Monday, 10 November 2014

Nocturnal Activity

Director: Georg E Lewis
Writer: Enzo McReady
Producer: Steve Lawson
Cast: Raven Lee, Jonathan Hansler, June Bladon
Country: UK
Year of release 2014
Reviewed from: Festival Screening (FFF 2014)

Relatively straightforward horror plot? Check. Plenty of nudity (“the cheapest special effect”)? Check. Long stretches of hot women sensually washing/exploring their bodies? Check. Absolutely minimal production design hidden behind lots of shot-reverse-shot close-ups? Check. Bit of blood and violence right at the end? Check. Agonisingly slow end credits? Check. Knows precisely who it’s aimed at and what those punters want? Check.

After watching the first (and probably only) festival screening of Nocturnal Activity, I turned to executive producer Steve Lawson and observed: “What you’ve got here… is a Fred Olen Ray film.” And he didn’t disagree.

Nocturnal Activity caters for a precise, well-defined – and in film-buying terms, pretty much insatiable – market. Fred knows that market. Steve knows that market. If you want something artistic, thought-provoking or meaningful, I fear you have entered the wrong house today, my friend.

Model Raven Lee stars as Annie, moving into a new apartment where she encounters poltergeist activity. A glass in the living room has moved and broken while she was having a bath. Well, honestly dear, you’ve got no-one to blame except yourself. If you didn’t spend five minutes painstakingly soaping and rinsing each boob individually, you might not have to spend so long in the tub and you could potentially catch that ghost red-handed.

Annie’s landlord is sleazy creep Fitz, played with superb gusto by Jonathan Hansler, a BHR regular whose other gigs include Axed, The Devil’s Business, After Death, Convention of the Dead, Patrol Men, Call of the Hunter and Nightmare Hunters. (On stage, Hansler has portrayed Gene Roddenberry, George Harrison, Peter Cook, George Orwell, Noel Coward and Scott of the Antarctic; in short films he has played Peter Cook, Josef Mengele and Boris Karloff!) Fitz is a completely amoral slimeball who rents his apartment to attractive women and then sells video footage of them (on, improbably, VHS cassettes) to a Russian gangster (whose telephone voice is also Hansler). The previous tenant, Lex (FHM ‘High Street Honey’ Toni Frost) disappeared under mysterious circumstances and Fitz needs to get someone else in there quickly.

Having towelled herself off, Annie hires paranormal investigator Evie Nightingale (June Bladon: Bicycle Day) to find out what’s going on in her flat. Evie discovers that it’s not poltergeist activity (or sort of is, I suppose) but is directly related to Annie. Meanwhile, Fitz has found some old surveillance footage tapes down the back of the sofa which reveal what really happened to Lex. The whole story is framed by a scene of Annie being interviewed by a Police Detective (Steve Dolton, who was in Zombie Undead, Devil’s Tower and a couple of Dave Lilley shorts).

Nocturnal Activity is the directorial debut of Georg E Lewis, who may be a hot new talent or may be an old hand using a judicious pseudonym to distinguish this from more, ahem, respectable motion pictures. Steve Lawson knows, I know, perhaps you know. I’m maintaining discretion on this one. That’s Steve Lawson the director of Insiders and Rites of Passage (now renamed Survival Instinct) by the way, not Steve Lawson the director of Dead Cert and Just for the Record.

Models Tylah Riot and Paige Antonia complete the cast, with ADR voices provided by Valerie Ping and Marilyn McDoon. The only credit I can be sure isn’t a pseudonym is American composer Kevin MacLeod who provides royalty-free music for precisely such low-budget projects as this. And it is low-budget, there’s no doubt about that. The budget was about £1,200 but Lawson and Lewis have spent that wisely, cutting every corner they can in order to put every penny on screen. It is abundantly clear that, a couple of lesbian flashbacks aside, none of the actors were ever in the same room as each other. On the other hand, they did all get paid.

If you’re looking for an erotic horror film with a British setting and cast - unpretentious, unambitious, professionally made, formulaic but not in a bad way - this is for you.

MJS rating: B-

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