Here’s an idea which has occurred to me as I write this review. Perhaps Evil Calls is the collision of two separate Richard Driscoll projects. Remember that he announced The Raven before filming Alone in the Dark and then, quite some time later, said that they were the same thing (or rather, that Alone in the Dark was the first film in The Raven Trilogy). The synopsis of The Raven 2: The Devil’s Disciple which is on the House of Fear site suggests that it is actually a film about George Carney. Furthermore it involves him meeting Alister (sic) Crowley which could place the action no later than the 1940s. This is plainly before the George Carney in Evil Calls was even born. It would mean that the events of ‘two years ago’ referred to in this film actually happened more than sixty years ago, which would at least make the hotel décor appropriate but which could, once again, only be explained by placing the entire story in a dimension without the expected rules of time and space. So that sixty years in the woods was actually two years in New York. That would make the ‘George Carney’ and ‘Victoria Jordan’ seen at the end… nope, still doesn’t work. They would have to be the original George Carney’s grandchildren, in which case they wouldn’t have known (and hated) their (great) uncle Vincent.
Unless they are the ghosts of the two children. Ghosts who have aged about thirty years since they died sixty years ago. Would that work? Am I getting close?
The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that Richard Driscoll shot a film about George Carney, then shot a film about the Internetters, then finally decided to combine the two by putting all the scenes from the former into a jumpy, scratchy, sepia-tinted form and calling them flashbacks and fantasy sequences. A few weeks’ filming in late 2007, early 2008 to get the extra shots needed for this to make sense (for some value of sense) and Bob’s your uncle. But then again, if the Carney stuff was originally going to be The Raven then why would Rik Mayall, who only appears in NSSF sequences with Driscoll, call the film Alone in the Dark in his interview segment?
I’m trying here, I really am, to find some way of making all the pieces fit. There must be some explanation, something I have missed which explains why the journey from the Winnebago to the cabin varies from two days to no more than an hour or so; why a man who bought a hotel was haunted by the hotel manager’s ghost (and his father!) while staying with his family in a log cabin in the middle of the woods; how images from throughout the woods (and within a tent) are broadcast over the web; why everyone gets killed at the end. There must be some rationale here which correlates the four things we are told about Harrow Woods at various points in the film: that it’s haunted, that it’s cursed, that it was the scene of many murders over the years and that George Carney’s family disappeared without trace. Is the story of the Carney family one of blood and gore (as we are told) or is it a complete mystery what happened (as we are also told)? It seems like Driscoll couldn’t decide whether to make the horror in this film psychological, supernatural or gory and decided to try for all three, sticking them in a blender but forgetting to put the lid on before pressing the big button.
I don’t know how else I can put it: this film Makes No Sense. None at all. It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma and then liberally coated with nonsense and served with a side order of what the fuck? And yet, and yet, presumably Richard Driscoll himself thinks it’s a good film. He put his own money into it (or at least, there are no executive producers credited - where Driscoll gets his money from is one of the great mysteries unless there’s some extraordinary profit to be had in llama farming that the rest of us haven’t cottoned onto yet). The film was advertised in national mags; I don’t know what deal was struck with GoreZone (who promoted the film heavily) but I do know that the inside back cover of SFX doesn’t come cheap. Quite what the financial arrangements were between House of Fear and the publicity company which co-ordinated this advertising is not something I can comment on although I am given to understand that there was a parting of the ways shortly afterwards. The point is that House of Fear doesn’t have any visible backers, investors or partnerships. While Driscoll undoubtedly saved a couple of grand by not bothering with the legal requirement of a BBFC certificate before making this DVD available for sale, nevertheless a lot of money has gone into the production, promotion and distribution of this film. Well, not a lot of money. Not as much money as a proper studio film but certainly more than a film of this sort would normally warrant.
But then the whole business side of things here is screwy. An indie film like this would normally acquire a sales agent, play a few small festivals and then be flogged off to various DVD labels and cable channels around the world at the AFM, Mifed and Cannes. That’s how the indie film business works. Driscoll failed to sell Alone in the Dark for six years and eventually released it himself on his own label, after a couple of screenings in London and Cornwall for cast, crew and competition winners (who were led to believe that the somewhat reclusive Rik Mayall would be in attendance but were ultimately rewarded only with a glimpse of Sylvester Stallone at the premiere of Rambo round the corner in Leicester Square). Did Driscoll ever try to get a sales agent interested? Was this film ever offered for sale? I know that Driscoll was at Mifed in 2001 because he had a bunch of full-page ads in the brochure (for Blade Hunter, Toy Monsters and the still-in-development Harry and the Wizard). Did he spend six years trying to sell Alone in the Dark (and The Devil’s Disciple which, let us not forget, has also been on the shelf for a couple of years now)? Was he unable to sell the films because they’re so rubbish or was he asking too high a price? I ask because, you know, some pretty rubbish films get traded at the three big film markets. Unbelievably poor crap gets bought and sold, just not for very much.
It is wonderfully appropriate that the business/financial side of Evil Calls makes just as little sense as the narrative/artistic side. How and why this film got made and - well, not so much released as allowed to escape - is, to put it bluntly, Fucking Incomprehensible.
One thing that intrigues me is precisely which bits of this were filmed in the December 2007, January 2008 shoot, which is credited as ‘2nd Unit’ on screen. The only definitive information I have comes from the MySpace page of Jaeson Finn who also worked on Doomsday and inferior CBeebies Balamory clone Me Too!. Finn is credited on Evil Calls as second unit art director/concept artist and he gets annoyed when I mention him on my site (a clue, dude: if you don’t want people to discuss your work, don’t write a public blog). He mentions shooting Vass Anderson’s inexplicable scene, the demon/mutant baby thing, Karl’s death scene with the hook and the Celtic cross, Rachel’s head blasted to pieces and the insert of steam escaping from a radiator during the initial ‘seance’. He solves another mystery by revealing that the thing removed from Steve’s mouth isn’t a small tile, it’s a tiny book. That still doesn’t make any sense of course. Few (possibly none) of the ‘actors’ in the death scenes are the original actors; they’re mostly production assistants but to be honest you can’t really tell because it’s all so dark and edited together so fast.
The thing is: none of the stuff mentioned in the preceding paragraph, apart from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em death scenes, has any bearing on the plot. What on Earth is the demon baby thing all about? What has it got to do with anything? What connection does Vass Anderson’s ‘Prof. Jackson’ have with anything else in the film? How does the insert shot of the radiator enhance the seance scene? This is all extraneous stuff which looks like padding, added merely to bump the running time up to 77 minutes.
Despite all the publicity which the BBC and others gave to House of Fear Studios in early 2008, which suggested that the film had been shot in Cornwall, the bulk of the movie was filmed just outside Brighton at ‘Albourne Film Studios’ when Driscoll’s company was still called Metropolis International. This was an early attempt at creating what eventually came to fruition just outside Redruth. Driscoll hired people to construct three film studios and some post-production facilities and allegedly even purchased an old airliner with a view to shooting a film set on an aeroplane. But despite all the time effort and money ploughed into Albourne Studios, all that was shot there was Alone in the Dark and part of SF thriller Blade Hunter which was subsequently abandoned, as apparently was the nascent studio complex. The question is: what prompted Driscoll’s move from Sussex to Cornwall?
Quite apart from the location, there are lots of mysteries and inconsistencies around the cast and crew of Evil Calls. For example, the Inaccurate Movie Database lists David Raedecker (sic) as cinematographer - he was DP on the hilariously awful Inspector’s Casebook short on the Kannibal DVD - but on screen the ‘director of photography’ credit goes to Dennis Mahoney who is also listed as camera operator and gets a third credit as DP/camera operator in the ‘USA unit’ (there wasn’t a separate USA unit - Driscoll simply used footage from an earlier, unmade project). Mahoney was also DP on the American footage used in Kannibal which was, as here, produced by David and Domanic Valentino and may in fact have been from the same unfinished project. Domanic Valentino also gets an ‘associate producer’ credit; his name is consistently misspelled ‘Dominic’ but hey, if it’s good enough for Edgar Allan Poe... Apart from that opening aerial shot of the car (which is being driven on the wrong side of the road, like they do over there) and possibly the witch burning, I don’t think there’s any other American footage in Evil Calls.
Nevertheless, my research indicates that David Raedeker (Brick Lane, Elvis Pelvis and videos for St Etienne and Stereo MCs) was DP on the whole of principal photography: basically, everything except that aerial shot, the witch burning and the inserts of steaming radiators, exploding heads and Vass Anderson’s computer. Raedeker also DPed Ben’s Night In, a short film by John Scotcher who was assistant director on Evil Calls. Raedeker's crew, none of whom receive a credit, included focus pullers Pier Hausemer (who worked on Stardust, Batman Begins and The New Adventures of Pinocchio) and Nicolas Schroeder and clapper loader Richard O'Brian.
There are two credited editors: Pablo Renaldo and Tom Ramsbottom (possibly the online film reviewer of the same name). Bill Alexander, an experienced production designer who worked on Kannibal and plenty of more respectable productions too, gets a ‘production design consultant’ credit here and John Howls was art director. Sound designer David Richmond is another one of the very few Kannibal returnees. Where I’m not telling you anything about these people, by the way, it’s because there’s no trace of them on-line. Although we must always bear in mind that the credits may spell their names wrong.
‘From the special effects creators of The Shining’ is the slogan across the top of the poster and in practice this means Alan Whibley who also worked on Rambo, meaning that he actually had two films premiering simultaneously in London only yards apart on 12th February 2008. Whibley’s other genre credits include Venom, Paperhouse, The Lair of the White Worm, Split Second and Simon Hunter’s Lighthouse. It’s a bit cheeky though, isn’t it, to claim a direct connection with the film you’re unashamedly ripping off? But so few of the Evil Calls crew have any notable credits, even six years on, that I suppose it was all that was available by way of ballyhoo. ‘From the director of Kannibal and The Comic’ wouldn’t really get the punters excited, would it?
Steve Bettles was make-up effects designer although he doesn’t mention Evil Calls or Alone in the Dark on his website, preferring to cite respectable credits like Sleepy Hollow, Farscape and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. ‘Special effects’ are credited to ‘1st Effects, Richard Roberts, Nick Smith’ and on the House of Fear website we find the following: ‘House of Fear represent the special effects company 1st Effects. The company responsible for the special effects on:- The Shinning, Hellraiser II, Excalibur, Star Wars, Superman, Rambo 4.’
Hmmm, ‘the special effects’ on Star Wars and Superman (they even have the posters on the HoF page)? No, ‘some of the special effects’ is what they mean. ‘A few of the special effects’ or, really: ‘Helping out on a few of the many hundreds of special effects.’ And yes, it does actually say The Shinning! Michael Faherty gets the ‘visual effects’ credit - and also ‘title design’ - but like so many of the crew he has either done nothing of note before or since or he is using a pseudonym. Or his name’s spelled wrong. Editor Tom Ramsbottom gets ‘additional visual effects’ and there’s a ‘practical effects’ credit shared between Conal Palmer (The Mutant Chronicles, Cold and Dark) and Simon Attwood. Make-up supervisor Ameneh Mahloudji also worked on Son of Rambow and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and is now an item with David Raedeker. Costume designer Fiona O’Conner is probably Fiona O’Connor who also did the rags for London Voodoo.
Rather brilliantly, Evil Calls may be the first film where the on-screen credits are less reliable than the IMDB listing. The ‘second unit’, which should really be called the ‘six years later unit’ (as opposed to the ‘USA unit’ which is the ‘several years earlier on a completely different film unit’) was overseen by Neil Jones - credited as both 1st AD and unit manager - who is not the same Neil Jones that directed Stag Night of the Dead and also not the same Neil Jones that directed The Reverend. Neil Johnson DP-ed the extra footage which used make-up by Angela Sims. Fetish model Rebekka Raynor gets an ‘effects stand-in’ credit for being Doreen Carney in the shots of the demon baby being born. Most of the ‘second unit’ footage is effects shots and the ‘special effects make-up’ in this footage is credited to Robbie Drake who also worked on Beyond the Rave and now writes a column for Gorezone.
Meanwhile, among the cast not yet mentioned, Doreen is played by model Jules Wheeler who was also in Dirty Pretty Things. The Carney kids, who are apparently called Lisa and Steve, are played by Keren Hatcher and Jamie Roberts, both of whom must be in their early twenties by now. Leanna Knowles is the ballerina. The naked chicks in the weird washroom scene include porn actresses Amanda Pickering, Amanda Dawkins and Kelly Marie (the May 2001 Penthouse Pet).
One point which is worth making – and making emphatically – is that the general crappiness of a film does not necessarily mean that everyone who worked on it is an idiot or should be ashamed or must shoulder part of the blame. Film-making, at every level, is a collaborative effort and a lot of different people do their job on a film set to the best of their ability: camera crew, sound crew, chippies, sparks, gaffers etc. If specific work is shoddy then yes, there is somebody to blame and you can probably find them in the credits somewhere, but most people who work on a film like this are doing a job. You take what you can get when you’re a freelancer and even jobs on crappy films can be useful in establishing industry contacts with other crew members that can lead onto jobs on decent movies. And hey, it’s a pay-cheque. (That’s assuming everyone got paid, of course. They did get paid, didn’t they, Mr Driscoll? I’m sure there’s no truth in any of the various stories I have heard, is there…?)
The overall crappiness of a crappy film – and I’m sure you have realised by now that Evil Calls redefines the concept of a crappy film to the extent that all films previously deemed crappy must now be considered borderline competent by comparison – usually stems from one or more of three people: the writer, the director and the producer. In this case, that’s Richard Driscoll, R Driscoll Esq and Mrs Driscoll’s little boy Richie. Of course, sometimes a film is also let down by a miserable central performance and certainly Evil Calls suffers by having ‘Steven Craine’ in the role of George Carney. You can’t get away from it: Driscoll is an auteur, solely responsible for all the significant decisions made in the production (and indeed, the release) of this film. Everything about it that’s bad can be laid at his feet but so can, to be fair, the few things that are good, like the casting of Rik Mayall and Sir Norman.
A word on the acting is surely due here because it’s something I haven’t touched on, being too busy documenting the insanity and inanity of the story and the tupenny-ha’penny production values. It goes without saying that ‘Steven Craine’ is awful and that Rik and Sir Norman are marvellous. Rik’s last venture into low-budget indie fantasy was Paul Matthews’ Merlin: The Return which actually had a limited theatrical release in 1999 and of course he can be spotted, absurdly young, in the background of one scene in An American Werewolf in London. Sir Norman was in the 2004 version of Five Children and It and a few years earlier he filmed a cameo for Grant Littlechild’s star-studded indie spoof Cosmic Brainsuckers which has been in production on and off for a decade now. His last actual on-screen role was a non-speaking appearance as a vicar chasing a fly in Expresso, a coffee-themed short from Kevin Powis (The Killin’) filmed in January 2007 when he was 91. After that he was simply too ill to work, his dementia confining him to a care home, although at time of writing he is still alive. But he will never make another film again and I for one would rather people thought of Expresso as his final work, not this embarrassing rubbish, however much he may light up the screen.
Richard Waters is actually pretty good as Karl, especially in his withering put-downs of the more cynical team members: “I hope it’s better than last year. Devil cat my ass.” “Well, that’s one place we didn’t look, isn’t it, Lewis?” Robin Askwith is given nothing to do – I think he has about three lines of dialogue in the whole film – and Eileen is Eileen. Askwith spent the 1970s alternating between cheeky jack-the-lad sex comedies and horror classics such as The Flesh and Blood Show, Horror Hospital and Tower of Evil. He must be pleased that, with the release of Evil Calls, Queen Kong is no longer the worst film he has ever been in. Eileen was ubiquitous in British horror for a few years but this was one of the last mainstream things she did before shifting to more esoteric fare. In the space of three or four years she starred in Alex Chandon’s Pervirella, Elisar Cabrera’s Witchcraft X: Mistress of the Craft, Tony Luke’s Archangel Thunderbird, Jake West’s Razor Blade Smile, Nigel Wingrove’s Sacred Flesh, Kannibal for Mr Driscoll and Cradle of Fear for Alex again.
While I have seen all of those, Eileen’s subsequent horror career has somehow passed me by completely. I’m completely unfamiliar with Machines of Love and Hate, Sentinels of Darkness, Dave McKean’s short film N[eon] or a 2007 film called Messages with Jeff Fahey and Marysia Kay [Messages is discussed in my book Urban Terrors - MJS]. Is it just that my professional circle of acquaintances and Eileen’s circle have drifted apart? Could it be connected with the British horror revival, given that all the above films – with the arguable exception of Cradle of Fear – either predated the BHR or were influenced by pre-BHR tropes more than the gritty social realism of the burgeoning revival itself? Perhaps these two possibilities are one and the same thing. Anyway, the upshot is that Eileen hasn’t stopped working but her films have stopped making it onto my To Be Watched pile. But Eileen is Eileen and we love her.
The rest of the cast, to be honest, are pretty stiff and in some cases positively awful and there isn't a single convincing or consistent accent anywhere in the film. Most of the actors never did anything before this and many of them seem to have done nothing since. How awful must it be if Evil Calls is your only professional credit? I don’t know which would be worse, telling people you made a film so bad that it still hasn’t been released after six years or telling people you were in a film which took six years to get released and which there is a danger they might then see. Perhaps some of the cast changed their stage names and went on to successful careers as jobbing actors, leaving Alone in the Dark to fester as a guilty secret mysteriously omitted from the bottom of their CV.
Ironically for such a shit film, one of the most disappointing things on this DVD is not the movie itself but the extras which are decidedly sparse. The sleeve promises the following: ‘Rik Mayall Blog, Jason Donovan Blog, Robin Askwith Blog, Norman Wisdom Blog, SFX behind the scenes, Evil Calls trailer, Evil Calls TV spot.’ I don’t know which is sillier: the idea that a short video interview is a ‘blog’ or the idea of Evil Calls being advertised on TV (unless it was some tiny cable channel).
There’s a three-minute interview with Rik Mayall and two-minute interviews with Robin Askwith, Jason Donovan and Norman Wisdom; a three-minute montage of behind-the-scenes footage (called 'set visit' on the menu'); Heads will Roll (called 'Make-up FX' on-screen) which is an interview with Steve Bettles about creating Lewis’ decapitated head and the slit throat seen briefly on Carney Jr in an SSF; plus trailers for Evil Calls, Kannibal and Killer’s Kiss (the retitling of the Driscoll-produced Dennis Nilsen biopic Cold Light of Day), Evil Calls 'TV spot' (a cut-down version of the trailer) and a few seconds of behind-the-scenes footage as an easy-to-find Easter egg. Yet there was so much more that could have been included. Kannibal had a director’s commentary (which was hilarious), a full Making Of documentary (which was fucking hilarious) and the Inspector’s Casebook short film (which was fucking unbelievable). Here we get less than ten minutes in total. Alix Wenmouth (who is credited here as Alex but hey, welcome to the Edgar Allen Poe Club!) handled the behind-the-scenes stuff and there must have been plenty of footage shot. There are certainly some more interviews because they’re on the House of Fear website. So why aren’t they on the DVD?
When the film was released, GoreZone magazine carried a cover-mounted DVD which included the Donovan, Mayall and Wisdom interviews (not called blogs on this disc), the behind-the-scenes montage and a four-minute interview with Driscoll himself. This is actually the short film The Silence of the Llamas directed by Tiffany Holmes for ‘Bump in the Night Productions’ which plays on the front page of the House of Fear website when you click the ‘Meet Richard’ button there. It’s the one where Driscoll says, “If I knew what made a good horror movie, I’d make good horror movies.” Ah, if only. This disc also include trailers for Evil Calls, Kannibal and Killer’s Kiss plus a Marilyn Manson video (‘Sam Son of Man’, which consists entirely of stock footage connected with the Son of Sam murders) and the public domain classic House on Haunted Hill.
But what makes the GoreZone disc interesting is a montage of clips from Evil Calls and Kannibal which plays when you slip the DVD into your player - as this contains two shots not in the film (possibly from the same scene). One shows George Carney and the body (Vincent?) that leans out of the wall at the end. Carney has a bloody mask of human skin - a peeled face, basically - held over his own face and dances around the room before hanging the face on the wall. The other clip shows a pair of feet - presumably Carney’s - dancing on the desk, coming perilously close to knocking the typewriter onto the floor (a fireplace is visible in the background so this seems to be the same room, hence possibly the same scene).
Speaking of GoreZone, that issue included an interview with Robbie Drake about effects on the 2007/08 ‘second unit’ pick-ups which includes a large, clear photo of the body at the end, the one that stacks through a hole in the wall. It’s wrapped in chains, coated in blood and definitely meant to be Vincent. Probably.
Checking the interview clips on the website (look, I’m not calling them blogs, okay, even ironically), the one by Kathryn Rooney - which misspells her name ‘Roony’ - includes the information that the group are all psychology students - which is not something evident from the film itself. Rooney has since gone on to carve herself a career in panto and probably thought that her one, misguided foray into film-making (including her full frontal nude scenes) was dead and buried. Sonya Vine also has an online interview but she gets her name spelled right at least.
Consistency never being a hallmark of House of Fear, whereas the first two clips are titled Alone in the Dark with Anna and Alone in the Dark with Rachel (with the actress’ name as a caption over the picture), the third is Alone in the Dark with Eileen Daly. Now this is interesting because Eileen explicitly states that her character is George and Vincent’s sister. So at least I don’t need to get my head round the whole kids and ghosts thing but what this means is that, let’s see: George Carney has been hiding for the past two years, presumably in the basement of the cabin, and he also has a sister who is never mentioned and who either helped him kill their brother or at least didn’t mind when Vincent and Doreen were killed.
So if ‘Victoria Jordan’ is actually Victoria Carney, what happened to the real Victoria Jordan, the one that Prof. Jackson recommended? Did Prof. Jackson know that Victoria Carney would turn up in the woods? Did he send her? Is she actually a medium? How did she manage that whole swirly supernatural entrance thing? Why does she kill all the students? Reading between the lines of Eileen’s explanation of the plot, George and Victoria live in the woods along with the not-quite-dead Vincent who is kept behind a wall. When the Internetters come calling, George hides and Victoria pretends to be the medium that Karl is expecting but only so that she can have some fun with the townies before killing them. That comes perilously close to making sense, although it only accounts for a tiny fraction of the actual plot of the film of course.
It’s interesting to see Jules Wheeler’s video clip, not least because she seems to be under the impression that her character is named Vivienne when we all know she’s actually called Doreen. “She doesn’t fully understand what’s going on,” says the actress without a trace if irony. Richard Waters, in his clip, observantly compares George Carney to Jack Torrance in The Shining. Really, Richard? You think this is a bit like The Shining? (Or possibly The Shinning?)
Charlie Allen is called ‘Charlie Allan’ in his clip which I suppose makes up for the ‘Edgar Allen Poe’ cock-up in a sort of karmic way. I had wondered whether this was the former National Youth Theatre actor who died young of cancer but my research shows that the NYT Charlie Allen died in 2007 aged 20 which would have made him only 15 when Alone in the Dark was shot, so this clearly isn’t him. This Charlie Allen is still alive and reading this review in horror after somebody e-mailed him to say, “Hey, you know that shitty horror film you were in with Rik Mayall that you thought no-one would ever see?”
There is a second video clip with Rik Mayall, including a visual gag with Driscoll and Askwith and a quite lengthy discussion of his role in the first Harry Potter film as Peeves the poltergeist, which was cut from the finished version. There are also three ‘production blogs’: ‘FX’ (Alone in the Dark with Alan) is Mr Whibley discussing fake blood and how to make gallons of it come through the walls. ‘Production Cam’ is the behind-the-scenes montage and 'Make-up FX' is the Steve Bettles interview.
It seems to me that the biggest problem with this film - bigger than the days being in the wrong order, bigger than the producer's inability to spell people’s names correctly - is simply that there is too much in it. Even after padding out the running time with footage of demon babies and radiators, it’s still very short and yet it has at least three different time zones: the present, two years ago and the 1940s, with only a tangential connection between them all. Actually, it’s four time zones if we count the witch-burning.
In his interview in GoreZone, Robbie Drake says: “It’s a constant work in progress because that’s the way Richard Driscoll works. He’s always rewriting. You never know what’s coming up, he might have another idea or he might see something that he can put in the script.”
There was a script?
But you can see what he means. Evil Calls looks like a film which has been assembled piecemeal over many years (as indeed it was) with new ideas and new bits being added (or taken away) throughout the film. Order changed, context changed, new dialogue added and insert shots, ah, inserted. Frankly, without the whole 1940s hotel malarkey, there’s the germ of a usable story here. Students go into woods to investigate why bloke and his family disappeared two years ago, only to find that the now-insane bloke and his batty sister are still there and determined to let no-one escape their forest alive.
But Richard Driscoll had to add in the whole psychic thing, the whole internet thing, the stuff about the hotel (most of which, by the look of it, then got removed again) and the ghost of the barman which he later decided was both the hotel manager and the hotel manager’s father. Then on top of that he decided that there should be a mutant baby and an old guy looking at stuff on a computer. Good job he released the film when he did - if he’d left it much longer he might have added dancing girls and an Aztec pyramid. And vampires.
Thinking things through, this is the reality, isn’t it? This isn’t two films stapled together (except inasmuch as the ‘USA unit’ footage is obviously from something else). There’s certainly not a coherent rationale that I’ve missed because I’ve been paying more attention to what day it is and the many spellings of the actors’ names. This is just a mishmash created by a man with too much time and money on his hands who loves the process of making movies, however bad the result might be. Everyone has things they enjoy but are rubbish at. You should hear me singing in the shower. But I don’t release my off-key bathroom warblings on compact disc.
Richard Driscoll, I think, loves the process of making movies but doesn’t know how to make ‘a movie’. He doesn’t understand narrative structure. Or indeed narrative. Frankly, I don’t think he’s really sure what ‘structure’ means. He doesn’t understand how a movie is made, only the process of movie-making: he’s all beginning and middle and he doesn’t know how, or when, to end. It’s a bit like the difference between me and young TF Simpson when we get the Lego out. I make a helicopter or a car or a bridge or a fire station and though I may have only a loose plan I can tell when I’ve finished. But TF just keeps adding bricks, long past the point when his creation might have been a recognisable powerboat or crane or space rocket. I think Richard Driscoll makes his films just like that, just like a four-year-old building things out of Lego. I hope he gets just as much fun out of it.
The difference of course is that I don’t exhibit TF’s Lego creations to the paying public, nor do I take out adverts in magazine describing him as ‘critically acclaimed’. (That’s what it said in the ads in GoreZone: ‘A film by the critically acclaimed Richard Driscoll.’ But there's only one film critic who ever writes about him - and I’ve certainly not acclaimed him.)
In conclusion, Evil Calls is rubbish, of course it’s rubbish - but it’s fascinating rubbish. I can’t think of any other films that I could have written a 22,000 word review about. There is just so much here: so many disparate elements (many of them hilariously poorly crafted) with so few recognisable links and connections between them. The scope for speculation and argument, as you can see, is enormous. I urge you to buy this film, no really, I do. Go to www.internetgore.com and buy it now - £12.99, free shipping - then watch it and then come and find me, buy me a pint, and tell me what you think.
I was asked, recently, what constitutes a ‘cult movie’ (as in ‘and the people who make them’) and my definition is that a cult film (or book or TV show or whatever) is one which inspires interest beyond appreciation. ‘Cult’ is nothing to do with how good or bad a film is or how big or small it is or how popular or obscure it is or what it’s about or who made it. A cult film is one where, having seen it, you want to read about it, talk about it, write about it, argue about it, discuss it, dissect it, find out more about it.
In that respect, I believe that Evil Calls is the greatest cult film ever made.
MJS rating: A+/D-