Independent horror director Charlie Steeds is building up quite a CV for diverse horror.
He has previously tackled psychosexual possession with The House of Violent Desire, scratched the Texas Chainsaw itch with Escape from Cannibal Farm and is also soon to be delving into classic ghost story territory with An English Haunting.
But where does ‘The Barge People’ fit into all this? Well, without exaggeration, this is his most accomplished feature to date.
What Steeds understands is characters, and here he throws in a few cliches but gives potentially throwaway roles more gravitas than you would think for a B-movie style action horror.
We have two couples who decide to reconnect with a weekend on a barge in the middle of nowhere, free from the distractions of the outside world. This is soon interrupted as they are hunted by a group of mutant fish people – yes I said that right, mutant fish people.
It would be so easy to have these monsters look quite ridiculous, but in the Barge People come across as genuinely terrifying due to how relentless their attacks are.
Their practical effects are also superb and feel like they are ripped from a classic X-Files episode which hit the cutting room floor.
There is one sequence in particular, which will have you biting your fingernails to the bone – very much in the vein of The Hills Have Eyes.
Notable mentions are also made to classics such as American Werewolf in London, Prophecy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Massacre and even Friday the 13th.
Lead actors Kate Davies-Speak and Mark McKirdy also shine as it feels like a genuine couple who a thrown into a nightmare. Davies-Speak’s Kat also throws her hand into the ring for an indie horror scream queen, with some fantastic action sequences with our titular villains.
The production design, given its limited budget is also impressive as the team create really claustrophobic spaces, most notably on the barge itself, whilst creating the feeling that there is no escape.
Sam Benjafield’s retro-styled synth score works perfectly for the narrative and really ramps up in the more intense sequences, creating a sense of dread.
The Barge People doesn’t outstay its welcome either at a lean 79 minutes, we cram enough story to leave you clambering for more.
Barge holiday in 2021, anyone?
The Barge People screened at Arrow Video Frightfest and Horror on Sea Film Festival.