March 2013 British horror movie DVD round-up

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First of these is the acclaimed inner-city thriller Tower Block, from the previously somewhat less acclaimed writer of Severance, James Moran.

The increasingly versatile Sheridan Smith leads a cast of familiar faces including Withnail and I‘s Ralph Brown, his Him and Her co-star Russell Tovey and Eden Lake‘s Jack O’Connell as residents of a London high-rise that’s due to be demolished. These few remaining residents of the block also happen to be the only witnesses to a murder and are targeted by an un-named assailant, taking vengeance for their silence at the time.

Somewhere between a gritty urban drama, serial killer flick and disaster movie, Tower Block proves to be a compelling, fast-paced movie with great performances and a decent cranking up of the tension, despite a slightly disappointing denouement.

Sticking with the chirpy theme of urban desolation, also released this month is Community, the directorial debut of Jason Ford. Set on the fictional edge-of-town Draymen Estate, two student film-makers, played convincingly by Jemma Dallender and Will Jordan, set out to make a documentary about the impact of drugs and poverty on this ghettoised community. Of course, things don’t go to plan.

Thankfully largely ditching the predictable found-footage route, as our protagonists get to know the wretched, brutal locals, we are treated to a neat twist on the demonisation and hopelessness of life on some marginalized estates. Enjoyably scary performances from Terry Bird and Paul McNeilly as twisted residents lend a touch of the Texas Chainsaw to proceedings that cancels out the sometimes almost embarrassingly clumsy script and leaves Community an entertaining example of why not to hug a hoodie.

Taking a somewhat lighter route than the previous two bleak-fests is Stitches, the British/Irish-produced film acting debut of surreallist stand-up comic Ross Noble.

Noble stars as a wretched children’s entertainer seemingly based wholesale on Psychoville‘s miserable clown, Mr Jelly, who is accidentally killed at an ill-fated kids’ party. Many years later, due to some supernatural cult gubbins, he is brought back to take revenge on the now-teen kids who took his life.

Connor McMahon’s low-budget black comedy got a critical savaging on its cinematic release a few months ago; though by no means a good film, there’s plenty here to enjoy. Noble’s grumpy grumblings and the ridiculously OTT death scenes prove to be great fun at times. If you ignore the dull love story and prevalent clich├ęs, Stitches is a likeable spin on Nightmare on Elm Street silly viciousness.

Rounding off this special is perhaps THE British horror movie, the classic 1958 Hammer version of Dracula. Starring old tall, dark and gruesome himself, Christopher Lee, as our titular Count opposite the great Peter Cushing as vampire slayer Van Helsing, this definitive re-release features a newly expanded version with previously banned scenes alongside the 2007 restoration and a feast of extras.

Lee – star of the Lord of the Rings films, The Wicker Man and, erm, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow – is on top form as the suave blood-sucker whilst no-one does ‘stern-faced dignity’ as well as Cushing.

With a decent support cast, including a young (pre-Alfred the butler) Michael Gough, Brighton Rock‘s Carol Marsh and – yes – Catweazel himself, Geoffrey Bayldon, the irreverently (sacrilegiously?) altered plot unfolds at breakneck speed as Terence Fisher’s film stakes a claim to being one of the definitive vampire films.

What’s the best British horror movie you’ve seen recently? Let us know below…