Every May, the ExCel in London becomes home to MCM Comic Con. For 2018, this geek-out weekend took place 25-27 May, and gathered thousands of fans dedicated to film, comics and superheroes. It’s like a big Halloween party in Spring, and I did see a couple of Michael Myers’ walking around. But slashers and superheroes aside, this weekend Diabolique had a chance to check out a couple of exciting film panels and find out all about two genre film titles coming to the UK very soon.
With the increasing popularity of folk horror, or what seems more like its revival, writer and director Richard Rowntree brings us Dogged, a psychological horror based on his own critically acclaimed short. Richard has worked in the Art Department on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, A Monster Calls, Ex Machina and more, and was joined on stage by cast members – Sam Saunders and Toby Wynn-Davies – in a panel on Saturday. Richard and his cast gave the audience a brilliant insight into Dogged, their favourite films and inspirations, and how to make a horror film on a tight budget. Dogged was funded by a Kickstarter, and the 60-day campaign, although at times daunting, as recalled by Rowntree, did succeed. What is more, the director is currently working on another Kickstarter-funded feature, a home invasion thriller from the invaders’ perspective.
During the panel, we learnt about the other British folk horror films that influenced Rowntree’s feature – Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011), The Wicker Man (1973) and The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), to name a few. Toby Wynn-Davies (who plays the villain Father David Jones) gave a special mention and strong nod to Hammer horror films as well. From the trailer and sneak peek we saw, Dogged looks like it’s going to be an eerie and sinister little horror flick. There are terrifying animal masks straight out of The Wicker Man, and as noted by the lead actor Sam Saunders, under the surface there is always “more going on than it seems”. As if the masks (the creepy trio of a badger, a fox, and a hare) were not creepy enough, Rowntree might have accidentally ruined some childhood memories: when asked about the inspiration behind the masks, he answered it was the stories by Beatrix Potter and The Animals of Farthing Wood series. In fact, the island where the action takes place in the film is called Farthing Island. Father David looks to have a real sinister presence; similar to characters from The Wicker Man or The Blood on Satan’s Claw, as a zealous head of the isolated community, “the villain doesn’t think he’s a villain”, as Wynn-Davies told the audience.
Dogged takes place in a small village, where people’s suspicions seem to turn into paranoia rather quickly. The story follows Sam who returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of a ten-year-old girl, Megan Lancaster, who apparently accidentally lost her life. Upon his return, Sam not only has to face his parents and ex-girlfriend Rachel, but soon uncovers the truth about Megan’s horrible death. The panel told us that, as events unfold, reality blurs and makes for an intense and scary experience.
It is definitely one to look out for this year. Dogged seems to evoke the eerie and disturbing atmosphere of the already mentioned classic folk horrors, but also more recent ones such as Wake Wood (2009) and The Ritual (2017).
On Sunday, writers and directors Freddie Hutton-Mills and Bart Ruspoli talked about their new feature, Genesis – a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film soon released by Lionsgate UK. For the panel, the filmmaking duo was joined by the cast members, Olivia Grant and Philip Barantini. They discussed the writing and making of Genesis, and the film’s main themes of faith, humanity and free will. The filmmakers and cast also gave us their perspective and experience of working on a sci-fi feature on a tight budget. Grant, who portrays Dr Eve Gabriel, one of the main scientists working on an A.I. project, together with Barantini stressed the importance of imagination and creativity when acting with invisible special effects. It was an amazing project to work on, Grant said, especially having come from more of an epic/period drama background with “lots of corsets” involved.
Genesis is set in the distant future in 2069, after the world has been destroyed by a chemical disaster. With a toxic and no longer habitable environment outside, people are now contrived to living underground. The group of citizens, led by Paul Brooks (John Hannah from The Mummy films), have to survive in horrible circumstances; they are starving and forced into slave labour. In the meantime, together with politicians and other scientists, Dr Eve Gabriel dedicates all available resources to build an Artificial Intelligence machine. The humanoid machine is believed to be the last hope for the surviving mankind. When the A.I. learns what – or who – he is, the future of the mankind and its survival do not seem so certain anymore and many choices will have to be made.
Genesis, with its futuristic and claustrophobic plot and setting, looks to evoke the sinister atmosphere of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Prometheus (2012).
MCM Comic Con is a fantastic and inclusive event so it was great to catch up with the stars and filmmakers, and to find out about their features. These upcoming films both seem to provide fresh takes on classic material. For folk horror and post-apocalyptic films fans – and anyone who supports independent genre features – we have two appointments to keep: Dogged is coming to DVD and VOD on 9 July from Left Films, Genesis is available on Digital Download 9 July & DVD 16 July.