THE LEGEND OF HARROW WOODS (aka EVIL CALLS)

JOE PESCI II’s review below

1 out of 10

Release Date: 13th June 2011 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Richard Driscoll (Highway To Hell (2012))

Cast: Kathryn Rooney, Richard Waters, Charlie Allan, Ben Tolkien, Sonya Vine, Paul Battin, Eileen Daly and Jason Donovan with Richard Driscoll, Rik Mayall, Robin Askwith with Norman Wisdom and Christopher Walken (voice)

Writer: Richard Driscoll

Trailer: LEGEND OF HARROW WOODS

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Eileen Daly: The X-Factor (TV), Amityville Asylum, Kannibal, Razor Blade Smile
  • Jason Donovan: Keith Lemon, Sorted, Rough Diamonds, Blood Oath, Neighbours (TV)
  • Richard Driscoll: When The Devil Rides Out, Highway To Hell (2012), Kannibal
  • Rik Mayall: One By One, Highway To Hell (2012)Just For The Record, Churchill The Hollywood Years, Guest House Paradiso, The Comic Strip (TV), Bottom (TV), The New Statesman (TV), The Young Ones (TV), Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis, Remember Me? (1997), Carry On Columbus, Drop Dead Fred, An American Werewolf In London
  • Robin Askwith: Run For Your Wife, Britannia Hospital, Let’s Get Laid, Stand Up Virgin Soldiers, Confessions From a Holiday Camp, Queen Kong, Confessions of a Driving Instructor, Confessions Of a Window Cleaner, Carry On Girls, No Sex Please We’re British, Horror Hospital, The Flesh and Blood Snow, The Canterbury Tales (1972), All Coppers Are.., Bless This House, If
  • Norman Wisdom: Last Of The Summer Wine (TV), Double X, A Little Bit Of Wisdom (TV), The Night They Raided Minsky’s, A Stitch In Time, On The Beat, Trouble In Store, One Good Turn, Man Of The Moment
  • Christopher Walken: Jersey Boys, Stand Up Guys, A Last Quartet, Seven Psychopaths, Dark Horse, Hairspray (2006), Click, Domino, Wedding Crashers, The Stepford Wives (2004), Man On Fire, Welcome To The Jungle, Gigli, Kangaroo Jack, Catch Me If You Can, America’s Sweethearts, Sleepy Hollow, Antz (voice), Blast From The Past, Mousehunt, Excess Baggage, Last Man Standing, The Funeral, Basquiat, The Addiction, Nick Of Time, Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, Wild Side, The Prophecy – parts 1-3, Pulp Fiction, A Business Affair, Wayne’s World 2, True Romance, Batman Returns, Mistress, The Comfort Of Strangers, King Of New York, Communion, Homeboy, Biloxi Blues, At Close Range, James Bond – A View To a Kill, The Dead Zone, Dogs Of War, Heaven’s Gate, The Deer Hunter, Annie Hall
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One thought on “THE LEGEND OF HARROW WOODS (aka EVIL CALLS)

  1. THE LEGEND OF HARROW WOODS – review by Joe Pesci II

    This is a film of contradictions. It contains Norman Wisdom’s final film appearance; but it doesn’t. It is a film inspired by Poe’s The Raven; but it isn’t. It is a film about a legend which is not a legend. It is a film, but it is not a film.

    I shall explain. THE LEGEND OF HARROW WOODS (aka EVIL CALLS aka ALONE IN THE DARK aka THE RAVEN) is written, produced, directed by and stars Richard Driscoll, who seems to be a man with ambition and pluck. Alas, he’s very bad at making films.

    The film, which is set ambitiously in America but filmed unambitiously in Cornwall, has at least three opening sequences, including a recording of Christopher Walken reading Poe’s dismal poem ‘The Raven’, and a shot of a man in a log cabin sitting at a desk while the walls burst with blood (certainly an arresting visual in spite of the very obvious cheap effects). After a bit more of this sort of thing the film begins. A couple of years earlier, a novelist went with his family to Harrow Woods. They never returned. That, apparently, is the legend. In my book, that’s a news report. Fascinated by this ‘legend’, a university lecturer decides to investigate,as he’s an investigator into the paranormal and has a website (called ‘The Internetters’ Birthday Club’) devoted to investigating the paranormal. So, when one of the members has a birthday they spend the night investigating weird happenings which just happened to have happened on the same date. Curiously, almost everyone involved in the enterprise seems to be hostile to it, not just sceptical, so you wonder why they’ve bothered turning up.

    The first half is a fairly low-standard re-run of the usual trope: a bunch of friends go off to the woods looking for scary monsters, and encounter a weird medium (except she’s probably not the weird medium the professor was expecting to meet but instead a ghostly manifestation of the dead writer’s dead wife, possibly). Then the normal medium (there are two mediums, this one is part of the gang and is having an affair with the professor, which obviously necessitates a full-frontal nude scene of quite astonishing pointlessness) goes to the log cabin where the family disappeared and has this really long flashback / hallucination involving comedy legends Norman Wisdom, Rik Mayall and Robin Askwith. When she eventually snaps out of it we suddenly find that the characters we’d forgotten about are being slaughtered by who knows what? The plot follows the logic of a dream. Perhaps because…

    In the flashbacks, my word, where to begin? The missing novelist is played by the writer/director/producer using his nom-de-plume Steven Craine. From what I can make out he thinks his wife is having an affair with his brother (which is understandable as said brother is played by 70s sex god Askwith). Things get worse when Wisdom suggests that the pair make a lovely couple. Things get even worse when Mayall suggests exactly the same in a scene which uses exactly the same dialogue. Then a woman turns up wearing a mask and the scene plays out again with the same dialogue. By now Driscoll has worked out that this is quite dull, so uses the oldest trick in the book to distract our attention. Yes, he fills the screen with enough naked women to make Ken Russell blush. Elsewhere we have the birth of some sort of demon baby, Askwith being found mummified in a wall and Jason Donovan as the technical geek who wears a baseball cap and looks at websites of women with guns (naked of course). His is the best performance in the film.

    It seems unfair to be rude about the actors who have to carry the bulk of the film, as I suspect they’re not really actors, though the bloke playing the professor is pretty good in a bad-pantomime sort of way, and I would just like to make fun of the bloke playing Steve for his erratic American accent. (By erratic I mean that it ranges far across the globe from America to Glasgow, by way of Cornwall, Moscow, Wales and Mongolia.) As for the star names involved I guess they were either extremely strapped for cash at the time, or were just extremely generous. However, even if you are (in fact, especially if you are) a fan of Wisdom, Mayall, Askwith, Donovan or Walken, I would advise you to avoid this. None of them are bad, but the film does them no favours. Indeed, did Christopher Walken know he was involved in this film? Or did his reading of The Raven originate elsewhere? Like on an album of American celebrities reading Poe? We shall never know. Although dated 2011 this film looks and feels a lot older. One internet source suggested that the scenes involving Wisdom and Mayall were filmed as long ago as 2002.

    As you may have surmised, narrative rigour is not the film’s strong point. Unfortunately I was unable to identify anything that was a strong point at all. The dialogue is poor, the set-up uninteresting and derivative, the plot folds in on itself. What should be a tense and spooky atmosphere is in fact just one of moderate irritation. Scene changes are frequently indicated by a fireball and a raven turning up on screen. The rain is fake, and you can see the glass on which blood is splattered.

    I guess this is meant to be some sort of visionary work which defies analysis. If only that were true. It is, in fact, a leaden, lumpy, poorly constructed vanity project by someone who has nothing to be vain about. In some respects this is as bad a film as you are ever likely to see. But I would argue it’s just not really a film at all, just somebody’s pet project which somehow escaped and slithered onto DVD. Which means that BASEMENT is still my choice for worst film ever made.

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