Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Director: Keith R Robinson
Writer: Keith R Robinson
Producer: Keith R Robinson
Cast: Kelly Wines, Lucy Clarvis, Jordan Murphy
Country: UK
Year of release: 2015
Reviewed from: DVD (101 Films)

Writing, directing and producing a feature-length film is an achievement in and of itself; one not to be sniffed at. When that film is selected to play at a festival or, even better, receives some form of distribution, that’s a tremendous validation that all the hard work was worth it. You have to admire anyone who has, from scratch, ended up with their name on the back of a DVD sleeve in a branch of HMV. Keith R Robinson should be very proud.

Having said that, my duty as a film reviewer of this parish is to let you know about not just the content and themes of a movie but also its quality, both overall and in specific aspects of the cinematic experience. In short, you want to know whether it’s worth parting with your shekels for a particular film. And in the case of Silverhide, even if you’re buying it for a couple of quid in a closing down sale at a branch of That’s Entertainment (say, for example, purely hypothetically…) the answer has to be no. I wouldn’t recommend you to buy it, or to spend 72 minutes watching it, because – with all due respect to Keith R Robinson and his cast and crew – it’s absolute rubbish.

Which is a shame. I was quite excited about this one. The film’s release through 101 Films in April 2015 had passed me by, possibly because I had it on my master-list of unreleased British horror films under its production title of Pounce. I’m a sucker for a good werewolf movie. And while this isn’t actually a werewolf movie, it’s a wolf-monster movie and that’s close enough in my book.

But honestly this is terrible. It’s one of those films where there’s almost no chemistry between the cast because for the most part they’ve been filmed in different locations and/or on different days. There’s no attempt at characterisation. The threadbare, half-hearted plot is barely deserving of the term. The dialogue is clunkier than a Tonka toy falling down a flight of stairs. The performances are ripe, the direction vapid, the design almost non-existant, the camera-work not much better than the average holiday video and the sound recording and mixing is so bad, alternating between too loud and too quiet, that one has to seriously consider the possibility that someone had the mixing desk upside-down.

The ‘Silverhide’ of the (re)title is a type of wolf with some unexplained property in its fur which renders it invisible in moonlight, which the military have been testing since they captured it in the 1920s. Is it worth going on, or shall we stop the review right there? Because frankly that précis, combined with the preceding paragraph, ought to be enough for most people.

I mean, people do realise that ‘moonlight’ is just reflected ‘sunlight’, right? It’s not a thing. I wouldn’t mind if this was a supernatural wolf-man fantasy but this is presented as a horror/sci-fi mash-up so I’d like at least a bit of the ‘sci’ please. More to the point, how has this thing been around since the 1920s? Since there’s no suggestion that the British Army has a breeding colony of silverhides, that leaves the possibility that it’s a 90-year-old wolf, which would be pretty arthritic and toothless by now, I would imagine.

Our principal characters (in the loosest sense of the term) are Siobhan (Kelly Wines, who also helped with make-up), Laura (Lucy Clarvis: Curse of the Witching Tree, also in a Rebecca Gosnell horror short called Wolf) and Marty (Jordan Murphy). These three dull twentysomethings work for a magazine about the paranormal, and I can’t help thinking that might sound more believable if it was a website.  Their plan (once again I use the term in its loosest possible sense) is to camp somewhere near an air base in the Welsh mountains, where they have a tip-off that something “way, way above top secret” will be tested in the small hours of the morning. Siobhan spends the entire film in an underground bunker, allegedly unused since the 1980s (and the only actual ‘set’ in the whole film). There is no obvious reason why she should be in there, nor why Laura is on her own in their tent, nor why Marty goes wandering off on his own. Furthermore, although they have three radios, Marty has left his in the car. So he’s an idiot and deserves everything that’s coming to him.

Most of the first half of this mercifully short feature is taken up with pointless, dull, badly written, boring conversations between any two of these nerks. We learn nothing about who they are, what their goals are, or why they think sitting in a tent on a Welsh hillside near a heavily defended military establishment is a good idea. We learn only, through astoundingly clunky exposition, that Siobhan’s father was some sort of Government scientist who was forced into committing suicide (shades of the David Kelly affair). And that Laura and Marty are a couple and that the former is pregnant. We learn about the pregnancy first from Laura telling Siobhan that her and Marty’s “circumstances have changed” then because that leaden, clichéd infodump might be too subtle for some people, from Marty actually telling Siobhan (after returning to the tent to find Laura missing) that his girlfriend is pregnant. And then, because there might be some people in the audience who are really, really hard of thinking (or, charitably, have just lost the will to live and stopped paying attention), we’re shown a magazine in the tent that’s actually called ‘Pregnancy’.

Many doctors advise pregnant women to spend their nights on drafty, damp hillsides, apparently.

Intercut with this we have shots of soldiers wandering around in the dark. According to the credits there’s three or four of them, but we literally only ever see one at a time, and since they’re all dressed identically and only ever converse with a radio voice back at some unspecified HQ, for most of the film it seems to be a single soldier, responsible for guarding this entire area. Guarding against what? Well, if he’s guarding against characterless paranormal magazine journalists, he’s not much good at his job. Occasionally the soldier says things like “Everybody move out!” in a risible attempt to convince us that he has a whole (silent) squad with him that we just haven’t been shown.

There’s also a photographer somewhere else on the hillside who, in a thrilling prologue, we saw taking a photograph of a sheep. And there’s a guy in a suit, because both Laura and Siobhan reckon they’ve been followed by men in suits. Wow, that’s spooky. Except wait, no, lots of people wear suits. This is not the stereotypical MiB get-up, this is literally just a guy wearing a normal suit, like you might wear to work. He will become significant near the end when he joins Siobhan in the bunker and I’m sure you can’t possibly guess who he turns out to be. (The photographer is in the bunker too but he simply disappears from the scene for about ten minutes so Siobhan can have a bland, badly written conversation with her dad (oops – spoiler!).  The actor is John Hoye who was in Heathen and was apparently casting director on POV.

It’s all “You must tell them. You must get the message out,” etc. Tell them what? What message? You have precisely zero proof of anything and even if you did, so what? The Army is testing a new technology based on a magical type of animal fur on an arthritic hound. I mean, what are they even testing? Just take some of the fur and study it in a lab. Or say the hell with it, kill and skin the beast and just fashion a coat, boots and hat out of its hide. Who cares how it works?

Of course, normally the Silverhide is kept safe behind a big fence that runs across the hillside (instead of in a contained environment like a paddock or something, you know, like the wolves at the zoo). Tonight there’s a storm – one of those storms that has lightning and thunder but no actual wind or rain – and a bolt of lightning has hit the metal fence and thereby somehow let the animal escape.

Oh man, I’m getting tired of typing about this tripe. It’s just dreadful. The only two things it has going for it are a surprisingly good wolf-head prop and tight, fast editing of the attack scenes. Which unfortunately cancel each other out. Designed and built by David Foxley of Fox Zumbi Dark Arts FXs (who also did the make-up effects on Writers Retreat) the development of the wolf head from initial sketches to finished prop is documented on this Facebook page.

Keith R Robinson doesn’t even have the excuse of this being his first feature. He partnered up with US executive producer Jay So in 2005 after the latter found a couple of Robinson’s scripts on script-sharing website InkTip. In December 2009 it was announced that he had wrapped his feature debut (as director, writer, producer and editor) This was The Unwelcome, based on the famous Enfield poltergeist case, which according to my records had a VOD release in May 2012, although I can now find no trace of that. It’s possible that I confused it with the Marysia Kay/Eleanor James picture Aggressive Behavior which was shot as Unwelcome. Or maybe not.

Shot in April 2012, Pounce premiered at the Freakshow Horror Film Festival in the States in October 2014 (under its original title) and hit UK shelves (retitled) six months later. Bizarrely, in July 2015 Foxley's wolf head was featured on the front cover of Fortean Times, illustrating a story about a supposed werewolf incident in Germany!

I really don’t like trashing any British horror film like this but Silverhide is just so poor. It manages to be both overambitious and underambitious at the same time: seeking to tell an epic story of Government conspiracies, clandestine military operations and deadly monsters through a series of lacklustre scenes in which characters we neither know nor care about trade wooden inanities. Please, Keith R Robinson, do something different with your next film. Work on your script a bit more. Think about your limitations and try to turn them to your advantage instead of just blundering through them and hoping no-one will notice.

Also, and I mean this as genuine advice to both Keith and other film-makers, don't put your possessive name above the title, as in Keith R Robinson's Silverhide (the on-screen title here). Honestly, unless you are actually a 'name' - you know, a name like Craven or Carpenter - that just makes you look like such a knob.

One final point. On the movie’s IMDB User Reviews page, among all the one-star excoriations, someone named 'Andy Read' has posted four copies (on the same day) of the same hilarious ten-star review (his only ever IMDB contribution, which doesn't look at all suspicious). If ‘Andy Read’ isn’t Keith R Robinson, he’s clearly someone who knows him: “Gee, these armchair filmmakers… It's easy to criticise when you've never done anything yourself isn't it?” is a bit of a give-away. He tears into the other User Reviewers for allegedly expecting some big Hollywood blockbuster, claiming the film has been misleadingly packaged to make it look more than it is.

But dude, Andy/Keith, it hasn’t been misleadingly packaged. No-one could pick up this DVD and mistake it for anything except a low-budget indie horror. And that's what people are expecting to see when they pop the disc into the machine. Just, you know, a good low-budget indie horror. “This is a low budget film made for cult fans and schlocky horror aficionados” he rants. Yes but the cult fans and schlocky horror aficionados hate it, not because it’s not a blockbuster, but because it’s boring and badly made. “It should be being packaged as a GRINDHOUSE movie – for B Movie fans” he yells, making strategic use of the old caps lock to emphasise his point but betraying that he has absolutely no idea what ‘grindhouse’ means. It doesn’t mean any old horror movie and Silverhide is about as far away from the ‘grindhouse’ genre as it’s possible to get without actually starring Judi Dench.

Any sympathy I may have had for this little film evaporated when I read that ridiculous ‘User Review’ which effectively cancelled out the good work of the genuinely impressive wolf head. So sorry, Silverhide, you’re going at the bottom of the heap.

MJS rating: D-

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