Tag Archives: dan palmer

The Package

the package

How far would you go to get something back?

Fans of last year’s FrightFest coverage may remember a short film we raved about called The Tour, starring Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff, set in an old haunted English house. Writer and director Damon Rickard’s The Package, the follow-up to his chilling thriller, will be hitting the international festival circuit soon. It will be making appearances at the likes of Scream in the Dark, Weekend of Horrors, Puerto Rico Horror Festival and the Cornwall Horror Festival (a little closer to home) – and we’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peak at his latest twisted tale.

Actor Tom Gordon – a co-star of Cameron and Dorff’s in The Tour – returns for Rickard’s newest production, where he mercilessly intimidates, threatens, beats and tortures a mysterious stranger (Dan Palmer, Stalled). Who is he? What does Gordon want from Palmer? Why is he tied to a chair, seemingly unaware of why this is happening to him?

Or… is he unaware?

You see, The Package begs its audience to carefully consider the situation. As clues are gathered throughout the duration of the relatively short 15 minute run time, squeezed out of the dialogue an inch at a time, it’s clear that the intention is not to paint you a pretty picture of good vs evil. “Who is the villain of the piece” is not at all a straightforward question and you soon learn that as quickly as one fact may be established, the next may provide some further context that completely flips it on its head, keeping you guessing right the way through to its eventual and satisfying conclusion.

The most difficult element to get right in a short such as this is the pacing. Give away too much too quickly and you’ll kill any suspense before it’s even begun, but if things move too slowly, then there’ll be no momentum – or worse, the ending will be rushed.

I’m pleased to report that The Package suffers very little from these problems and is a keenly scripted, well edited suspense thriller. Credit is due not only to its screenplay, but the whole production values belie the micro-budget the crew had to work with. Visually, the setting is well chosen and atmospheric, with some rather nice individual shots of its two high performing stars. The score, produced by Eric Elick (who also worked on The Tour), also suits the tone perfectly.

However, getting back to the budget for a moment, this film only exists because there were fans out there willing to back Rickard’s project via its Indiegogo page before production had begun. They managed to raise £4,383 in funding, which in the grand scheme of the multi-million dollar films released at your local cinema every week, it may not seem like a huge amount. In actuality, it’s a mightily impressive figure for a short like this to achieve. Especially when they were only asking for £3,500 initially, which they surpassed by some distance. Take a look at the last entry to my June In Review article to see how easy it is to mess up a film on a budget of a similar size. To get a final product in The Package that was this good from that much money is highly commendable.

And it is a good, intriguing, exciting short movie. But it’s not perfect. Once or twice you do wish that they would just get on with it. You have an inkling as to what the eventual outcome might be, and as much fun as it is getting there to find out, occasionally the dialogue’s restrictiveness does not work in its favour. The concept of drip-feeding you revelations about the menacingly dark plot is great, firmly planting one foot in the horror camp and the other in suspense-thriller territory, but in reality it struggles at times to feel real because of this. Either the characters know what’s motivating them and therefore don’t need to speak it out loud for the audiences benefit, or they’re trying to ascertain facts and would be as quick as possible to establish them. I wouldn’t say it’s jarring, but it is quite possibly a result of simply being a short movie. With longer time to play with, things could be allowed the room to breathe and grow organically. Let them settle on the air in the room first.

But this is just a minor gripe. It certainly doesn’t detract heavily from what is overall an enjoyable – and teeth grindingly tense – way to spend 15 minutes.

The Package will get its world première at the Scream in the Dark Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday 18 October in a block of short films starting from 1pm. UK residents won’t have to wait too much longer to see it, as it’ll be screened at Film4 FrightFest’s Halloween All-dayer on 24th October 2015 at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square.


Film4 FrightFest 2015 Preview

It’s that time again where give the batteries in our torches a quick shake to get them working, brush the cobwebs out of the cellar doorway and gingerly tip-toe through the darkness and tap-tap-tap on the lid to the coffin where we keep Mike Shawcross. Come on, Mike. Time to wake up, drink the blood of a few buxom-virgins and tell us what you’ll personally be seeing at this year’s FrightFest, following yesterday’s announcement from Film4.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)

Another year, another FrightFest and the UK’s première genre festival continues to grow and grow. In its 16th year it continues to impress with what looks to be an incredible line up, another screen and more parties. There does seem an aspect to bring the FrightFest community together with a few more social events. The Duke Mitchell Club was fantastic fun last year and one event I will be visiting this year. We have a Karaoke party as well (not for me!)

As for the films, so many I want to see, so many I’m going to have to miss out on… bigger festival more choice, bigger headache. Over the last few years the Discovery screens have shown the breakout films, the gems people talk about for weeks to come. The Borderlands was last year’s big discovery film; I wonder what will it be this year?

turbo kidOpening night brings monster wasps with Stung, post-apocalyptic sci-fi Turbo Kid and Irish witch-horror Cherry Tree; although personally I think Turbo Kid stands out here. Friday on the main screen and highlights look like We Are Still Here, a ghost story with vengeful spirits [which Paul Field recently raved about on the Failed Critics Podcast]. James Wan delivers more horror as producer on Demonic. I do like his work so will be staying in my seat for this one. Hellions looks interesting, starring Chloe Rose as she attempts to survive from trick-or-treaters from Hell on Halloween night. In the discovery screen 1 – Aaaaaaaah! from Steve Oram looks worth a watch, starring Toyah Willcox. Horror-comedy Bloodsucking Bastards is another one I’ll be checking out. DS 2 (Discovery Screen 2) we have III, a Russian film blending religious iconography with a violent disease, which I’ve been interested in for a while, and Final Girl, which sounds fun with Abigail Breslin as a lethal assassin hunting down a gang of murderers preying on young females! Creature-feature The Sand I may be staying off the beach for…

I’ve told you there is far too much choice! In DS 3 on Friday Zombie Fright Club could be great fun! Martial arts and zombies? Of course I’m IN! Body looks a possible selection as well as three girls break into the wrong mansion. As for the Eugene McGing’s haunted house mystery thriller The Unfolding…? I’ll wait to see what people think of that one first!

Into Saturday then and Shut In might be worth the early morning watch, starring Macaulay’s brother Rory Culkin. Bait is Dominc Brunt’s (you know Paddy from Emmerdale) second feature as a director; a true-life crime thriller starring Victoria Smurfit. Frankenstein has a strong cast with Carrie-Ann Moss, Danny Huston, Tony Todd and Xavier Samuel, directed by Bernard Rose (Candyman) and I fancy this one. Black magic goes awry in Deathgasm which sounds fun and, depending on if I get in, the Film4 screen is perfect for late night horror. If you like documentaries then there is Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD in DS1. I tend to miss them as I prefer feature films, but I’ve heard extremely good things about this documentary. The Hallow sounds like a must see film; a success at Sundance and directed by Corin Hardy (who will direct The Crow reboot), set in Ireland this horror film is full of demonic monsters in the woods. I’d love to see the zom-rom-com Night of the Living Deb, featuring Ray Wise, but it will clash with Deathgasm… choices, choices, choices! DS2 shows Another Me, starring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) stalked by a doppelgänger, which looks good. DS 3 screens a few retro showings and the Duke Mitchell events!

Sunday and, after the success of The Babadook, Inner Demons must be worth a visit. I’ve seen these kinds of films before at FrightFest, but a Christmas horror story surprisingly doesn’t really seem out of place in August and is another to consider.over your dead body

I can’t resist a Takashi Miike film, so looks like I’ll be in the DS 1 first thing for Over Your Dead Body. More end of the world drama in These Final Hours and Summer Camp (from the team behind [REC]) may be worth viewing. Think I’ll miss high-school reunion slasher Most Likely to Die. Over in DS 2 more retro screenings with Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, cult fantasy film Hawk The Slayer and 80’s classic Hellraiser…. All of which I’ll miss! April Mullen has a second film at FrightFest after showing 88 in Glasgow earlier this year. I liked action-thriller 88, so on that basis alone I may look at Farhope Tower, even though not much more information has been released about this yet.

Monday is the toughest day of the festival! The twisted comedy about a sarcastic ex-girlfriend coming back from the dead, Nina Forever, looks interesting – as does the UK première of Emelie. And then we have one of my highlights – Tales of Halloween, the closing film and an anthology film, with directors Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn, Neil Marshall and Lucky McKee joining in the fun. Big film to end on.

DS1 presents Paul Hyett’s Howl (which I saw a trailer for in Glasgow) and sees a group trapped on a train overnight with an unknown create – and I think I’m going to give it a go. The Lazarus Effect in DS 2 has a decent cast with Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplas and Sarah Bolger (who is also in Emelie) and sounds like a modern day Flatliners. In DS 3, Banjo (from FrightFest regular Liam Regan) is showing, starring Laurence R. Harvey and Dan Palmer – this will be on my list!

This year there will be 3 short showcases. I have to mention these as (and unashamedly plugged) I have worked on three films which have been sent for selection, so I may be in a couple of these showcases!!!!

Overall a hugely impressive line-up. You can listen to me and the rest of the Failed Critics on the podcast [to be released on 3rd September] as I uncover the best and worst of the festival for 2015!

Film4 FrightFest will be held in London on 27th – 31st August 2015 and you can find more details on their website. Tickets go on sale at noon tomorrow.