Wednesday 10 February 2016

The Sheltered

Directors: Martin Dallard, Gary Organ, Dean Eyre
Writers: Martin Dallard, Gary Organ, Dean Eyre
Producers: Martin Dallard, Gary Organ, Dean Eyre
Cast: Martin Dallard, Gary Organ, Dean Eyre (and some other people, to be fair)
Country: UK
Year of release: 2016
Reviewed from: YouTube

This amateur feature shot around Gloucester in 2012 completely escaped my notice when it had its one and only screening at the end of June 2013. Two and a half years later, it has popped up on YouTube, necessitating my watching it to check what it’s like.

I don’t think I’m being cruel in saying that this is a film that could only have any interest for members of three groups: family and friends of those involved; British horror completists like myself; or hardcore werewolf fans. Because yes, this is another in the surprisingly extensive field of modern British werewolf pictures. It certainly perks up when the werewolves finally appear, but by golly it takes a long time to get there.

The setting is a privately run hostel for homeless people, and we spend a full 50 minutes of this 86-minute film just watching what goes on there. There’s a Christmas meal. There’s an exercise class. There’s a slightly creepy ‘Circle of Trust’ meeting. I guess this is supposed to help us get to know these people, but we don’t, partly because there are way too many characters.  It’s nigh on impossible to work out all the positions and relationships here. It’s not even easy to tell sometimes who’s meant to be homeless and who’s meant to be a worker/volunteer as the ‘guests’ mostly dress quite well and have decent haircuts.

There’s a burgeoning romance between two of the homeless people, one of whom has arrived there with complete memory loss. In a bizarre scene, two staff attempt to find out his identity by taking some blood and scanning his fingerprints on an electronic box. There’s a second relationship between one of the staff and a homeless guy with OCD. But that’s about as much actual plot as you’ll find.

Eventually, the staff and ‘guests’ all go off camping in the countryside where the homeless people are split into three teams and sent off orienteering. Seems a bit needlessly cruel, that. Surely if someone has spent months walking the streets and sleeping rough, the last thing they want to do is walk across fields and sleep under canvas. Comfy bed and a roof over their head, that’s what they want.

That night, around the campifire, people tell each other spooky stories until the hostel manager (I think) announces that the really spooky thing is they’re all going to be killed and eaten. It turns out that all the staff (some of whom are, I think, related to each other in some way) are a pack of werewolves. The rest of the movie is the poor homeless sods running through the woods, being chased by the lycanthropes. It’s all shot day-for-night so it’s too dark to see what’s happening and, even if we knew who all these people were, we wouldn’t be able to recognise them. Eventually it all sort of ends with one survivor.

Let’s not kid ourselves: much of the acting here is awful. A couple of the actors are quite good, but much of this is so woodenly performed it’s barely watchable. People were clearly cast because they were friends or family, not because of actual thespian talent. Because this film isn’t on the old IMDB, it behooves me to include a list of the cast here: Paul Draper, Gary Organ, Graham Roberts, Trudi Hayden, Martin Dallard, Louise Broadley, Craig Eyre, Clare Bayley, Seth Holmes, Jemma Trinder, Dean Eyre, Adam Teague, David Hodges, Jamie Bayley, Kimberley Flook, Robert Hayden, Alena Mezzone, Siouxsie Organ, Tom Bayley, Paula Smith, Robert Myers, Emma Ford, Natalie Organ, David Perry, Andrew Bird and Mark Hough.

The actual credits are pretty sparse. The film was “Written, produced, directed, shot and edited by Martin Dallard, Gary Organ and Dean Eyre”, all three of whom you will notice are also in the above cast list. The make-up and effects, which are probably quite gory but simply can’t be seen properly, are credited to ‘D.E.A.D. FX’. And that, apart from a few extras and some music credits, is that.

There’s no real story, just the stuff at the hostel and the stuff in the woods, with a slice of ‘wandering through the countryside’ inbetween. Way, way too many characters means I couldn’t even begin to identify or name most of them. If this was drastically cut down to about 20 minutes, it might sort of work, and certainly wouldn’t outstay its welcome the way it does at this length.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really pleased that people are shooting films like The Sheltered, and even more delighted that they are then making them freely available online. This sort of grass-roots film-making is exactly what makes UK indie cinema in the 21st century so exciting. But this is only ever going to be a curio and it’s only my self-imposed determination to try and watch as many of these things as possible that stopped me from turning it off, or at least fast-forwarding.

MJS rating: D+

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