Wednesday 5 June 2013

Evil Calls - world's longest film review (pt.1)

Originally posted on my main website in 2008 but removed, like the other reviews, to save my Webhost from receiving any more threatening e-mails from Richard Driscoll. Reposted in June 2013 in honour of Driscoll's conviction for tax fraud.

Before you start reading this, be warned. The full review is 22,000 words long.

See also Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Director: Richard Driscoll
Writer: Richard Driscoll
Producer: Richard Driscoll
Cast: Rik Mayall! Jason Donovan! Sir Norman Wisdom! Crikey!
Country: UK
Year of release: 2008
Reviewed from: UK DVD

Here it is at last. Seven years after Kannibal and six years after it was actually shot, Richard Driscoll’s fourth feature (or possibly fifth) finally makes it to DVD, self-distributed through Driscoll’s InternetGore website without the benefit of a BBFC rating (which is not strictly legal…). The bulk of this film was shot in 2002 as Alone in the Dark although Driscoll had announced the previous year that he was planning to adapt Poe’s ‘The Raven’ (which he seemed to think was a story rather than a poem).

In a move which is bound to frustrate title purists, the actual release title is unclear. ‘Evil Calls’ is superimposed over a silhouette of a raven, then the two words fade away and the bird shape morphs into ‘The Raven’. So is it The Raven: Evil Calls or Evil Calls: The Raven? Or just Evil Calls? Or, as per the sleeve design and assuming that the three phrases thereon are to be read in the same order as the similarly structured logo for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, is this film actually called The Raven Episode One: Evil Calls?

Who knows? Who cares? I’m not bothered by these things the same way some other horror movie journos are and the actual title is the least of the film’s problems.

In terms of narrative theory and on the basis of the two Driscoll films which I have previously been able to see, the man is an auteur whose work falls into two camps: pictures like Kannibal which are blatantly unoriginal rip-offs and pictures like The Comic which are - please excuse me but I don’t know of any other way to phrase this with appropriate emphasis - Fucking Incomprehensible. Evil Calls definitely falls into the latter category, defying any attempt to establish a coherent narrative (although it does also rip off some better-known films, as we shall see). This picture makes absolutely no sense, both in terms of the overall story and at a more detailed level within individual scenes. Having watched it twice, my belief is that the only way to fit the film into any sort of narrative convention - the only way to effectively understand or ‘read’ the film - is to accept that it all takes place in an alternative dimension where the basic rules of time and space, cause and effect, reality and fantasy just break down completely and no longer apply. I am absolutely sure that this is not Richard Driscoll’s intention (at least, not throughout the whole film) but it’s a fun way of looking at this extraordinary motion picture.

I should stress here that, whatever else it may be, Evil Calls is enormously entertaining. The Comic was incomprehensible and boring but Evil Calls is a rare example of an oft-cited though rarely delivered cinematic genre. It really, really is So Bad It’s Good. Most films which are claimed to be SBIG, on inspection, aren’t. That’s one of the reasons why Mystery Science Theatre 3000 edited down the films it showed and added not just comments over the image but also interstitial scenes with the regular characters. In a sense it’s why horror hosts traditionally intrude into TV screenings to make comments. Yes, on a technical level they’re acting as bumpers to the commercial breaks but on an artistic level they are adding an additional level of entertainment to something which seems on the surface to be an absolute riot but which is likely to pall quickly if it goes on for more than ten to fifteen minutes without interruption. Essentially, the host is there to stop the viewers from channel-surfing by switching the action of the remote from the receiver to the broadcaster, pre-empting what-else-is-on boredom by jumping in to poke fun at the film, elevating mildly amusing concepts to (supposed) hilarity through pointed satire. Bad films simply aren’t So Bad It’s Good when you sit down to view them, they’re just bad. They need a regular infusion of good from somewhere else to be worth the time and effort invested in watching them.

Few indeed are the bad films which can stand on their own two feet, engaging a viewer’s attention for a full 70-80 minutes. As a jobbing film journo and devotee of cinematic exotica I’m probably easier to please in this respect than most people. But I genuinely do believe that Evil Calls is so awful, aiming so high and falling so low in so many respects, that it is actually far more fun to watch than many ‘good’ films which, in truth, are merely competent. By way of example, and before we get down to the review proper, allow me to place on record that this is a film ostensibly inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe which manages to misspell Poe’s name in the opening credits. It really is that gloriously inept and it rarely lets up. Truly, this is like an opera version of Tosca.

I almost used the adverb ‘relentlessly’ in the previous paragraph but Evil Calls is not relentlessly awful. One reason why it succeeds is because it has moments of genuine quality - not least the appearances by Rik Mayall and Norman Wisdom - which serve to break up the film in the way that an intrusive, satirical horror host might (or indeed a few decent TV ads). Ironically, Mayall’s and Wisdom’s scene are consecutive but as the film is fairly short anyway, they provide a suitable midway break. Mind, it’s the performances of the two actors which show quality, not the scenes themselves which are possibly even more Fucking Incomprehensible than the rest of the film.

So Evil Calls is, perhaps, the perfect bad film. It’s not too long, it’s packed with different ideas and themes and it’s sufficiently outré that the viewer can easily see that their incomprehension stems from the film-maker’s lack of talent rather than their own lack of understanding. Above all, it’s deliriously, decisively, deliciously weird. In an interview among the DVD extras, Mayall tries to argue that Alone in the Dark (as was) is not a horror film but belongs in its own subgenre which he calls “fucking weird”. He’s talking nonsense in claiming it’s not horror (though to be fair most of the really gruesome stuff was shot six years after his scenes and probably wasn’t in the script he saw) but he’s spot on with his ‘fucking weird’ subgenre. This is a trippy film, one that might actually start to make sense if viewed through a drug-induced distortion of reality, the unreality on screen effectively cancelled out by the unreality of the viewer’s narcotic-fuelled cognisance. That’s an experiment I’m not planning to try although that has more to do with my clean lifestyle than a reluctance to watch Evil Calls again. Still, who would ever have thought that Richard Driscoll would make a film that, in one sense, could stand comparison with masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Koyaanisqatsi?

The other point which I want to stress upfront is that I did not approach Evil Calls with preconceptions. Until I actually watched the DVD it was - like everything else I review - a quantum movie, inbetween the phase states of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (though there are of course many gradations within and between those concepts in the real world) and only settling into the latter state once I had seen the whole thing. Although I must admit it started leaning that way the moment I saw how they had spelled Edgar ‘Allen’ Poe in the credits. Of course I came to the film with expectations. On the basis of Kannibal and The Comic I fully expected Evil Calls to be rubbish - and my expectations were met beyond my wildest, erm, expectations. Any artist who establishes a consistent style across two or more pieces of work creates expectations but a truly open-minded and honest critic (which I like to think I am) knows that however consistent the artist’s work to date might be, each new piece can surprise and/or disappoint. Just as I would expect a Tim Burton film to be gothic, a Roger Corman film to be cheap and a David DeCoteau film to feature a number of young men without shirts, so I expect a Richard Driscoll film to be, by any reasonable standard, rubbish.

But expectation is not prejudice. Had this turned out to be a masterpiece, or even vaguely competent, then I would be the first person to sing its praises. Let’s face it, I’m the only film critic who ever writes anything about Richard Driscoll’s work so if I don’t give credit where it’s due, who will? And credit is due to some aspects of Evil Calls, as indeed it was due to some aspects of Kannibal (check my review - there are moments of praise in there) although I don’t think there are any redeeming features to The Comic apart from its highly commendable obscurity. In a sense, it’s the flashes of potential which make this film and its predecessor so terrible, serving only to emphasise how crap the rest of it is by briefly reminding the viewer what a real movie looks like.

So I come not to bury Richard Driscoll nor to praise him, only to document, explore and analyse his unique contribution to cinema. If I have a bloody good laugh along the way, that’s just a bonus.

Because of its lack of coherent narrative structure, the best way I can analyse Evil Calls is to take you through it, scene by scene, as I was forced to do with some of the more eccentric Thai films that I have reviewed in the past. In those cases I was hampered by cultural differences and a lack of subtitles but here there is no such obvious get-out clause for the film. Evil Calls simply Does Not Make Any Sense, as I am about to demonstrate. So if you would prefer to enjoy the film without my critical influence, I urge you to stop reading now, go to, order yourself a copy and watch it. Then come back here and see if we agree. I’m sure we will. For those who have seen the film or plan to never see the film or don’t care about spoilers - eyes down for a full house.

We kick off with two caption screens: the first verse of Poe’s ‘The Raven’ - with the writer’s name spelled correctly - and then ‘Monday, October 23rd’. Our first actual image is a helicopter shot of two horses running along a beach (are they from Driscoll’s stud farm, I wonder) which then pans to show a car driving along the coast road, a great big, white, open-top thing with fins and all sorts. I don’t know cars so I don’t know what make this is - it’s not any of the ones listed on the House of Fear ‘props’ page - but it looks 1940s/1950s to me. The odd thing is that this footage is sepia-tinted, has fake scratches and is juddery (presumably to give the impression of having been filmed at one speed but projected at another) which I can only assume is intended to make us think that this is very old film. But by the 1940s sepia tinting was virtually unknown and 24fps was universal on account of sound films having been invented. So already we have a contradiction in terms of implied time period.

The soundtrack meanwhile has Christopher Walken reciting ‘The Raven', accompanied by ominous music and sound effects. Back in 2001, when The Raven and Alone in the Dark were still two separate projects, Richard Driscoll attended a Fangoria convention where he told the attendees, “I've already shot Walken's scenes for the movie. This Raven is the Poe story with a Lara Croft spin on the material."

Now, apart from ‘The Raven’ not actually being a story - and let me assure you that there is no ‘Lara Croft spin’ on anything in the finished film - this raises the intriguing question of Walken’s ‘scenes’ of which, er, there aren’t any. Just this reading of the poem, here and then intermittently throughout the film’s soundtrack. The curious thing is that Walken had already recorded ‘The Raven’ in 1997 for an all-star CD of Poe’s poems and stories entitled Closed on Account of Rabies. This was released on Island/Mercury and also featured such bizarre delights as Iggy Pop reading ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and Diamanda Galas reading ‘The Black Cat’!

Walken’s track from the album (which you can listen to on Amazon and elsewhere) sounds remarkably like the reading in Evil Calls although the accompanying music is different. I suppose a pro like Walken would tend to always read the same poem the same way, especially if it’s one of his favourites. There’s no acknowledgement to Island/Mercury in the credits so we must assume that Driscoll did indeed record ‘scenes’ of Walken reading the poem a year or two before he shot Alone in the Dark and several years before he decided to retitle it and its two sequels as ‘The Raven Trilogy’. There’s no other explanation...

Now the car stuff becomes intercut with other footage of various sorts, some of which shows Richard Driscoll (or technically ‘Stephen Craine’, the acting name he uses as there is already a thespian called Richard Driscoll) wearing a check shirt, sitting at a desk in an otherwise bare log cabin. These images are quite heavily pixelated. There are also some exterior shots of the log cabin which sits in the middle of a wood and some extreme close-ups of a manual typewriter typing ‘D E A T H’.

Driscoll examines an ancient grimoire with a picture of a baby on one page and there is a close-up of a piece of paper with a series of handwritten names: WB Yeates, HP Lovecraft, MacGregor Mathers, William Wynn Wescott, Harry Price, Arthur Machen. I would expect most of you to be familiar with numbers one, two and six; Mathers and Wescott were both occultists involved with the Order of the Golden Dawn while Price was a psychic researcher. All except Wescott have Wikipedia entries and you can google him. All except WB Yeats are spelled correctly.

A hand, presumably that of Driscoll’s character, circles Lovecraft and Price. Who knows why?

As Chris Walken continues to recite, we have a shot of a semi-naked woman’s body impaled, through her breasts, on two curved, white horns from an antelope or somesuch; we can’t see her face. We also see that the typewriter has just typed ‘DEATH’ over and over again. And we finish this pre-title sequence with the most extraordinary shot, an image of Kubrickian symmetry as Driscoll’s character sits, immobile at his desk in the bare log cabin. First dark mould (or something) creeps across the floor in stop motion and then blood starts pouring through the walls. Lots of blood. I mean, gallons and gallons of the stuff, falling in scarlet torrents (well, they would be scarlet if all this stuff wasn’t still tinted sepia) and splashing and swirling on the floor.

If that really is Richard Driscoll sitting there without moving a muscle as this stuff cascades all around him, then hats off to the man, he’s a better actor than I have given him credit for. Of course, it may just be a cardboard cut-out of Driscoll or he may have been matted in in post-production.

Anyway, the point is that, apart from the obscurity and anachronism of the scratchy sepia-tinting, this is quite an effective pre-credits sequence although the woman impaled on horns seems a somewhat gratuitous and out of place mix of bare tits and gore. Freudians would have a field day at the use of animal horns to impale a provocatively displayed female torso, wide-lapelled coat held open, out-of-frame face anonymising her sexuality - but to be honest I can’t take this shot seriously since it occurred to me that she looks like she’s been impaled on an impala. However, the ‘gushing torrents of blood’ bit is marvellous. It really is. Who says I never say anything good about Mr Driscoll?

Mind, it’s one image. Images are for music videos, films need stories and characters.

Speaking of music videos, we then launch into the title sequence itself for which the music changes to a modern beat with snatches of Walken’s reading sampled over the top, like a rap version of ‘The Raven’. The title (just Evil Calls, Kim) passes across the screen over what I assumed, on first watching, to just be heavily pixelated footage of naked women. It was only on my second viewing that I recognised one of the women through the digital distortion and thought: damn me, it’s Bettie Page!

I have no idea whether Richard Driscoll knows the significance of the public domain images he’s using or whether he thinks it’s just generic old-time bondage stock, but how’s that for the final addition to officially the Most Eclectic Cast in Cinema History? Let’s just recount them (in alphabetical order): Robin Askwith, Jason Donovan, Rik Mayall, Bettie Page, Christopher Walken and Norman Wisdom - together at last!

Mixing in with the Bettie clips (and with the actual opening credits in red type over the top) are a series of apparently genuine, ‘true crime’-style magazine headlines about notorious wackos and serial killers: Albert Fish, the Boston Strangler, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. These, which have absolutely no connection with anything we will see in the next seventy-odd minutes, are followed by fake newspaper headlines as follows:
  • ‘Lenore Murder Mystery’ 
  • ‘The Woodlands Hotel’ 
  • ‘Hotel to be Built on Witch Burning Site’ 
  • ‘Hotel Manager Murders Family’ 
  • ‘Death Hotel is Site of Witch Burning’ 
  • ‘Horror Hotel in Murder Mystery Again’ 
  • ‘Hotel Manager in Axe Death Spree’ 
  • ‘Writer Buys Horror Hotel’ 
  • ‘Horror Writer Kills Wife and Family’
So basically, a hotel was built in a place where a witch was once burned to death. The manager killed his family and it was subsequently bought by a horror writer who then also killed his family. This is worth documenting in such pedantic detail because it could well turn out to be the clearest indication of this film’s plot.

Oh, and three words appear during this title sequence, ‘typed’ on screen in boxes: ‘perversion’, ‘snuff’ and ‘victims’. Finally, in another box appears the typed message ‘Karl, I think I have found what you are looking for.’ Then we get 'Evil Calls' over a raven silhouette as previously described.

We are six and a quarter minutes into the film, we have reached the end of the title sequence - and this review already runs to more than 3,000 words. It’s going to be a long night.

Suddenly we’re blasted into a very short montage. Topless women! Women with guns! Topless women with big guns shooting cops! Explosions! I don’t know what film this is from but it doesn’t look like it was shot for this one. Anyway, the hot girl/gun action pauses because it’s being watched on a computer monitor by Gary (Jason Donovan), who wears a T-shirt over his jumper and gives us the first of what will be many variable and frankly unidentifiable accents. It’s not really American, not quite his native Aussie, but he uses it to inform Karl Mathers (Richard Waters: The Killer Tongue): “I think I’ve found what you’re looking for.”

Gary is a computer geek, you see. He indicates this by wearing his baseball cap backwards and there is a large one-sheet for the 1958 Dracula on his wall among various cut-out pictures of sexy women. Speaking of which, how can he just have found what Karl was looking for - a gory, bloody website which will “make her little panties hot for you” - and have been watching that sexy action montage at the same time?

“The place is called Harrow Woods, New England,” explains Gary which doesn’t really make sense because a moment ago he was talking about a website, not a place. But just to emphasise that this film will all take place in a location called Harrow Woods, we get a brief sepia flashback showing a wooden sign that reads ‘Welcome to Harrow Woods’. You know, just in case we weren’t paying attention.

Two years ago in October (we are told) a horror writer named George Carney took his family on holiday to their log cabin. A flurry of silent monochrome flashbacks includes some Carney books, the only discernible title of which is To Teach Her a Lesson. And there is a photo on the back of one volume which is pure Garth Marenghi! There is also a shot of someone approaching the log cabin (the one from the pre-credits sequence) with a couple of large fish and a landing net and some more footage of that white car, in which we see not only Mr and Mrs Carney and their two kids but also George’s brother Vincent (the legend that is Robin Askwith).

“Vincent?” queries Karl. “Vincent,” Gary assures him, as if this is significant or impressive in some way. Gary tells Karl that the family were not murdered but simply vanished, never to be seen again. A selection of surprisingly clearly scanned on-line newspaper clippings includes one with a photo of the Carneys (without Vincent) sitting in a doorway above a really bad faked-up headline: ‘The second week missing and still no traces of their whereabouts.’ This is great, absolutely great, partly because the spacing is all wrong and whoever knocked it together only underlined half the words, but mainly because it’s ungrammatical rubbish. How can you have a trace of a whereabouts? A ‘whereabouts’ is a location but locations either are or aren’t; they’re a binary concept. You can’t have traces of places.

There could be no trace (singular) of the family or their whereabouts could be unknown. But ‘no traces of their whereabouts’ is simply illiterate. Good grief, if you’re going to ask somebody to fake up a newspaper headline you should at least give the job to someone who knows how to write English.

I’m also trying to work out how this squares with the headlines about a horror writer (presumably Carney) buying a hotel and murdering his family there. (You know, I can’t help thinking that I’ve read something somewhere about another film where a writer attacks his family in an isolated hotel that has already seen a previous family slaughtered. Where would I have come across something like that? It may even have had a typewriter in it...)

Oh, and in what way does a collection of newspaper cuttings about a family who mysteriously disappeared tie in with Gary’s claim that he has found a website full of blood and gore?

To link us to the next scene we have a brief shot of an expanding circle of flame with a raven briefly seen behind/within it. It’s a bit like the inter-scene doodads an America sitcom: the exterior shots of Jerry’s apartment building in Seinfeld or the bouncing planets in Third Rock from the Sun. This will crop up several more times and to save having to describe it again, I’ll just say ‘ravenringfirething’. Okay?

Our next scene introduces the rest of ‘the Internetters’, a group of friends who apparently celebrate birthdays by going on creepy expeditions and broadcasting them over the web. This is, says Karl to people who already know, the third year they’ve done it and today is Anna’s birthday. So presumably they do it for a different person’s birthday each year. Anna is interested in the paranormal so they’re off to Harrow Woods. (Later in the film a character says that this is the fourth year that they have all gone away like this, but who’s counting?)

“Where?” says a voice. “Harrow Woods!” chorus the assembled friends. Just in case that wooden sign flashback in the previous scene had escaped your attention.

Karl and Gary are explaining the set-up to blonde Rachel (Sonya Vine, an actress/painter who sometimes uses the name ‘Sonya Craine’ and is apparently the sister of Newsnight presenter Jeremy Vine and comedian Tim Vine!), brunette Anna (Kathryn Rooney) and cynical Lewis (Charlie Allen). There is another male character at the back of the room, in the shadows, who never says anything but there is also a very obviously looped voice from a character who is never seen, ie. he only speaks on shots of other people. The voice - he’s the one who asks “Where?” - is identified as Steve and there’s also someone called James who will be in charge of the webcams and visual mixer at the investigation site while Gary actually manages the website back at home.

Because of the hamfisted editing and camerawork in this scene it’s impossible to tell whether the figure at the back of the room is Steve or whether that’s James and Steve is not on screen at all. And I mean ‘hamfisted’. This finishes with a shot of Gary and half of Karl. Literally, as Karl is speaking off-screen he moves half into shot, then steps back as the camera moves with him, staying half in-shot. Oh, and the whole scene starts with someone putting a 78 of ‘In the Mood’ onto a gramophone, which seems to have nothing to do with anything.

The following exchange between Gary and Lewis is, I believe, worth quoting in full: “So we’ve become guinea pigs for your experiment in the ‘creepy world’ of Gary and Karl?” “I told you before, Lewis. The paranormal is not only the key to the future but a way of understanding our past. I mean, man, come on: a form of religion you can grasp in both your hands.”

If anyone can explain to me what that means, I’d love to know. All credit to Jason Donovan for saying this with a straight face. If anyone ever doubted the thespian skills of this former soap star and pop singer, doubt no more. Mind you, if you look deep into his eyes as he says this, you can spot the exact moment at which he starts considering a change of agent.

In response to Lewis’ scepticism, Gary proposes “a test, here and now - a seance.” You might think that this would involve a ouija board or at least everyone sitting round a table holding hands. In fact, what they do is hook Anna up to Gary’s laptop. So, not a seance at all then. Gary spouts a load of bland technobabble, Jason Donovan having presumably resigned himself to the idea that he’ll at least get paid (I assume he did get paid...) and no-one’s likely to ever see this rubbish.

Oh, go on then. I’ll quote you a bit: “Full contacts maintained and registering, temperature steady at 73.1 degrees, dynamometer reading decreasing to 1822 ... Temperature lowering, pulse rate 93.4.” This is particularly great as, a few moments later, he announces that the temperature is “continuing to rise.”

Shots of Anna, showing her either concentrating or in a trance, are filmed from a point a couple of feet above Gary’s head. I mention this because reverse shots of Gary’s Toshiba laptop (I’m sure those aren’t Jason Donovan’s hands) show a number of fluctuating graphs/levels - a desktop edit suite is what it looks like and probably is - plus a large, grainy, monochrome image of Anna which is the one we just saw. In other words, he could only have this image - of the woman who is sitting directly in front of him - if there was a webcam directly above his head. Which the establishing shots show, unsurprisingly, there isn’t. Obviously the shots of the laptop screen were done much later and nobody has bothered to check whether they make any sense in this context.

But then, as I mentioned earlier, this film only works if it is set in a world where time and space have little meaning.

There is also an odd close-up of an analogue CO2 meter with a wildly flickering needle and another close-up of a hand moving a glass of red wine slightly, which I assume is Rachel’s hand as it is followed by a shot of that character. Steve, Lewis, Karl and James are also around the table although none of them say anything apart from a couple of lines at the start. (James is played by Ben Tolkien, Steve by Paul Battin.)

As Anna starts to shake we get a shot of the needle slipping off that Glenn Miller 78 (which has not been playing in this scene) and some sepia, silent, shaky flashback footage of a door with ‘150’ on it and a man in a fetish mask walking down a corridor. And a mutant baby or demon baby or something.

“Loads of electronic ectoplasm coming through,” whispers Gary as the lights flicker, steam billows from a nearby radiator and Jason Donovan struggles manfully to not giggle. Eventually Anna screams and Rachel knocks her wine to the floor in slow motion. Curiously, all the character shots are bathed in red light but all the close-ups of the laptop, the wine glass etc are in normal light. We finish with an image of a clock showing 11.22. Who knows what all this means?

And then we have the ravenringfirething again.

A few quick shots of the log cabin, just to remind us that it exists apparently, are followed by Karl, Anna, Rachel, Lewis and James (who really seems to be just making up the numbers) arriving in the woods. They’re in what seems to be the same car that George Carney had in the prologue, which they simply leave among the trees. There is no indication of why they stop there rather than anywhere further into the woods. I suppose this is the closest point that the track gets to the cabin. I suppose.

A caption tells us that it is Monday 21st October which I at first thought was a goof - but then I realised that if the pre-credits stuff with George Carney was two years ago then 23rd October would fall on a Wednesday this year (assuming no leap year inbetween) so this is actually correct.

Now, apparently they’re not camping here by the track but they’re not going to reach the cabin tonight either so James has to look for somewhere warm to set up camp. (Somewhere warm? In a wood?) Food, we are told, will be served later when ‘Steve turns up with the Winnebago’ but if we assume the Winnebago will park next to the car - which indeed it later does - that means they can’t actually camp more than a very short walk away.

Karl gives each of the others at this point a folder with a map, directions and information about the legend of Harrow Woods and they traipse off through the trees, lugging metal flight cases which presumably contain their tents but frankly look more like they are normally used for transporting film equipment.

That night, gathered around a campfire, Karl tells them the legend of Harrow Woods (which is in their pack, isn’t it?). It seems that ‘the maiden Lenore’ (ooh, shoehorn in that 'Raven' reference) was burned as a witch in that location in October 1843 and as she died she screamed a curse on the folk responsible and the place too. Doesn’t seem terribly sensible, burning a witch at the stake in the middle of the woods. Town square, that’s the place for a witch burning. But as we can see in yet another bloody silent sepia flashback, the 1843 inhabitants of Harrow Woods wore clothes at least one hundred years out of fashion so clearly they weren’t terribly on the ball. (The DVD blurb and other publicity says that ‘Lenore Selwyn’ was burned in the 17th century but on the screen it’s definitely 1843.) Quite what this mini-remake of Black Sunday, obviously extracted from a completely different film, has to do with anything is not clear although Karl claims that since that date there have been ‘many murders’ on that spot. Really? Many? [Ramsey Campbell has subsequently identified the witch-burning as being footage lifted from City of the Dead - MJS]

Then he tells them about the family who disappeared two years earlier. Rachel asks if the bodies were ever found and Karl assures her they were but Anna contradicts him and says they weren’t. He checks his pack - she’s right. But, but… how could she possibly know? That information was only in Karl’s pack and not anyone else’s.

Well gee, I don’t know. Maybe Gary mentioned it to her, maybe she googled ‘Harrow Woods’ before setting off. It’s clearly a well-documented case. What is spookier is how Karl could have not known that fact when Gary had clearly told him and shown him and when he had not only written it down in his own info pack but made a specific point of omitting it from everybody else’s.

Continue to Part 2

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