By David Dent
The prolific Charlie Steeds is back with his third feature this year, after the creepy ‘An English Haunting’ and the rabble rousing ‘Death Ranch.’ This time the director turns his attentions to a period horror piece, evoking memories of classic Hammer films, but also injecting an element of comedy hitherto missing from Steeds’ output (and doesn’t that title reference another rather famous lycanthropic shocks and yocks movie?).
Archie Whittock (Reece Connolly) is being transported by coach for trial, almost certainly likely to hang following his murder of a man: except Whittock maintains that the person he killed was a werewolf. Whittock is handcuffed to his protector, Parish Councillor Horace Raycraft (Tim Cartwright), and the pair are travelling by coach. They’re forced to stay overnight at a coaching inn, appropriately named ‘The Three Claws’ and run by blowsy Martha Hogwood (Emma Spurgin Hussey). The area, Grittleton Marsh, is steeped in local legend, including being home to wolves.
But the inn they’ve happened on has its own secrets; not only do the Inkeepers have their own sideline in chopping up bodies, but it looks like the stories about lycanthropy are true, and worse, these two facts are connected. So Whittock is vindicated, but as the werewolves gather to attack the inn, will he last long enough to protest his innocence?
Steeds’ skills here – of creating something out of not much at all – are in abundance. Most of the movie takes place in a two room set (the inn is a real location in Cornwall but I’m guessing the owners feared for the soft furnishings) but so inventive is the camerawork and the interplay between the quirky cast that you barely get time to acknowledge and limitations of the interiors.
And let’s hear it for the werewolves, courtesy of the US SFX company Midnight Studios! There may not be enough money for a full on transformation scheme, but with nary a CGI moment visible, ‘A Werewolf in England’s ketchup and grue is authentically grisly; although I’m not entirely sure about the ingredients that went into the wolfman diarrhoea which features in a scene worthy of Peter Jackson’s early movies.
You can tell that Steeds is having fun here: the ‘Evil Dead’ visual references fall over each other, and the cast look like they’re enjoying themselves too: Barrington de la Roche, a fixture of all of Steeds’ movies, in particular turns in a super ripe performance as one of The Three Claws’ shadier staff. The director once again shows his versatility at turning out quality product which doesn’t break the bank but looks a million dollars. I do not know how he does it, but I’m damn glad he does.
A Werewolf in England is released on DVD on Monday 28th September 2020.