Saturday, October 1, 2016

"It's a Creepy Business, Darling"


The Nucleus DVD of WORST FEARS not only tidies up the anthology, but also completes the mockumentary HORROR ICON.

THIS direct-to-DVD portmanteau collects seven shorts - all but one written by David McGillivray - and surrounds them with new framing footage by Jake West featuring The Storyteller (McGillivray himself). The tales, made between 2004 and 2011, are kept fresh by their different locations - filmed in Marrakech, Lisbon, Nice and London - and underpinned by a typically home-grown seediness and array of familiar faces. This Nucleus Films version is the second attempt at a WORST FEARS splicing, the first - a "horror hostess" cut with news presenter Juliette Foster in the role - premiered at the Electric Picture Palace, Suffolk, in 2007, and was instantly disowned by McGillivray's director Keith Claxton. In this revamp, McGillivray seems at home in the re-shot linkage, his camp fa├žade wryly adding gravitas to the tales to come.

Tincture of Vervain stars "Her Ladyship" Fenella Fielding, disappointed with a provincial group of elderly witches ("I thought you'd like a bickie"); Wednesday has an Eastern European cleaner falling into the clutches of Anna Wing and Victor Spinetti; In the Place of the Dead sees a Djinn literally devouring a disastrous marriage; Mrs Davenport's Throat mixes airport arrivals with Herschell Gordon Lewis; Child Number Four is a creepy child yarn based on Gavin Smith's The Scarecrow; After Image tells of a photographer learning his true fate; and the secret of a strange apartment is revealed in We're Ready for You Now

Are you prepared to face your worst fears? David McGillivray - described by Starburst as "a bit of a legend" - is The Storyteller.

Known for his self-deprecating sense of humour, McGillivrey refers to himself as a "prolific writer, mostly of hack journalism, but also lowbrow films, plays, and radio and television programmes" who "is becoming increasingly unreliable, grouchy and difficult to work with.” Originally a critic for Monthly Film Bulletin, his life-long involvement in theatre was a gift when making the shorts contained here, enabling him to have a list of contacts long enough to fill gaps when they inevitably appeared (especially as no one was paid. The Scarecrow in Child Number Four, amazingly, was even played by passing acquaintance David Brett, of Flying Pickets fame).

The DVD also includes HORROR ICON, which started life in 2007. Now completed and edited by West, this faux documentary attempts to track down the elusive figure of David McGillivray, a long-standing shadow over the heady days of 70's British horror and softcore. Interviewees either refuse to talk about McGillivray or are uniform in their distain, charting a parallel universe that implicates the writer and producer in Columbian drug smuggling. This one-note joke wears thin even though the piece is only thirty minutes long, but it is fun to see Norman J. Warren diss McGillivray, and hear
Pete Walker instantly put the phone down on just the utterance of the name of his partner-in-crime.