By David Dent
“Is that ectoplasm?”
“No it’s sick.”
Martin Gooch’s micro budget folk horror feature fires off in all directions. Part classic Sunday teatime serial, part straight ahead horror movie, and laced with humour throughout that while occasionally very funny (see exchange above) sits rather awkwardly with the action on screen.
10 year old Eternity Winter (a spirited performance from newcomer Scarlett Rayner) lives with her dad Jack in a gatehouse on the edge of a dense forest. Eternity’s mother died in a boating accident and Jack is a writer looking to get his career back on track.
His agent puts him on to a project which is an unfinished history of the woodland near where he lives. But, aiming to complete the book, originally started by a mysterious author called Evelyn Eldritch, his researches take him deeper into the folklore of the area, and he realises that the stories of a horned god living in the woods might be more than legend.
If I’ve sold you a watch of this one based on the very brief summary be warned, this is very low budget and rather ragged round the edges. Acting performances vary, but Gooch at least managed to snag a couple of real TV professionals for the production (Eldritch is played by legendary Brit thespian Paul Freeman, and the ubiquitous Linal Haft turns up as woodsman Algernon Sykes).
Simeon Willis as Jack makes a convincing father to Eternity, but some of the supporting cast leave a lot to be desired.
So while the story is all over the place and the performances are variable, there is a lot to like about ‘The Gatehouse.’ The forest scenes are very well handled even if it does go a bit ‘Robin of Sherwood’ with the overuse of mist, and there is a great folk horror feel to the thing, assisted by Mark Hammond’s atmospheric photography.
‘The Gatehouse’ is by no means a masterpiece, but I liked Gooch’s ambition and the film rarely drags, no mater how silly it gets. Cautious round of applause then.