Sunday, 25 October 2015

Dense Fear

Director: Tony Gardner
Writer: Tony Gardner
Producer: Tony Gardner
Cast: Tony Gardner, Andy Moffitt, Shaun Winn
Country: UK
Year of release: 2003
Reviewed from: YouTube

Dense Fear is the 50-minute film to which Dense Fear Bloodline is a sequel. It’s available on YouTube but the picture quality is very poor, albeit not enough to spoil the film or prevent one from following the action.

Director-writer-producer Tony Gardner stars as Paul, a young man living in a middle-class suburban house, who has psychological issues and a taste for raw meat. Visited by his sceptical psychiatrist Dr Sandla (Gardner’s sister Sonia Brotherston) he recounts the story of how he became a werewolf.
The bulk of the film is a flashback to a camping trip into the woods by Paul and his mates Dave (Shaun Winn) and Bill (Andy Moffitt), a trio of Geordie likely lads equipped with a tent, some cans of beer and a dirty magazine to provide entertainment. On the road, they pass a scary-looking figure whose hands and face are covered in blood (also Andy Moffitt).

Later, in the woods, Paul is freaked out to see the same bloody individual. Later still, the trio are attacked by a hairy man-beast. Gardner’s fantastic home-made werewolf suit uses the same head as in the sequel but a different body, this one being a quadruped. Good editing of the attack scenes lets us see enough to be impressed.

Curiously, the last 15 minutes or so is a completely different flashback, as Paul explains to Dr Sandla how he knows about a recent local death. Another member of the Moffitt clan, Joe, is a lone driver whose car breaks down and who is attacked by a beast (implicitly Paul). Three days later, Ashley and Lee Moffitt play two kids who find a dismembered body in the woods. Stuart Hills and Joe Youngman are the forensic experts checking it out.

Shot around Gateshead for about 30 quid over a three-year period, Dense Fear was finished in 2003 and shared with family and friends. The film was posted to YouTube in April 2011. Despite a (fake) feeder reel at the start, this seems to have been shot on VHS, not 8mm. An effective negative effect is used for some werewolf POV shots.

Taking into account the budget, the minimal resources, Gardner’s inexperience and the early date in the British Horror Revival, Dense Fear is genuinely very impressive. It’s not as good as the second film, of course; Gardner learned from making this one and fed that experience into the follow-up. But even taken on its own, this is a pretty damn good little slice of British horror. There’s nothing embarrassingly bad and the great werewolf suit balances out the inadequacies of some of the acting and the rather minimalist plot (plus the odd structure, which makes it look like this wanted to be an anthology then got distracted halfway through…).

Worth checking out.

MJS rating: B

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