walks out, leaving his friends unprotected (5 members are essential for this type of ritual) and as a result all but he are dead by morning, after supposedly committing suicide.

Some years later Alice (Buring) and her friends are students attending the same university. After losing their accommodation, they resort to staying in the spooky, abandoned halls of residence. Strangely they are also a group of 5, and predictably, familiar events start to unfold as the apparent evil forces reveal themselves.

Generally, the film is of a good standard. For an independent British film, it’s glossy, it’s professionally finished and it’s of a standard which you could easily mistake for being Channel 4 or BBC funded.

The cast are decent, each holding their own in this ‘bordering on the formulaic’ (for the most part) storyline. Gately as Simon is even pretty good, although fortunately he doesn’t feature much (I have nothing against his acting, I just can’t see beyond Boyzone!).
Myanna Buring is excellent, and really takes the film away from mediocracy. The script is a little odd at times, but she works around that and makes the role her own.
On the downside, I wasn’t too sure about the inclusion of an American character, Jock (that’s actually his name, not a reference to his high-school status). It seemed a bit unnecessary and as if it may have been a ploy to appeal to the American market. His stereotyped ‘whoop whoop! Paaartay on dudes’ behaviour was a little distracting. When the blood-letting began, I was eager for him to get ‘offed’ quickly.

5 4

The story itself is solid enough. Group of students, scary demons, a crazed stranger who could be a killer. And in the group, your typical teen horror movie characters: the cute lead, the brash jock, the withdrawn geek, the ethnic minority and the religious one.

And so I was lulled into a false sense of security, happily watching and correctly predicting events as the film bubbled on before me.
But just as the film approached the end, and I began to feel a tad unsatisfied, it took a big twist that I wasn’t expecting. A twist that actually made the film for me.

You know, one of those events that can keep you thinking for a while after the film, coming up with different explanations and serving as good conversation between you and your film buddies.

And there’s nothing more that I love, than a movie that does the unexpected.

3

Credo is a film that stands proud with the best of British horror. What it lacks in budget and finesse, it makes up for in grit and imagination. It’s solidly shot, constructed and communicated, and should serve as inspiration for any other British horror movie makers who aren’t pulling their weight at the moment.

For the elements of originality, gets a lot of kudos (or should that be credos) from me.

Check it out on DVD and Blu-Ray now. Quick! Before it gets exorcised back to the dark realm from whence it came!

Movie Rating: ★★★½☆

The Haunted Lodge: Part 3

I’ve been so distracted by Credo’s release over the last year that I had completely forgotten to finish off the story of one of our most haunted locations! So here it is…. (If you didn’t see the earlier parts then you can find them here PART ONE and PART TWO

Boiler_Room

But we weren’t defeated just yet. We still resolved to shoot in there, so we put together a small crew and arranged to shoot a full camera test in the house. We were going to be shooting on the Viper Filmstream camera, a new digital format that hadn’t been used for feature filmmaking before. We needed to see how it would perform on location, specifically this location.

viperontrackSo, a few weeks later, we returned to the house on a Saturday morning with ten willing volunteers and over half a million quid’s worth of equipment. And yes, both Toni and I were a little nervous that “he” might make his presence known. We were insured up to our eyeballs but someone later told me that insurance complanies can refuse to pay out if there is a suggestion of paranormal activity involved in any damages!

We started in the basement and did a few standard horror shots of a girl creeping along the passageway and into the room with the hooks in the ceiling! We moved from room to room to see how it would photograph on this digital system.

ghost_2 ghost_1

I have to say, no one felt spooked at all. Maybe it was because of the movie lights pouring in through the windows and the fact that we were all gathered together. We moved upstairs after lunch and grabbed a load of shots using no lights at all, just to check the camera’s exposure range. Before we knew it, the sun had sunk over Marble Arch and the day was over. And what’s more, nothing untoward had happened.

CCshoot1 CCshoot2

But as the crew packed up and headed home or to the local pub, Toni and I found ourselves overnight prisoners of The Lodge. The problem was that our equipment insurers had insisted the kit was guarded at all times and as it was Saturday night it couldn’t be returned until Monday morning. So a volunteer was required to sit with the kit over the next thirty-six hours and guess who that would be! Very quickly, the high spirits and excitement of the day’s shoot evaporated. As the darkness and silence once more fell on the house, Toni and I took refuge on the top floor with just our torches to ward off any evil spirits!

room

We didn’t get much sleep that night as we listened to creaks and groans echoing through the house. It’s a very old house, so I guess it moves an awful lot. But our imaginations were racing with every eerie sound, but nothing physically happened to us. My father insisted on taking over for a couple of hours to give us a break and rejoin the land of the living for a couple of hours. He’d bury himself in a book he was very much into while we were gone. When we returned, however, we found him pacing the hallway by the front door waiting for us to come back. His face was white as a sheet and his eyes were out on stalks. He wished us luck and squeezed past us out onto the street. The door slammed behind him and once again we found ourselves alone in the house, preparing for another fear-filled night.

It was probably only because our senses were razor sharp due to our nervousness, but the house sounded even more restless that night. More than that, it sounded impatient, as though it was getting ready to “do” something. Toni and I didn’t sleep a wink that night and we both regretted the EVP session we had conducted a couple of weeks prior. What had we been thinking? Rather than settling the angry spirit, we seemed to have provoked it.

At first light we were both standing on the pavement waiting for the lighting and grip companies to come and pick up their kit. We didn’t want to spend another unnecessary minute in that place if we could help it. Once they had come and gone, we locked the house up and vowed never to return. There was no way we were going to put the health and safety of our cast and crew at risk just for the sake of a film. Even though we couldn’t specifically explain why, we both just had a very, very bad feeling about the place.

And so, it was with a sense of relief that we continued our search for our movie location. Even though we wanted a “haunted” house, we didn’t want one that was really haunted! We eventually came upon two fantastic buildings that we could make out was one enormous building by using some simple editing techniques.

But little did we know that once we took up occupation of these buildings, the production would be plagued with some truly terrifying events. We really should have known better!

To be continued…

Brighton Film Workshops has a new web site

bfw_banner_1

We have just finished a stand alone web site for our Brighton based film workshops. You can visit us at brightonfilmworkshops.co.uk where you’ll find all the details of our November workshop programme.

Due to a deluge of inquiries, we are planning on expanding our programme to include other film-making subjects. If you want to have a say in what workshops you would like to see in the future, then CLICK HERE to choose your favourite topics.

Credo & Descent 2 are to screen at Halloween horror film festival in Manchester

Grimmfest has announced its first ever line up in this year’s Manchester Halloween fest and Credo will be screened alongside Descent 2.

Star of both films, MyAnna Buring will be there as well as Credo director Toni Harman.

The  four day event looks set to be a heady mix of the usual blood ‘n’ gore as well as psycho chills and zombie thrills!

Credo is screening on Friday 30th October and Descent 2 will be the festival’s opening film on Thursday 29th October.

Credo / Devil’s Curse DVD review from LoveHorror.co.uk

In the lead up to the inaugural GRIMM UP NORTH horror film festival, Credo (aka The Devil’s Curse in the USA) has a review on new horror web site LoveHorror.co.uk. You can check it out here.

More news on the Grimm Up North festival as soon as we get it.

Credo is out on DVD today!

The day has finally arrived! Credo is now available to buy from all the usual high street and online stores. But hopefully you’ll prefer to cut out the middle-men and buy direct from the filmmakers at the official web site.

This is the unique UK version which contains the full, uncut prologue sequence that features Boyzone singer Stephen Gately’s debut feature film role!

As the writer of Credo, I’m particularly happy the prologue is back in it’s rightful place as it helps make sense of the whole story, which, I have to admit, isn’t the most straightforward. But it’s a psychological thriller – what do you expect?!

Over the next week or so, we shall be adding new items to the Credo store, so check back with us if you are interested in posters, tee shirts and postcards etc.

Credo gets a mention on GMTV thanks to Boyzone members Mikey Graham and Keith Duffy

And not only that, but they managed to get a clip in too! They chose the scene featuring Stephen Gately and Colin Salmon. Very chuffed! Thanks GMTV and thanks to Boyzone, especially Mikey who introduced the clip and Keith Duffy who complimented Stephen on his performance!

Boyzone will talk Credo on GMTV this Friday

Well, they’ll hopefully mention Credo when they take over presenting duties on ITV 1’s GMTV show. Rumour has it that Shane Lynch will be doing the movie section and he may well mention Stephen’s feature film debut in our little horror movie Credo. We’ve sent in a gruesome picture of Boyzone mate Stephen Gately and there should be a clip from Stephen’s performance too. But you’ll have to be up with the birds and glued to your screens from 6am if you’re to see it!

By the way, if you haven’t seen it so far, then check out the special Stephen Gately poster from Credo. If you want to own one of these posters you’ll need to vote for it on the poll in order for us to get it printed up.

Almost at the magic 50 votes for the Stephen Gately poster!

Just a few votes away now. If we hit 50 then I’ll get the team working on making the poster up for real and it will hopefully be available sometime next week.

Stephen Gately poster

I am stunned by the sudden voting activity on the Stephen Gately poster for Credo! If voting carries on this way then I’ll have to get it printed up. If we hit 50 votes, then I’ll definitely go ahead.

P.S. if you have any suggestions on the poster, then let me know before it’s too late to change anything. Alex xx

Stephen Gately Credo poster

So far the poll has indicated a definite preference for poster number three featuring Stephen Gately’s character Simon. But if we’re going to get the poster printed up, then we’re going to need a lot more votes as it costs a small fortune! So please keep voting!

Credo, featuring Stephen Gately in his first movie role! Out on DVD May 25th.

Credo is released on DVD on May 25th

Credo is released on DVD on May 25th

The brand new extended version of Credo is available to pre-order from the official site where you can also buy posters and postcards. More goodies will be added to the store closer to the release date of May 25th. Keep an eye out for competitions on other sites including Stephen Gately’s official site. Prizes include lots of Stephen Gately goodies!

Credo official selection at the London Independent Film Festival

Credo has been selected to screen at the 2009 London Independent Film Festival on Monday April 20th at 8:30 pm.

Tickets can be booked from today at http://studio63.org.uk/liff/paypal-tkts.htm

London Independent Film Festival 2009

London Independent Film Festival 2009


Credo (The Devil’s Curse) posters & DVD covers

Here are some samples of posters and DVD covers for Credo and The Devil’s Curse. We are about to decide on which way to go, so any comments from you guys would really help!

UPDATE!!  CLICK HERE to see the latest posters.

Credo poster 1

Credo poster 1

Credo DVD cover

Credo DVD cover

Lionsgate DVD cover for U.S.

Lionsgate DVD cover for U.S.

Interview with the writer and director of Credo (The Devil’s Curse)

Here is an interview Toni and I did for a really interesting site that you should really check out called weaponizer.co.uk. Even though the interview was conducted just a couple of months ago, the film and DVD world has changed immensely. In fact, we’re not even sure if there is a film industry any more! Not for the independents anyway. Anyway, chin up, chests out, the show must go on…. and all that!

BELIEVE IN THE UNSEEN – CREDO

‘Credo’ is a new supernatural / psychological horror film, produced and financed independently by UK film-makers: producer / writer Alex Wakeford and director Toni Harman. ‘Credo’ looks very promising indeed – a taut, disturbing journey into darkness, which recalls the heyday of horror movies (‘The Shining,’ ‘Rosemary’s Baby’) rather than the schlockier modern efforts cinemagoers have gotten used to.

The film stars superdirector Neil Marshall’s muse Myanna Buring – she was in his claustrophobic classic ‘The Descent,’ and the awesome, apocalyptic rollercoaster that was ‘Doomsday. She also made a memorable appearance in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘The Impossible Planet.’ Myanna is a Weaponizer favourite, and a superbly talented star-in-the-making. ‘Credo’ also features former Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, in his first movie role.

With projects such as ‘Credo’ following on the heels of Charlie Brooker’s fantastic ‘Dead Set,’ and the aforementioned Neil Marshall projects, it’s a great time to be a British horror fan! Weaponizer was lucky to catch both Alex and Toni for an in-depth discussion of ‘Credo,’ and the state of UK indie film-making. Read on! If you dare…

Alex, what inspired you to write about the occult, and devil worship – does the fascination come from a love of horror movies, or from a deeper interest in dark magic?

Alex Wakeford: I was seduced by the dark side at a very young and impressionable age! Ever since I had a few encounters with the ‘unexplained’ as a kid, I’ve been bitten by the horror bug. I used to watch everything that was even loosely defined as horror. I was brought up on films where torch-wielding villagers would climb to the castle in order to plunge a stake through Dracula’s heart. I loved the fantasy of horror. But then I started watching a new type of horror film, ones that were set in the suburbs, in domestic locations. These brought horror right into your world. They were realistic and absolutely terrifying! Its one thing to be scared by films set on spaceships or Transylvanian castles, but it’s a completely different experience when you’re confronted by horrors that mirror your own viewing environment, i.e. your living room. You no longer want to hide behind the sofa because you have no idea what might be lurking there already!

I went to a school that was run by catholic monks and it proved to be the perfect stamping ground for someone with an addiction to horror! The imagery and stories of the Catholic Church are sometimes unbelievably frightening. When you go back to the Old Testament with its tales of mass death, pestilence and vengeance, your imagination runs wild! And you can imagine I got to hear a hell of a lot about the Devil and his legions of demons! On a more serious note, I have recently become very interested in different cultures’ belief systems and what some people are prepared to do in the name of their faith. I guess that’s where Credo started. It means ‘I Believe’ in Latin. What exactly do we all believe in these days? And are we still supposed to believe in the Devil and his demons? I’m also very interested in the psychological; in what makes us tick; what fears and insecurities we hold within ourselves, and who are we really? So, in short, Credo is about all those things, mashed up to hopefully create a sense of mystery and complexity about the human spirit. Anyway, that’s the pretentious answer!

By the way, Credo isn’t actually about devil worship; it’s quite the opposite. The trouble starts when some theology students begin to question the relevance of their Catholic faith in today’s chaotic world. More afraid to test the existence of God Himself, they reason that if they can summon a demon, then that will prove the existence of evil and therefore the opposite: good, or God. Toni, there are many legends surrounding movies about the occult – Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, to name just two, had problems on set that were rumoured to be connected to the supernatural.

Did you experience anything similar while filming Credo?

Toni Harman: One of the locations we filmed in was a derelict townhouse built in the 1790s. By the time we got to it, it was in a very poor state and had an eerie and oppressive atmosphere about it. During the course of the many location hunts for our films, we must have visited over fifty spooky basements, but this basement was by far the creepiest one I had ever been in. The layout itself is confusing. Huge, cavernous cellar rooms are interconnected by long, winding passageways. Some of the walls are covered in dirty white tiles, giving the feeling of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. And then there’s the smell; a rotting stench stemming from years of neglect.

As there’s no power in the building, whenever we walked around the place during pre-production, we would have to do it by torchlight. The odd thing was that almost every time we went down into the basement, the torches would fade. It was so dark down there that we had to use the light from our mobile phones to navigate our way out. The moment we started climbing the steps back up to the hallway, the torches would suddenly come back on. Pauline, the art director, would sometimes have to work on her own down there, preparing the set for the demon’s lair. She said she would often hear a distant howling coming from upstairs. We would check the place out, assuming it must have been the wind howling through the building, but we found no reasonable cause for it. During production, filming had to be stopped when we had to search the building for a mysterious figure that several members of the crew had seen watching us from the shadows. No one was ever found. ‘He’ was seen several times since, but to this day no one knows who he was.

AW: Toni didn’t mention that our other location, a 19th century abandoned fire station, also had an unwelcome resident. A grey shadowy figure was sometimes glimpsed darting across the far end of the basement and disappearing into a room that just about every crew member had bad feelings about. Stephen Gately said that he heard someone whispering in his ear in that room, someone who was looking for ‘Michael.’ He decided not to go back down there after that! I’ve talked to some members of the crew recently, and they told me of odd things that happened, things that they didn’t want to mention at the time. Like the sad, elderly man seen in one of the fire station bathrooms. The bathtub that mysteriously filled itself to the brim when no one was around. The dead flies that kept appearing in one of the character’s bedrooms (although we were never bothered by living flies). The objects that would vanish, then suddenly reappear after extensive searches for them. The list goes on and on. But the really scary stuff happened in a separate building just around the corner. This was a huge place that was ideal for a horror movie. Toni and I had been really excited about using it from the moment we saw it. However, there were so many incidents of unexplained occurrences, some of them quite violent, that we decided it would have been very unwise to shoot there. I talk about it in my blog and I’m going to put it up on the main website along with a full catalogue of the strange and often terrifying things that happened to us.

What kind of horror movie is Credo – are the characters sympathetic heroes whom the audience roots for, or is the fun in watching them get picked off one by one?

AW: Each character has two distinct sides to them. There is the public persona they show each other and the world, and then there is the private side that they keep hidden. I hope audiences will empathise and sympathise with the characters’ inner darkness and turmoil, and recognise that to varying extents we all have hidden depths. In my mind, if we continually conceal our fears and weaknesses, it will eventually lead to our downfall. It’s this that leads to certain characters’ destruction. We intentionally avoided all gore and splatter, because we think it’s far more powerful if you can scare people with things they don’t see, especially on a very low budget! It’s okay if you’re doing a comedy splatter film where dubious effects are part of the experience. But we wanted the film to have a deadly serious tone.

One of my favourite scary movies is ‘The Haunting’ which was made in 1963 in glorious widescreen black and white. They didn’t show anything; it was all done with sound. I think it might have been because of their budget restrictions, but whatever the reason, it worked a treat. The sound of the ‘entity’ thumping on the walls and doors still sends shivers down my spine! They remade the film in 1999 with a huge budget and huge special effects. It was a lemon. So, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t that is ultimately the most frightening. Why? Because the audience are using their own imaginations. You can’t create more spectacular special effects than that. Actually, now I think about it, Credo did have a severed head (I won’t say whose) that was expertly constructed by our brilliant chief make up artist Emily, but when we started shooting the scene in question, it just didn’t feel right for the story. So unfortunately we had to dump it. I might actually put some clips of it up on the credo website. It’s a very convincing head and it would be a shame to lose it entirely!

What was the logic behind the name change for the US market, and are you happy about the change?

AW: I’m ashamed to admit that every now and again I Google my name to see what it is I’m supposedly doing. A few weeks ago I was taken totally by surprise to find out I was the writer of a film called, wait for it, drum roll if you please… ‘The Devil’s Curse.’ At first I assumed it was a mix up on a site, but then I saw pages and pages of the same thing. All these sites had somehow made the same mistake, until… I saw the new poster. It was true! When you license out the rights to a distributor, one of those rights is the right to change the title. In fact I think they can change the entire film if they want. For all I know, they may have done that too! I’ll have to check out a U.S. copy when it’s released to see! I had suspected that distributors might want to change the title because they would be afraid that no one would connect with the word Credo. The thing I find funniest about the title change is that there’s no devil in the film and no curse. Okay, there’s a demon, but not the Devil. So… well…. I don’t know. Let’s see if it sells!

TH: I love ‘The Devil’s Curse,’ in fact I wish I had thought of it! For me, it says horror, it says this is not a slasher but a supernatural horror. Saying that, I also love ‘Credo’ as a title as it is more enigmatic and says it’s a film all about belief.

What were your influences as a writer on this project?

AW: I love mystery and suspense. More often than not, I’m disappointed when the monster finally makes an appearance. It turns the film from a frightening piece of tension and mystery into a comedy. Some films manage to pull it off to brilliant effect, like in Alien, but others tend to disappoint. Look at the first twenty minutes of ‘Jeepers Creepers.’ I love it. For one thing you have a brother and sister as your main characters, so you know no stupid sex scenes are going to bore you to tears. But once they have really got you hooked in, this weird man monster with wings suddenly jumps out at you. Ha! Boo! Now it just gets a bit silly. But I still love that film! I love the psychological. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was made in 1968 but it still feels very modern. ‘The Shining’ transformed a not so great book into a very scary, human story. I love ghost films where you’re never really sure if there is a ghost or if it’s something going on in a character’s head (‘The Haunting,’ ‘The Shining,’ ‘Videodrome,’ ‘The Others,’ ‘Sixth Sense,’ ‘The Blair Witch Project’). I’m also influenced by Japanese and Korean horrors that rely on atmosphere and a slow build up of dread for their effectiveness. Jump moments are fun now and again, but if your film relies upon them for scares, then it’s going to be instantly forgettable. For me, the mark of a good film is when it lives with you for a long time, and you’re still trying to figure out what the hell happened. But most of all, I like films with no easy or clear answers: life doesn’t offer easy answers so why should films?

You had former Boyzone singer Steven Gately acting in Credo as Simon. He hasn’t had very much acting experience before – what was he like to work with?

TH: Stephen Gately had always wanted to be in a horror film as he loves the genre. He was fantastic to work with: incredibly hard-working, really receptive to my direction, always good-natured and had a great sense of humour. Even though he has had huge success with Boyzone and has done over 10,000 media interviews, he never acted like a ‘star,’ but was just one of the gang. Stephen loves the supernatural and anything to do with ghosts, so we would spend hours swapping ghost stories, but I think we only just touched the surface. It would be great to spend an evening sitting around a fire scaring the hell out of each other!

This was Myanna Buring’s first time out in a film playing the central character – what did you make of her performance, and what did she bring to the film?

TH: MyAnna was amazing. Performance-wise, she was spot-on. She was intelligent, hard-working, fantastic to direct and completely gorgeous. Because she had just come off Neil Marshall’s ‘The Descent,’ she was in her ‘zone’. She knew the different levels of fear she needed to play and she was ready, willing and able to push herself to the extreme. She is the horror queen and I would love to work with her again.

AW: She’s technically very astute too. As I wanted the film to have as much naturalistic lighting as possible, we would sometimes rely on practical torchlight as the key light. It was critical that the actors would point their torches in exactly the right place so that light would bounce back from pieces of white card placed carefully just out of shot and illuminate them in precisely the right way. MyAnna had been doing a lot of this sort of thing on The Descent, so she took to it straight away. I think that helped the others enormously.

Tell me about the location – what drew you to that particular building visually? Was there any history of supernatural events at the location prior to filming?

TH: We were fortunate to have links with a property company in London that was about to renovate two derelict buildings into swanky luxury flats. One was a six-storey Georgian town-house built in the 1790’s and the other was a fire-station built in the 1800’s. Both buildings were right in the centre of town, they were secure, they had parking, they were atmospheric and incredibly cinematic, and even better, because the properties were about to be completely renovated, we could do anything we wanted to the buildings apart from make structural changes. The only downside was that we had a tight deadline to get the film shot before the renovations began, which meant that we had to move fast. As we knew exactly where we would be filming, Alex could write in scenes that took full advantage of the buildings’ architectural features, like the grand sweeping staircase, the labyrinthine basements, the winding bell-tower and the creepy attic.

AW: There were actually two different locations about half a mile apart. We ‘stitched’ them together in the edit to make the place look even bigger and more intimidating. One location had an amazing staircase and basement, the other had the institutional look that we needed to give the impression of an educational establishment. Together they were perfect! The buildings were just north of Marble Arch which is the site of Tyburn. That’s where they used to hold public hangings. They were often big stadium events, with grandstands erected to seat tens of thousands of spectators. One of the pubs where Toni and I would sit and plan ‘Credo’ used to be the last stopping place for the condemned on their journey from the prison to the gallows. They would be taken to the cellar, chained to the wall and given their last jar of ale. The chain is still there apparently! It all adds a very gruesome and spooky atmosphere to the whole area. Just knowing that the cart with the condemned prisoners would roll past the windows of the location, the streets thronging with crowds shouting and screaming at the pour souls who were about to be strung up as part of a grand spectacle! It’s no wonder there are so many ghost stories centred on that area!

How difficult was it to get Credo made, and how did the project begin to take shape after the writing of the script was finished?

AW Credo didn’t come about in a traditional way… in that it didn’t start with a script; it started with the locations. Once those were in place we created all the other elements in around it. I had the unique opportunity to write most of the screenplay actually in the main location. If I ever felt a bit flat and uninspired I’d venture down to the basement or up to the attic (both exceptionally creepy places – especially as the basement was rumoured to have its own resident entity!) and I would scare myself senseless. I’d quickly scribble down the scene and get the hell out of there as fast as I could! While I was writing the script, Toni was casting. It all happened very quickly, over a matter of a few weeks. The script wasn’t completely finished until the day before principal photography! In fact I had to rewrite a few scenes live on set as they weren’t quite working out as we’d intended. That was quite difficult at 3am when I’m trying to light a scene at the same time!

TH: Credo was born out of frustration. We had spent a couple of years trying to get another, bigger-budgeted horror film off the ground. Everyone loved the script but the response we kept getting was that as we never had made a feature film before, we posed too much of a risk to financiers. Our solution was to make a lower budgeted film on a smaller scale to prove not only that we could make a film but, more importantly, we could sell a film. We summoned the drive, energy and enthusiasm needed to motivate a small army, and we realised we’d have to act very quickly if we were going to succeed in our self-made challenge. So we came up with a story idea that was inspired by our locations and we set a date for the shoot.

AW: The most important thing was that date, because if you want cast and crew to climb aboard and give their all, then you have to stick to that date like glue. Independent filmmakers are often forced by unforeseen circumstances to change their shooting schedule and the cast and crew are the ones that suffer. So we vowed we’d never change that date, no matter what. To this day I still don’t know how we did it!

TH So we did the deal with the property people, a deal with the financiers and deal with the equipment and post-production companies all before we had a finished script!

AW The key to getting this film made was that everything had to come together at the same time or else we’d be sunk!

What are your plans for distribution now the movie is finished, both in the UK and abroad?

AW: Lionsgate are releasing the film on DVD on November 18th. We shall be releasing Credo in the UK in the spring of 2009. We have some very exciting plans for the release that will be based on events rather than just simple screenings. It’s all very hush-hush right now; all I’ll say is that it will be very unconventional and a lot of fun! And very scary, of course! (UPDATE: UK RELEASE INFO COMING VERY SOON! WATCH THIS SPACE!!)

Are you moving on to new projects now, and if so, can you tell us a bit about them?

AW: We are both writing separate projects, both of which we hope to make this year. Both are psychological horrors, but my one has added supernatural elements.

TH: Hopefully we’ll be shooting very soon as I’m desperate to start directing again!

Can you both also give me a little background on your own careers – what brought you to Credo? I believe you worked on a film together previously, ‘Daddy’s Boy’ in 2004. Was this your first work together? How did you meet initially?

AW: We met at film school in London and we hit it off straight away. From what I recall, we had an animated discussion about one of our favourite films, ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and we planned to make a crazy musical together for our graduation film. That never happened and somehow we both descended into the darkness of horror instead! Although, I would argue that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is very dark and deals with deep psychological issues! As soon as we left film school we started Alto Films together (Al and To, gettit?!) and have made several short films as well as some documentary stuff too. We did a series of shorts all about the horrors of commuting (simply titled: ‘Tube Hell,’ ‘Taxi Hell’ and ‘Bus Hell’) which were bought by Universal Pictures and have been broadcast all over the world. And then we made ‘Daddy’s Boy,’ our first foray into the world of High Definition that screened at lots of international film festivals culminating in being awarded best European Short Film at the Fantasy Film Festival.

In the meantime I was working as a cinematographer on commercials, promos, TV factual programmes and other people’s short films. Toni was earning her keep as a director of factual programmes. When distributors stopped buying shorts (mostly because of the proliferation of content on the Internet with sites such as YouTube) we decided the time was right to have a go at full length features. It was a huge step up and it near enough killed us, but we gave it a go with ‘Credo.’

Finally, what do you think about the state of independent film-making in Britain today? Is it easier to finance and make a film in Britain than it was say, ten years ago? Why do you think this is / is not the case?

TH: Independent British films are in the same place they’ve always been, right at the bottom of the pile fighting a losing battle to get into cinemas against big budget Hollywood movies. But instead of moaning about it, the solution is to make films that people want to see, and to be innovative in your approach to financing and distribution. I think agencies likes the UK Film Council make it easier than 10 years ago to apply for film finance. However, in my view, that produces a false economy of film-makers all too ready to rely on handouts. Making a film is difficult, getting a film distributed is even harder and the only way to do it is to just get on and do it!

AW: (UPDATE: I GAVE THIS ANSWER BEFORE THE SUDDEN COLLAPSE OF THE UK DVD DISTRIBUTION INDUSTRY AND THE EVEN LOWER LOWS OF THE RECESSION!) This has be the most exciting time to be an independent filmmaker ever! And not just for Brit filmmakers. No matter where you are in the world, recent developments in the World Wide Web have suddenly opened up opportunities for everyone, whether they’re a seasoned filmmaker or a movie virgin. In Britain, it used to be that filmmakers had to go cap in hand to the UK Film Council and beg for development and production funds. This was never going to be an ideal system as it doesn’t encourage filmmakers to be business minded and original. There’s nothing like the Film Council in America, where indie filmmakers have to bust a gut raising money for their films, but over here there’s a danger that we might start believing it’s our god-given right to receive handouts from the public purse. And I’m worried that forces filmmakers into trying to make films they think the UK Film Council would be more likely to fund, which amounts to a sort of self-imposed censorship. But, the great news is that we no longer have to toe the line and, at last, we can be masters of our destinies!

The Internet has become the indie filmmaker’s best friend, because their films can find their audiences there no matter how small or how niche they are. It’s just about impossible to get a theatrical release these days as the big studio films have completely flooded the market, which means there’s no room for us indies. Even though I love the cinema-going experience and there’s nothing better than seeing your film up there on the big screen, I do recognise that cinema owners would be taking too big a risk with indie films. Thanks to the Internet we are now able to bypass the tired and old fashioned distribution chain. Gone are the days when scores of corporate middle men grabbed their cut of the profits earned from your blood, sweat and tears. Gone are the days when we have no choice but to allow ourselves to be ripped off and mugged. Now it is possible for us to show and sell our films direct to our audiences. Thanks to the Internet there are so many methods to watch a movie now. You can upload your film so that audiences can stream or download it, or you can simply sell DVD copies from your own site. What this means is that all revenues come back to the filmmaker, which means the filmmaker can make another film. It’s all about making that next film. I’ve recently met a lot of inspirational filmmakers who have been doing just this. It’s still very early days, but these are the pioneers who are forging the future of moviemaking and, more importantly, the way that people watch movies. ‘Credo’ is in the slightly odd position of using both methods. We have a big studio (Lionsgate) releasing it in the States, but we’re taking complete control of its release here in the UK.

(UPDATE: ACTUALLY, WE’RE ABOUT TO MAKE AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE UK RELEASE. STAY TUNED!)

Thanks for answering our questions. We here at Weaponizer are really excited to see ‘Credo.’ Any other messages for our readers?

TH: I hope that people enjoying watching CREDO / THE DEVIL’S CURSE and if they like it, to tell other people about it! The more people that watch our films, the more chance we get to make another one.

Deadly DVD review of The Devil’s Curse

Here’s what I consider to be the fairest review of The Devil’s Curse I’ve found so far. It’s written by Annie Riordan and it certainly fuels my suspicion that women are getting the film more than men! Maybe that’s down to the fact that the director is a woman.

Read on or check it out for yourself at DEADLY DVD!

DEADLY DVD! REVIEW
1 DECEMBER 2008

Pretty college student Alice is one of those rare kinds of college girls: she actually takes her education seriously and devotes all of her free time to diligent studying. But her assholish roommate Jock has thrown one obnoxiously noisy party too many at their rented flat and get himself, Alice and their other three roomies – Timmy, Scotty and Jazz – kicked out into the streets. With nowhere to go, the roomies reluctantly accept Jock’s offer of temporary lodgings in an abandoned Catholic school. But conflicted Catholic lesbian Timmy is quick to point out the school’s dark past: seems a frustrated student went looking for the ultimate definition of evil and accidentally conjured up the demon Belial, who went on a killing spree and murdered the kid’s friends, making them all look like suicides.

After foolishly screwing around with a Ouija board, Belial seems to reawaken and starts stalking the shadowy corridors, making spooky noises and looking for new victims. But is it really demonic activity? Or is it all an illusion, created by the demon of trickery and deception?

Okay, seriously: unimaginative title and shitty cover box art aside, The Devil’s Curse caught me by surprise. It overcomes what seems like a tired premise with some solid acting, a smart script, a genuinely spooky atmosphere and a Jacob’s Ladder-esque twist that I never saw coming…and I’m not bragging when I say that I’ve seen so many of these formulaic slasher films that I usually always see the twist coming. Not this time, however.

Pretty MyAnna Buring (the petite blond whom horror fans will remember from The Descent and Doomsday) is Alice, and I nearly didn’t recognize her with her hair pulled severely back and her face devoid of anything but concentration. She barely smiles. Her hard, no-nonsense exterior just makes the twist at film’s end all the more surprising.

There’s not much in the way of gore here. Rather, the movie seems to prefer suggestion: eerie blue and yellow lighting, disturbing noises and the occasional jump scare. It reminded me somewhat of the recently reviewed Room 205, and if you liked that movie, you’d be urged to check this one out as well. It’s not fantastically brilliant or anything, but it at least tries to be original, and pretty much succeeds.

The Devil’s Curse review and trailer

So The Devil’s Curse has been unleashed for ten days now and it’s attracted its fair share of attention online, but I’ve been surprised by how polarized opinion has been so far. I’m obviously really pleased that the film has found an audience and that a lot of feedback has been extremely positive, but I had never anticipated how deep some people’s feelings would go the other way!

Good reviews are great for marketing purposes, but are even more appreciated by the filmmakers if only to keep their sanity in tact! But negative reviews are even more valuable to a writer and producer. Knowing what people didn’t like and why they didn’t like it will help in the development of further projects. So I’ve been busily collating and scrutinizing opinion so far. Here are a few examples of reviews I found online:

GOOD:

BAD:

You’re probably thinking I’m being a bit dumb drawing attention to the bad reviews, but it’s only fair to give a balanced picture. And anyway, I just can’t help it, what with me being a Libran. Call it The Libran’s Curse!

What seems apparent straight away is that the negative reviews are coming from gore hunters who may well have been taken in by Lionsgate’s trailer which does give the impression of a full on horror film. As the film isn’t full of on screen dismemberment, vomit and nudity then it’s clearly going to disappoint the gore fan. But then again, it was never intended for them.

So who was it intended for? I don’t actually think we quite knew the answer to that one when we set about making the film. Or at least, I think the audience shifted during the making and editing of the film.

It was only during the edit that we realised we were going to need to find quite a patient audience, so maybe people who were slightly older than the average horror crowd, and maybe people who didn’t normally watch that much horror.

And anyway, is this film really a horror film? It appears to have plenty of the hallmarks of a horror and the Lionsgate trailer certainly makes it look like one, but I see it more as a psychological thriller. Or how about a supernatural thriller?

One thing that is for sure, however, it doesn’t matter what I think. Once the film is completed and handed over to the distributors, then it’s up to the people who watch it. After all, they’re the ones that matter; they’re the ones we made it for.

For now I’ll just have to sit here, perched in front of my computer anxiously biting my nails, just waiting for the opinions to come in. And perhaps then I’ll understand the true nature of beast that is The Devil’s Curse!

The Devil’s Curse review

So here’s a review of The Devil’s Curse (Credo) I discovered following a link from imdb. It’s from a site called hometheatreinfo.com.

It has gotten to the point that when I receive another horror flick to review my eyes roll back in my head in anticipation of yet another slash and dash fiasco. So many new film makers are turning to a quick and dirty horror movie and the affect has been to dilute a once noble film genre. I have asked myself why I keep watching these flicks and there is one basic reason; every so often a movie comes along that is a pleasant surprise. One such movie is ‘Devil’s Curse’ also known under the title ‘Credo’. It is not a conventional horror flick at least not but the current so called standards. Unfortunately this deviation from the current popularly accepted benchmarks for the genre will result in a degree of dissatisfaction with this movie. It is not as bloody or overtly sexualized as most of the modern horror flicks. It does not contain overly explicit scenes of torture. It tends more towards the psychological motifs of the genre. In order to follow this kind of story the audience is expected to follow what is going on instead of just waiting for the next visually shocking moment. You can either scare a person on the visual or visceral level and this film takes the high road. This is also a prime example of what independent film is all about. It was made for an estimated budget of £750,000 which is a drop in the bucket even for many Indy horror flicks and certainly far less then the typical Hollywood movie. This film is not targeted at the typical die hard horror fan. It is for the more discerning audience member you are willing to commit to experiencing a movie instead of passively watching it. This film had releases in Europe but here in the States it is a direct to video offering. This method of distribution no longer carries the stigma that it used to hold. It is a viable way of getting a worth while film to the audience. The release is being handled by Lion’s Gate who has quite a reputation for little known movies like this.

The film was written by Alex Wakeford. He has some experience mostly as a cinematographer in a few previous shorts but this is his first time with a feature length screenplay. Having worked as a cinematographer has given him a means to visualize what direction he wanted the story to go. He builds up the suspense and tension slowly allowing the audience ample opportunity to get to know the characters and situations. This is necessary in a psychologically driven story such as this. The audience has to care about the protagonists and the terror that confronts them. This does require the ability to string together more than a few screams and sort of funny comments in a sentence. Wakeford relies on some of the classic themes of the genre to accomplish his goal. Unleashing an ancient and evil demon is almost always good for a foundation of a horror film. It allows the writer to create a rule set to work with and for the characters to inhabit. There is also the tried and true setting of the haunted house. In this case it is a deserted college dormitory but the idea remains the same. You need a dark and spooky location where the small group of victims can be isolated from any possible help. Admittedly some of the plot devices are somewhat overused. Somebody should find another way to kick things off other than a séance or a Ouija board. After all how demonic can a board and pointer be if it is mass marketed by the same board game company that makes ‘Monopoly’. Sure it has a long history of use and misuse but it is tome for writers to retire this device. With that said Wakeford creates a plausible story that will pull in the audience.

Directing the film is Toni Harman who also produces it. He has one short to his name besides this and his making his feature length movie debut here. Harman’s style shows considerable restraint not going for the cheap thrill to placate the mainstream horror fan. The film is paced well allowing the audience to understand what is going on in this Gothic setting. At least the young people here are not so annoying that you sit there just hoping they get killed off real soon. The kids here are typical for the genre wanting to test an urban myth about a deserted Catholic boarding school that is supposed to house a demon. Can’t the youth in towns like this just hang out? Do they have to summons evil all the time? All of this can be forgiven since after the run of the mill rational is provided Harman slowly begins to turn up the heat. Even the stock assortment of kids is more interesting than usual due to how they characters are presented by the director.

The film opens with a bit of a connection to historical fact. In 325 Emperor Constantine gathered a group of Bishops convening the Council of Nicea to avoid a schism in Christendom. The result was a credo still used by the Catholic religion. This credo did not address the question of whether evil existed. After a mood setting montage with suitable images such as locus and pentagrams we see a young woman, Alice (MyAnna Buring) sitting in a college library diligently at her studies. A professor comes in to remind her that the library is closing and she leaves. This sets up Alice as the main character of the film; you always need one good girl in the mix to cheer on. Her roommates are not as serious about their studies; Alice enters their flat to find a loud, alcohol fueled party going on. All the while someone, Scott (Mark Joseph), is watching Alice on a closed circuit television monitor. The five roommates wind up getting evicted because of the wild party thrown by Jock (Clayton Watson). Also out on the street is Jazz (Rhea Bailey) and phobic black girl and Timmy (Nathalie Pownall), the shy lesbian. Well, we have all the required potential victims assembled. With no where else too go they decide to crash at an old deserted dormitory that used to belong to a Catholic boarding school. Of course it isn’t long before most of roommates play around with the aforementioned Ouija board and inadvertently summons a demon.

Most of the film is the slow awakening of the demon. The house becomes creepier and creepier over time. There is nothing too flashy at first; this is a film where the plot is organically grown. Much of the story depends on the interpersonal relationships between the flatmates. They are an unlike group of friends who come to learn the darkest secrets of each other. This is old school horror not the buckets of blood and nudity most are used to. If this is the freshman efforts for Harmon and Wakeford I cannot wait to see what they have next; they a team that should only get better as they mature in their fields. Give this one a try if you are open to a different style of horror.

The Devil’s Curse is out there!

The Devil's Curse

The Devil's Curse

Here’s an ultra quick post to mark the occasion of the great big glorious day.

Fanfare if you please… The Devil’s Curse has been released!

Yes, thanks to the lovely people at Lionsgate, it’s finally out there, gracing the shelves of Quickie Marts all over America.

And it’s even in Canadia too!

The haunted Lodge: Part 2

The Lodge

The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons

In Part 1, I neglected to mention the colourful history surrounding the building and its environs. It was built at a time when public executions used to take place every Monday just around the corner at Tyburn. The high class residents of these newly built avenues and private squares didn’t much care for this gruesome activity and it wasn’t long before the gallows were dismantled after 600 years of neck-stretching and subsequent executions took place beneath the walls of the much feared Newgate prison. The neighbourhood’s social heyday was in the 1920’s when anybody who was anybody would be seen partying, canoodling and doing the Charleston in the excluxive clubs and luxury hotels of the area.  But when the West End, just a mile away, stole its glory, the area started to fall into a state of neglect.

When Toni and I first visited the area, there were dozens of empty and decaying buildings that were just screaming out to be used as a movie location. The building that we set our hearts on had, until recently, been home to The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, a secretive society that, rather unusually, was exclusive to female members. (We actually found evidence of their closely guarded rituals that they had left behind.) We had visited dozens of properties in our search for the perfect location in which to set a “haunted house” movie, but this, without any doubt at all, was the mother of all locations!

Over a period of several weeks, Toni and I returned to the house many times in order to find interesting camera angles and just to be inspired by the place. Even though we tried our hardest to conquer our nerves about the place, we were unable to forget the facilities manager’s stories about the building (see The Lodge Part 1) and whenever we were inside, we both experienced a constant sense of being watched and followed.

A constant sense we were being watched

A constant sense we were being watched

I wanted to compile a full photographic record of the building’s interior, but because it was always so gloomy in there, I would have to use a flash. Rather than settle for the garish and flat lighting that a camera mounted flash would give,  I had Toni handhold a second flash unit to one side which would help give the impression of depth. I had the camera on a tripod and used a slow shutter speed of about two seconds, giving us enough time to set off two flashguns manually. We made our way down from the attic rooms and it seemed the house was awash with flash explosions and I was getting very excited about the shots we were getting.

When we got to the first floor (that’s the second floor if you’re American), we decided to take a break. I left the camera on the tripod and balanced Toni’s flashgun on top. We thought it would be fun to check out the basement to discuss a few story ideas. We took the back staircase, the one originally designed for the servants, but we’d only got halfway down when there was the sound of a big crash from upstairs immediately followed by a loud ringing. It sounded like a fire alarm, or maybe a door bell as it only lasted a few seconds. We both thought this very odd as there is absolutely no electricity connected in the house. And we knew for sure that the doorbell didn’t work as we’d tested it on our first visit.

We both assumed there was someone else in the house, but as we had the only set of keys we wondered how they’d got in. Rather nervously and very quietly, we crept back up the stairs and nudged open the door to th long corridor where I’d left my camera kit. I didn’t know who or what to expect, but I was very surprised to see my tripod lying on its side. The flashgun I’d left on top had been completely smashed. I checked the tripod leg clamps to see if one had failed, but they were still perfectly locked off. Tripods just don’t have a habit of falling over; it’s rather like a chair or table overturning itself. I quickly searched the nearest rooms and the main staircase, but there didn’t appear to be anyone else in the building. But we both had a very, very bad feeling about the house. Not only that, but an oppressive gloom had suddenly descended on the house and, more than ever before, we felt that we were no longer on our own. We both felt inexplicably threatened so we decided to call it a day and get out of there. As we stepped out onto the street we were surprised how bright it was out there. We looked back at the house, its windows dark and impenetrable. The gloom seemed to remain inside, despite the sunshine outside.

I started to do some research into paranormal investigations and I wondered if it might be a good idea to return to the house in order to make our peace with whatever it was that seemed to have taken exception to our presence there. I wondered if the heavy use of flashguns had done something to disturb the status quo of the house and its occupants. I was also worried that if “he” (the angry male presence) was capable of doing that to my camera kit, what would he do to the very expensive film equipment we’d be bringing in to shoot the main movie? So I suggested to Toni that we go back one night, when it would be quieter and we could be more focused, and do something to try and make contact with the entity. I also thought we might have a go at Electronic Voice Phenomenon to see if we could record his voice. So a few nights later, Toni, myself and a friend who was helping us put the project together, turned up at the Lodge armed with a night vision camcorder, some candles and a bottle of Dutch courage.

I like to think we weren’t entirely stupid, so we didn’t head straight for the basement! Instead we made our way to the “mirror room”, the one where the image of a screaming face had been seen in one of the walls. We set up camp and lit the place with candles (no electricity remember) and set about opening a line of communication with the other side! I admit to feeling a bit foolish at first, talking to thin air, asking if there was anyone there and all that, but then I started to sense there was actually someone else in the room with us. Instead of feeling nervous or scared, the sensation actually made me feel more comfortable with my questions as I now had someone to whom I could direct them. I let “him”know why we were so interested in the house and what we were planning to do there. I guess I was trying to reassure him that we weren’t going to be staying long. We weren’t going to be changing anything.

When we had run out of things to say, we rewound the tape to see if the microphone had picked up anything. I had left long gaps between my questions for the entity to make his replies. We didn’t seem to have recorded anything that we could describe as paranormal, which was a bit of a disappointment as we had all definitely felt the presence had been amongst us.

As we stood around, wondering if we should continue the experiment elsewhere in the building, we suddenly became aware of how much quieter and colder it had suddenly become. During the day, the sounds of city life outside the windows was some sort of comfort to the deathly stillness inside the house, but now that it was nighttime and this part of the city had emptied of its workers, the silence had become extremely unnerving to say the least.

Our friend Julian wanted to explore the house on his own, especially the basement. He took the camera and off he went. I thought he was a little crazy, but he had come here for an experience and that was the most likely way he was going to achieve his wish! Toni and I kicked our heels upstairs for what seemed an age. We were starting to get very worried about Julian and we were just about to go and look for him when he suddenly appeared on the stairs. He handed over the camera and said he was going home. He didn’t seemed upset or edgy, in fact he just looked emotionless, or “drained” of all emotion. He had nothing to say about his solo journey to the basement; he just shrugged his shoulders and left. Just like that!

Well, Toni and I wanted to know what had happened in the basement because something must have happened to bring about this sudden change in Julian’s demeanour. In any case, I reasoned, it would be good for our writing experience. Let’s get ourselves really scared and then penning the spooky scenes would be a doddle!

We hesitated at the top of the basement steps, remembering how the facilities manager had been pushed down them on two occasions by our angry male presence. I raised the camera, flipped out the monitor and pointed it into the darkness below.  The stone steps stood out from the darkness in an eerie green glow. We took a deep breath and down we went.

We reached one end of the long passageway and immediately I wished we hadn’t come down here. I had thought the house was cold and silent upstairs, but it was freezing down here and the silence was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Toni headed down the passageway with me bringing up the rear. I don’t know which is scarier, leading or being at the back! I had such a strong feeling that someone was right behind me, their cold, clammy breath on my neck! But I knew it had to be my imagination, right?

Toni stopped outside the meat hook room; it seemed the logical place to go! She opened the door and stepped inside. As the door swung shut, a very loud dripping sound came from the other end of the passageway. My heart leapt in my chest. As well as there being no electricity in the house, there’s no water either and it hadn’t been raining, so there could be no leak. And what’s more, it was coming from right outside the door to what used to be that bedroom I mentioned in Part One. Then there was another drip, but it didn’t sound so much like a drip this time; it was more like a voice. A huge surge of panic swept through my body and I was filled with a huge sense of imminent danger.

I kicked open the door and threw myself into the room. I must have looked absolutely terrified from the way that Toni was staring back at me! I said there was no way I was going back out there as there was someone or some thing waiting for us. We stood in that room for ages and we might have been there until morning had we both not needed to use the loo so desperately! The Dutch courage hadn’t been such a great idea after all! We steeled ourselves, then bolted up the stairs and ran from the house!

(There is a little bit more to this story, but I’ve gone on long enough for one post. I shall finish it off tomorrow.)

(I’m also going to add footage from the EVP session as soon as I can lay my hands on the tape which I’ve put in a “safe” place that I can’t find it!)

Interview with Credo’s director and writer (& producers) on the web

Here’s a link to an interview we did for BumsCorner, a great movie news and reviews site.

Haunted location No.1: “The Lodge” (Part 1)

Okay, so here’s the story behind the very first location we managed to secure for Credo / The Devil’s Curse. When we first set eyes on the building, Toni (the director) and I both fell in love with the place as there could hardly be a more appropriate building in which to set a horror film in the whole of London.  However, it wasn’t long before we developed a very bad feeling about the place and within days of agreeing the conditions of filming with its owners, we were both of the solid conviction that there was no way in hell that we were going to risk the health and safety of our cast and crew by filming in there, not after what we had witnessed within its walls! So it was with a sense of relief that we politely declined the kind offer of its use and we continued our search for another location.

Our nerves started jangling even before we arrived at the location for the very first time. The facilities manager from the property company that was responsible for the building was walking us the short distance from Marble Arch to the place in question and Toni had picked up on a reticence coming from her. The manager told us that it was her job to check all the empty buildings in this area to make sure they weren’t falling apart and also to ensure squatters hadn’t broken in and taken up residence. The entire estate comprised of vast townhouses that were built from the 1790’s onwards and in recent decades the area had fallen into a state of disrepair. Most of the buildings were currently being redeveloped in a multi-million pound scheme, transforming the rundown area back into its former glory. Hence there being several properties being completely empty, waiting for their face lift.

Anyway, as we were walking to the property, the facilities manager told us that she would get quite nervous walking around the supposedly empty buildings, not because of the threat of intruders, but more because of the “people” still in residence. She admitted to having an aptitude for the psychic, a gift she had reluctantly inherited from her aunt, and she could sense a presence in a place if there was one. Some of the properties definitely had something to them, but it was the one she was taking us to now that she was most hesitant about entering.

It was then that we actually arrived at the place. It was a vast, seven story building with black railings above a deep basement well.

It rose six floors above us and one below

It rose six floors above us and one below

The imposing double front doors had lions heads as door knockers. As she put the key in the door, she turned to us in all seriousness and said that this building didn’t have a presence, it had several. She turned the key and pushed open the door. As we stepped into the hallway we were struck immediately by the sudden drop in temperature. We assumed this was normal for a house that had stood empty for an amount of time, but when we visited other similar properties, the temperature difference was nowhere near so great.

The main staircase and lift shaft

The main staircase and lift shaft

As we looked up at the main staircase that was entwined around a wrought iron lift shaft, she told us that most of the “people” here were completely benign; they were simply curious about visitors. However, there was one spirit presence here that she didn’t like one bit. It was definitely male and he had a fury about him; a vicious rage that sometimes transferred into the physical world.

As we wandered down the hallway and past the lift, she threw a glance at the stone steps that led to the basement. She told us that “he” had pushed her down those steps on two separate occasions. She quickly learned to take the back staircase from then on. She explained that the gas main and electrical junction boxes were down there and she had to check them as part of her job.

The steps to the basement

The steps to the basement

She had us both very spooked at this stage. At first I wasn’t sure if she was having us on, but by this stage I saw how frightened she was. I felt guilty for making us bring us here and I suggested going back outside, but she wouldn’t hear of it. We decided to start at the top of the building and eventually make our way down to the basement. As we made our way upstairs it was evident that the building had once been very grand, but it’s quite startling how buildings decay when they are vacated. Wallpaper was peeling from the walls, floorboards creaked underfoot as they sprung loose and damp patches from leaking roofs filled the place with a rotten stench.

The room with the "face"

The room with the face

When we got to one particular room, she pointed out the wall opposite the door. There was a large rectangular stain on the wall where she said an enormous mirror used to hang. She had been here when the removals men had taken it down from the wall. As they moved it they all noticed a face in the stain staring back at them. It was like a man screaming back at them. It faded over the next few days, but it had unsettled everyone and the removals men had worked extra fast after that just so they could get out of the building.

We were feeling a mixture of dread but also excitement at this stage because the house was perfect for a horror film! The large rooms, long, winding corridors and hidden servant staircases were all steeped in atmosphere. The angles were amazing. We could really visualize a great movie happening here. Yet, we also felt a rising urge to get out of the building! Something just wasn’t right. And we hadn’t even seen the basement yet. We couldn’t leave without visiting the bowels of the building!

Servants staircase

Servants staircase

We decided to take the back route down there. The servants’ staircase didn’t have any of the sense of danger and foreboding the main steps by the lift shaft had. We shrugged off any lingering and irrational fears we were carrying with us and ventured down. I was particularly excited as it was the basement that we had really come to see. We had been told it was vast and labyrinthine with high ceilings that would make filming so much easier. And apparently it was pretty much unaltered since the building was built in the 1790’s.

As we neared the bottom of the staircase, however, the nerves suddenly returned. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and all my senses to become fine tuned. There was a curtain pulled across the doorway at the bottom of the stairs. I glanced back at the other two as I was about to pull the curtain open, thinking I might say something spooky as a joke, but when I saw their eyes I froze. I realized my eyes were probably the same, wide open and out on stalks.

The basement passageway

The basement passageway

As I parted the curtain, we found ourselves at one end of a long passageway, the other end of which disappeared into total darkness. The floor was covered in the original 1790’s paving slabs and were worn down by 150 years of servants’ footsteps hurrying up and down that passageway. I had come armed with a couple of torches and I offered one to Toni. When I switched it on I could see the bottom of the lift shaft at the other end of the passageway. It was very spooky, looming out of the darkness like a cage. My imagination was racing. Everything took on extra meaning: what manner of beast was kept in such a cage in the bowels of an abandoned mansion? And what were those hooks for in the ceiling of one of the basement rooms? For hanging flesh? Well, yes actually. It had once been the cold meat room in the days before refrigeration. It’s just no one had bothered removing the hooks.

Basement room

Basement room

When your imagination starts working like this you end up laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I soon had my camera out snapping away at all the amazing features. It wasn’t until we reached a low doorway at the far end of the passageway, right opposite the lift shaft that the unease started to take its cold grip once again. Bending down to go through the door, we entered into a small room that looked like it had once been used as a bedroom. The air had a clammy warmness to it, completely out of keeping with the rest of the house. And it smelt slightly sweet. The strangest thing of all was that it felt like whoever had once occupied this room had never left. In fact, it felt like they were still there, standing in that room with us. Could this be the facilities manager’s malevolent male spirit, standing amongst us, watching us?

Toni and I looked at one another then turned to look at her. Her face was white as a sheet. Her eyes wide and staring. I was suddenly filled with the overwhelming desire to run.

We were back outside on the pavement within thirty seconds of that moment! We thanked the manager for showing us around and made sure that she was okay, but she seemed completely fine as if nothing had happened. But then again, nothing had actually happened!

Toni and I had a stiff drink in the local pub (more on that place later!) and talked excitedly about the prospects of shooting in that house. An actual haunted house, what could possibly be better? Think about the marketing possibilities. It would be like Blair Witch; we would set up a web site about it and talk about all the things that happened during the shoot etc etc etc. It was going to be perfect!

Little did we realize then what would actually happen when we tried to film there.

To be continued in part 2.

What do Obama, Guy Fawkes and Credo have in common?

On the day America elected a new man to lead their country, the English are preparing to burn effigies of a man who plotted to exterminate their king and Parliament a little over 400 years ago.

Two men who share one thing in common, their demand for wholesale changes in the governance of their countries. Fortunately it looks likely that Obama will use far more sensible and peaceful methods to bring about this long-awaited change!

So how does this relate to Credo / The Devil’s Curse? Well Guy Fawkes was publicly executed in 1606 and Credo was shot in 2006 exactly 400 years later! And what’s more, it was shot just yards from the infamous Tyburn, the feared and loathed place of public execution from 1196 to 1783.

Guy Fawkes' execution

The execution of Guy Fawkes

The journey to Tyburn

The journey to Tyburn

The Tyburn tree was a tree on the banks of the river Tyburn, a river that is still there, but now runs underground. The site is now Marble Arch at the western end of London’s most famous shopping thoroughfare, Oxford Street. In the last 200 years of hangings there, prisoners were carted across London from Newgate prison to Tyburn every Monday.

The pub where Toni and I hatched our own plot (Credo’s of course), boasted that it was the last stopping point for the condemned prisoners where they would be chained to the wall in the cellar and given their last jar of ale. Supposedly that’s where the phrase on the wagon came from as once the prisoner had downed his draught, he was then put on the wagon to Tyburn where he would be executed and therefore would never have another drink again!

The gallows at Tyburn

The gallows at Tyburn

So, back to Credo. During the last few years of executions at Tyburn, the buildings where we shot Credo were being erected. It is estimated that up to 60,000 people were hanged at Tyburn, so you can imagine there being a lot of unhappy souls still wandering in the vicinity. And from what we saw and heard in our locations, it would seem we encountered some of them.

I’ve been asked to keep details of the actual locations secret as these buildings are currently being converted into luxury apartments and stories of paranormal occurrences might put buyers off! All I can say is that one of them is a vast townhouse built in the last part of the Eighteenth Century and it’s last occupiers were a foreign High Commission.

Credo's main location

Credo's main location

The other location was a fire station built in the Victorian era and looks like a set built for a Hammer House of Horror movie! Cast and crew witnessed frightening events at both locations, but it is at a third location that Toni and I had the most terrifying experiences of all. And that’s the reason why we made the decision not to shoot there!

But that is the place I’m going to tell you about first. Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you the low down on the place that used to be a Masonic Lodge until its members abandoned it several years ago.

Interview with Credo director Toni Harman

Here’s an interview Toni did with LoveHorror.co.uk

CREDO_pentagram As you could probably tell from our recent review, we liked Credo – it was the best British horror film that we had seen for a while.
And so it made sense to unleash one of our hideous, monsterous interviewers unto the outside world and allow them to  chat to director, Toni Harman. The goal: to find out more about the movie without devouring her or damaging her mentally.
Zombie1 was allowed out of the office for a limited amount of time to conduct the interview.
How did you get into directing?

I went to the London International Film School (now called the London Film School) in Covent Garden and specialised in directing. After graduating, I worked as a  Producer / Director on documentaries and factual programming and also made my own short films. The short films did quite well and were distributed internationally and broadcast in over 40 countries.

The next step was to make a feature film. Together with my writer / producer partner Alex Wakeford, we formed a production company, Alto Films, and wrote a few feature scripts. We came close to getting a bigger budget feature off the ground but the finance fell apart at the last moment.

So we thought ok, let’s just make a low-budget feature film using whatever resources we could lay our hands on. To be honest, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain!

How did the idea of Credo come about?

Credo started with the locations.

We knew we wanted to make a low budget “haunted house” style horror film and we were on the lookout for a suitable location.CREDO_MyAnna3

We already had a relationship with a London property company as we had shot a short film in one of their empty properties. It just so happened that at the time we were looking to make our feature, this property company had two huge derelict buildings that were about to be renovated and they agreed to lend them to us to make a film!
So we had the locations, we had a time-frame in that we had to be out of the buildings in four months before renovations began, now all we needed was a story.
We kicked around some ideas and very quickly, we had the gem of a story.

Then things moved very quickly. Alex wrote a very rough draft of the script, we found crew, we did a deal with a company to supply HD cameras and online post-production and we even found the finance – all within about 3 weeks. Whilst I started casting, Alex worked on the script.

Meanwhile, architects were drawing up plans to turn the derelict buildings into luxury apartments and we were drawing up plans to shoot in them.
It was a race to see who got there first.  I remember one day in the middle of the shoot, surveyors turned up in hard hats and after every take, they’d start writing in chalk on the walls. As soon as they’d move on to the next room, we’d wipe the chalk off and go for another take! I often wonder now if the new luxury apartments aren’t quite as luxury as they’re supposed to be because of us!

That sounds pretty intense, so how did you go about casting for the various roles?

Director Toni Harman stillCasting was pretty straight forward. We had a casting agent who short-listed actors and then we whittled down the short-list. Part of the audition process was to test the actors fears by taking them down into the really scary basement. If they survived that, they could survive anything!

In fact, during filming, one of things that seemed to work really well was to make the actors terrified for real. Just before a scary scene, I would send an actor down into the basement for five minutes on their own, armed with just a torch. They came back  completely wired, psyched up, terrified and ready to shoot!

And how did Stephen Gately get involved?

Our casting agent contacted all the London agents asking which of their clients might be interested in being in a UK horror film and Stephen’s name was put forward.
He’s a huge fan of horror and one of his burning ambitions was to die in a horror film and so, watch the film to see if we made his dream come true!

Stephen was was fantastic to work with, incredibly hard-working, really receptive to my direction, always good-natured, and had a great sense of humour. More importantly, he could really act and he delivered a fantastic performance.
Even though he has had huge success with Boyzone and has done over 10,000 media interviews, he never acted like a “star” but was just one of the gang.

Are you a fan of Boyzone?

I love Boyzone! Though admittedly I haven’t bought any of their singles or albums or been to a concert. But then again, I haven’t bought any single or album for over twenty years – I’m just not that into listening to music.

Be honest, was he singing all the time?

During down-time, occasionally Stephen would click his fingers and maybe sing a line of a song to himself, more just to relax than anything. But never really in front of anyone and never to attract attention to himself. But during the shoot, he was absolutely professional and really focused on acting.

CREDO_COLIN_SALMON

Was it difficult as part of a British production company to get your film ‘out there’ and noticed?

Making the film was relatively straight forward, selling the film afterwards has been much harder!

It is really difficult to raise your first feature above the parapet especially if it’s a genre piece made on a very low budget with no A-list stars.
Our route to market was to secure a UK sales agent who premiered the film at the American Film Market. This led to some international sales and a Lionsgate release in the US. Then Guerilla Films came onboard for the UK.

However, the film was pirated even before it had been released in the US (the pirate copy was the US version and not the UK version which features more of Stephen Gately).
The way we found out was that one day we googled the film and suddenly we discovered that it was no.1 in the illegal download charts above “The Dark Knight” which had just been released. Tens of thousands of people had watched Credo illegally (or The Devil’s Curse as it’s called in the US) and yet, it hadn’t actually been officially released. This dealt a huge blow to our future international sales.

We never thought our film would be pirated. We thought piracy only happens to big Hollywood blockbusters, not tiny little budget UK indie films! Especially before it had even been released! That’s a big lesson to us and next time, we’ll do things differently. Still, the positive is that it did get our film out there and noticed.

Ouch… it’s crazy how fast people seem to get illegal content online.
So, was there a sneaky motive in using an American character in the film?

We have to admit, we thought it might slightly improve our chances of selling to the US market. But saying that, the American in the film, Clayton Watson, who played “The Kid” in The Matrix trilogy, is actually Australian.

And maybe our strategy worked as we did make a US sale and maybe having an American character did help in some small way. Given the same situation, I would do the same again as any little thing that helps make your film more attractive to the US market is worth doing on a commercial level.

There are accounts of supernatural happenings on the sets of many horror films. Did anything spooky or strange happen during the making of Credo?

One of the locations we filmed in was a derelict townhouse built in the eighteenth century and by the time we got to CREDO_MyAnna2it, it was in a very poor state and had an eerie and oppressive atmosphere about it.

The basement was by far the creepiest one I had ever been in. The layout itself is confusing. Huge, cavernous cellar rooms are interconnected by long, winding passageways. Some of the walls are covered in dirty white tiles, giving the feeling of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. And then there’s the smell; a rotting stench stemming from years of neglect.
As there’s no power in the building, whenever we walked around the place during pre-production, we would have to do it by torchlight. The odd thing was that almost every time we went down into the basement, the torches would fade. It was so dark down there that we had to use the light from our mobile phones to navigate our way out. The moment we started climbing the steps back up to the hallway the torches would suddenly come back on.

Pauline, the art director, would sometimes have to work on her own down there, preparing the set for the demon’s lair. She said she would often hear a distant howling coming from upstairs. We would check the place out, assuming it must have been the wind howling through the building, but we found no reasonable cause for it.
During production, filming had to be stopped when we had to search the building for a mysterious figure that several members of the crew had seen watching us from the shadows. No one was ever found. “He” was seen several times since, but to this day no one knows who he was.

In Credo, things start go bad for the group of teens when they set out to prove whether the devil exists. Do you believe in him/it?

I don’t believe in the devil but I do believe in evil. I don’t view evil as an outside force, but rather evil lives within humans and we have the power to choose to be evil or not.

Belief is an interesting concept and I’m interested in what it is that each of us believes in this modern, hi-tech, consumer led world.
Millions of people around the world believe in demons and the film hangs on the question, what would it take you to make you believe there’s a demon in your own home.

Do you have a favourite horror film?

I’m a huge horror movie fan, but only of a certain type of horror flick – deadly serious horrors where there are no comedy one-liners and surprisingly for a horror fan, no gore (ok, a bit of blood but no gratuitous decapitations!). I don’t have a single favourite but this is my list of all-time favourite horror movies that absolutely hit my horror g-spot.
My favourite type of horror is J / K / H-K horror. I love Asian horror as it’s atmospheric, it tends to be psychological and it’s steeped in a strong cultural identity.

So in no particular order: The Eye, Audition, The Rings, The Grudges, Reincarnation, Dark Water and A Tale of Two Sisters.

Next, I love old-school Polanski, Hitchcock and 60’s & 70’s horror, where it’s more about what you don’t see than what you do see.

So again in no particular order: Psycho, The Birds, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, Black Christmas, The Haunting, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Omen and Amityville Horror, Don’t Look Now and Alien.

Then coming on to more recent horrors which are atmospheric, clever and terrifying: Blair Witch, REC, Cloverfield, P2, The Orphanage, the first 20 mins of Jeepers Creepers.

Toni and writer, Alex WakefordToni and writer, Alex Wakeford

Okay, your horror loving credentials are proven (with some rather nice choices). What advice would you give other aspiring British horror movie makers?

The only way to learn is to do it yourself. No matter what anyone says, unless you experience something yourself, it’s impossible to take advice. So go out, shoot a low budget feature, work your socks off, make mistakes, be driven crazy doing jobs yourself because you can’t afford to pay anyone else to do it and go through the roller coaster ride of securing international sales. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

I am really attracted to films that explore the dark side of human psychology and my next project is a dark urban psychological thriller with a vexed teenage girl as the main character. It’s a Hitchcock style “knots-in-your-stomach” teen thriller and I’m really excited about and I can’t wait to get shooting!  We’re attaching cast at the moment and we’re looking to shoot next year.

Additional Information:CredoPoster

CREDO is screening at this year’s Manchester Grimmfest Halloween Horror Festival on Oct 30th at the Odeon Printworks – http://www.grimmfest.co.uk/

CREDO is available to buy on DVD from Amazon and from the film-makers themselves – www.credothemovie.com

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