Lonnie Knutsengripper: Man, Myth and Movies
This U.K. comedy focuses on Lonnie Knutsengripper, the fictitious, hard-drinking American producer and director of more than 300 “classic” horror films. He reminisces about two films that he made in England: Interred (1982) and its sequel, the Sh–house Strangler (1990). In the first film, a maniac flushes hapless victims down the toilet in his bar. The victims are “going down the pipe . . . alive!” according to one police officer. In the follow-up movie, the same killer escapes from an insane asylum and targets homosexual victims. As readers might guess, the comedy here is broad and occasionally lewd, but director Richard Rowbotham (who plays Knutsengripper) and screenplay writer David Fenn (who plays the killer) fearlessly keep the gags coming at a frantic clip in this microbudget tribute to microbudget shot-on-video horror features of yesteryear.
Teenager Emma (Shona O’Sullivan) is having a “no phones at mealtime” dinner on her birthday with her family when her smartphone starts chiming incessantly with incoming messages. Her younger sister thinks it might be a boyfriend sending the messages, but excused from the table and in her room, Emma sees that she is the victim of cyber bullying in the form of body shaming. Taking the messages to heart, she undergoes a tragic transformation. Writer/director Steven Dorrington’s U.K. shocker short features some body horror effects guaranteed to make viewers cringe, courtesy of makeup supervisor Hayley Ford and key makeup artist Rebecca Simpson. Off Fleek is a gripping look at the ugliness of cyberbullying and how some victims internalize such attacks.
Director Jonathan Zaurin’s U.K. action-horror short The Pit is something of a marvel as its look and feel totally belie its meager budget. A young man named Scotty (Oliver Robert Russel), who was trained most of his life to be a fighter by his father (Keith Temple), goes to the family gym and finds himself surrounded by murderous, blood-soaked, virus-stricken fellow fight trainees. He knows the only way to escape is to try to fight his way out. Zaurin, working from a screenplay that he wrote with Sarah Zaurin, balances heartfelt human drama with stellar action sequences and nail-biting suspense, as Scotty and his wife Fran (Katy Dalton) are shown lovingly discussing the upcoming birth of their first child between scenes of chaos and carnage. The performances by the leads are super, and the fight choreography by Russel is terrific. Jonathan Zaurin, who is also the cinematographer, shows a deft hand at editing crisply, with the fight scenes being highly impressive. To use a boxing term, The Pit punches above its weight, and the result is a unique take on the virus/zombie genre.
Three employees find themselves at the mercy of a monster invasion during a Christmas party in their office building in U.K. horror comedy Shredders. Director Darren A. Furniss’ fun short starts with the mayhem already underway, with a confused Stan (Michael James Dean, who also wrote the screenplay) and his boss Richard “call me Dick” Gables (Darren Ruston) barricading themselves in an office and hoping they won’t be noticed. Luckily for them, Peggy Reynolds (Sophie Mensah) joins them, and leads a plan for escape with her never-say-die attitude. The humor is well done, with, for example, our heroic trio engaging in small talk while their lives are at stake, and a bevy of visual gags, as well. Furniss works around budget limitations by not directly showing the titular creatures, and this approach plays out nicely thanks to clever camera angles, sounds of off-screen pandemonium, and reaction shots of the three protagonists. Shredders is a smart, high-energy horror comedy with solid pacing and impressive technical work.
Lonnie Knutsengripper: Man, Myth and Movies; Off Fleek; The Pit; and Shredders screened at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, which runs January 10th–19th at Park Inn by Raddison Palace, Southend-on-Sea, U.K.