Continuing our recent promotion of low-budget indie horrors you might not have heard of before, Owen reviews the latest of these to land on our desk, Harrison Wall’s British horror-sci-fi, Weaverfish.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Following the exploits of a group of young adults who throw an impromptu party at the site of a condemned river creek some years after a freak accident, who then end up with a disfiguring virus, you would be forgiven for expecting Weaverfish to play out like a British version of 2002’s Cabin Fever.
Shot in 16 days on a budget 1% of that of Eli Roth’s cult horror, at just £10,000 of self-raised funding, it’s perhaps unfair to draw any comparisons in the production values. Similarly, aside from a shared concept in the premise, they’re also wildly different thematically too. Whilst one is a grotesque body horror-comedy (no prizes for guessing which), the other is more deeply rooted in portraying the trials and tribulations of relationships between a bunch of 20-somethings.
It’s difficult to be too critical of director Harrison Wall and writers Mark Maltby and Thomas Shawcroft’s indie labour of love. Indeed, a quick skim through the trivia page on IMDb reveals that the majority of the cast and crew took two weeks annual leave from their regular full time jobs to shoot Weaverfish. Such is the effort required to produce a film – any film – like that, it’s highly commendable that the final product is not just “available”, but also enjoyable in the main.
However, as laudable as it is to make a film given the obvious economic and logistical restrictions placed on it, projects like this do come with some notable and frequent drawbacks. Most noticeably perhaps is the fact that the picture quality often dips dramatically in the middle of a scene, blurring slightly or losing focus during crucial moments. See also the final 10 minutes where the contrast is rendered far too dark to really make out what is meant to be happening on screen far too often. If I were feeling harsh, I might even suggest that the pacing is a little off too given that it took until nearly half way into the film for me to feel invested in the characters. But these are just minor quibbles that will plague any production of this scale and so doesn’t feel fair for me to bang on about them.
Unusually, I didn’t actually have too many complaints with the script or the way the characters were written and performed. For a film that also places such emphasis on realistic human relationships – be they the strained friendship between nice-guy photographer Reece (Shane O’Meara) and his supposed best friend Matt (Josh Ockenden), or the familial sibling rivalry of Reece and his sister Shannon (Ripeka Templeton), or the fractured boyfriend-girlfriend relationship of Matt and Charlotte (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) – as refreshingly natural as the progression feels between these characters over the course of a film of this stature, it does sometimes become quite convoluted and aimless. For example, Matt’s flirty relationship with Shannon is developed as a plot point to bring Reece and Charlotte closer together whilst simultaneously driving the best friends further apart, but it ultimately fizzles into the background without any real resolution. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fault of the actors as Quinlan especially does very well to carry large parts of this film. John Doughty as Mike also manages to add some lighter organic humour to much of the dry comedy that occasionally features too. It’s just a shame that many of the side-plots involving these characters often eventually become a meaningless deviation from the more meaty main arc of the story.
Speaking of meaty! Like presumably many others viewing Weaverfish, the least I expect (and indeed the most I want in all honesty) from an indie horror is a few thrills here and there; specifically in the shape of some gruesome horror. If you’re going to threaten having a deadly virus. then there better be some gory repercussions for your characters fiddling about in hazardous waste. Initially disappointing in this regard as it took nearly 50 minutes for any signs of anything even remotely approaching ‘scary’ to occur, there’s one particular moment examining the after effects of the virus that really took me by surprise and made me squirm a little in my seat.
Unfortunately for some, as established earlier, this isn’t a Cronenberg-meets-Craven horror full of sickening torture-porn and uncomfortable amounts of buckets of blood. Effects like the one mentioned above are few and far between. You may also be disappointed if you acquire Weaverfish with the intention of witnessing a carousel of cheap shocks and camera trickery to make you jump out of your seat repeatedly. Unlike so many big studio paint-by-numbers horrors that rely on this technique seem to do these days, Wall appears to want to primarily induce his scares through atmosphere and foreboding, genuinely hoping you’ll care about what might happen to his characters – all before his head-fuck of a final scene!
And that’s really where the strength of this film lies. If it can get you onboard with its characters, are less bothered about gore or jumps than tone and atmosphere, and if you’re willing to overlook some of the fundamental issues with any micro-budget film that this is no exception to, then it really isn’t a half bad amateur effort from a young aspiring director who is currently working as the first assistant editor of Channel 4’s Humans.
You can find details on where to watch Weaverfish and view the trailer on the Continuum Motion Pictures website.