7.5 out of 10
Release Date: 7th August 2012
Director: Keith Wright
Cast: Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Phil Gascoyne, Andy Pandini, Lee Thompson, Richard Harrison and Richard Atkinson
Writer: Keith Wright
Trailer: Harold’s Gone Stiff
Just when you thought the Zombie film genre had been thoroughly drained of fresh ideas along comes Harold’s Going Stiff. A Barnsley set take on the shuffling hordes of undead breathes fresh air into what is fast becoming one of the most abused horror genres. Thought Vampires were tired? Well pity the poor re-animated flesh eating corpse who since Shaun Of The Dead and the rage virus 28 Days duo have made video shelves bulge with about three versions from every country on Earth. This has a hundred times the story telling flair of any Resident Evil sequel. Why this didn’t get a decent cinema release is a sad mystery known only to the countries cinema distributors.
As stated, Harold’s Going Stiff offers a completely new slant on the genre. Men are being struck down with a degenerative condition called Onset Rigours Disease (O.R.D.), that sees sufferers limbs stiffen up, followed up by gradual memory loss, finally resulting in violent, blood craving dementia. Give me Z, give me an O….etc. The story takes the partial form of a documentary that chronicles the progress of patient zero, Howard (STAN ROWE) and his devoted carer Penny (SARAH SPENCER). Meanwhile, groups of police assisted vigilantes are patrolling the surrounding countryside putting down any renegade sufferers.
In giving the condition a gradual onset we get to know Harold and Penny, as their bond grows and they become fond of one another. Harold is a widower and has all but given up on life when the carer shows up and gives him something to live for. Penny is an large girl with a caring heart and also comes across as lonely as a result of her lack of confidence with men and some bad choices in the romance department. In giving this film a real beating heart and showing more than a passing interest in the origins and symptoms of the condition put this streets ahead of the horde of competitors. The relationship is really involving and completely convincing. This enables the film to completely disarm us emotionally when the tale comes to a fairly predictably sad ending.
The horror elements work well too. Tension is drawn particularly in an underground encounter with a renegade zombie. Also the inclusion of a mysterious and violent Iggy Pop look alike creature known as Number 7 (Richard Atkinson) gives the film a contrast to our hero Harold. The vigilantes are painted as a trio of oafs who represent the pack mentality of the general public (largely unseen). They were probably unemployed before the onset of the disease and being the countryside protectors has given them a raison d’être.
The script is very moving and at times also very funny. The cast, which were largely found from a local casting call in Barnsley are perfect. They may have benefitted well from the faux-documentary style but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from the spirited leads. The production values are non-existent. The filming took 9 days and all things considered I think they’ve pulled off a miracle.
7.5 out of 10 – Hard to believe that at this late stage, along comes a truly original Zombie flick. It may not frighten you so much as make you cry as you see a very likeable old man succumb to such a dreadful fate. An ace genre flick. Seek it out or I send round Number 7.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
THE CAST ARE ALL FIRST TIMERS.