Runtime: 80 Minutes
Director: Jack McHenry
Writer: Jack McHenry & Alice Sidgwick
Stars: Tom Bailey, Margaret Clunie, Maureen Bennett, Alfred Bradley
By Simon Whitlock
A weekend in the country can be a nightmare, if the right combination of people are thrown together. Writer-director Jack McHenry and co-writer Alice Sidgwick have taken this thought and run with it for their feature debut “Here Comes Hell”: a horror-comedy of the same gore-fest breed as Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films, with the action instead taking place in an English country estate in the 1930s rather than in a cabin in the woods.
The estate in question is Westwood Manor, recently acquired by the heir of a vast family fortune who has invited his friends to a dinner party at his new home. Naturally, post-dinner entertainment includes a seance – complete with an eccentric medium – which goes just as well as any cinematic encounter with the hereafter has done previously (with the exception of “Ghost”, of course).
Before long, the party guests are subjected to all sorts of infernal nightmares and an impressive amount of blood and gore for a film on a humble budget, with a threat from the beyond that every one of the attendees will be, to borrow a phrase, dead by dawn.
“While “Here Comes Hell” is more than happy to lean into homage for a lot of its running time, there’s enough going on here to keep the film feeling like a breath of fresh air”
Fans of the genre will not be overly surprised by the taken by the film’s writers, but that’s not really the point here: McHenry and Sidgwick have constructed a quintessentially English love letter to the endearingly schlocky B-movies of days gone by. Films which are keen to declare the filmmakers’ cinematic influences often fall foul of a smug knowingness which can be difficult to overcome, thankfully “Here Comes Hell” is so earnest in paying tribute to McHenry’s idols that the film never feels anything short of charming from the start.
Having “Here Comes Hell” take place in the 1930s English countryside lends more than an air of originality to proceedings, and the director has decided to double down on the setting by presenting his film in a style befitting it. While the film does look as though it’s been altered in post-production – its black and white, Academy ratio presentation doesn’t cover the clarity of the digital cameras on which it was seemingly shot – the attention to detail elsewhere, such as shooting on location and opting for old-school filming techniques really pays off.
The cast of relatively unknown actors seem fully on board to get stuck into the film’s script, which is chock-full of quips and brilliantly acerbic one-liners. Of all the cast members – an early cameo from a British comedy treasure notwithstanding – the highest honours go to Margaret Clunie and Jessica Webber who make the most of a great script which never undermines its female characters. While the film might be hearkening back to the 1930s in setting, McHenry and Sidgwick made sure to keep its politics reassuringly modern.
It all makes for an interesting and entertaining watch, and while “Here Comes Hell” is more than happy to lean into homage for a lot of its running time, there’s enough going on here to keep the film feeling like a breath of fresh air. Not only is this the first feature for its director, but the film also marks a debut for London-based studio Trashouse. On the merit of its first full-length release, Trashouse have come out of the gates looking like a bright prospect for British horror, and British cinema altogether.
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars
Signature Entertainment presents Here Comes Hell on Digital HD 11th November 2019