1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 13th January 2014 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Martin Pick

Cast: Tony Scannell, Graham Cole, Anouska Mond, Fliss Walton, Katy Manning, Louis Selwyn, John Mangan, Neil Maskell, Earl Ling and PH Moriarty

Writer: John Mangan


Unknown-6Evil may never die but at least it only hangs around for 75 minutes in this occasionally entertaining but generally dull supernatural gangster thriller. 75 very long minutes. Also known as THE HAUNTING OF HARRY PAYNE (a much better title), this is a mega-low budget film with some good ideas, a bad script, acting which covers the spectrum from pretty good to abysmal, and which can’t do scenes in supposedly moving cars properly.

Tony Scannell (Roche from THE BILL) stars as Harry Payne, an alcoholic psychic former gangster released from prison after serving ten years for killing a nastier gangster. But he is haunted, and moves to a village pub (it’s OK – his alcoholism keeps his psychic-ness at bay) to be near his wife (KATY MANNING – DR WHO) who went loopy and is kept in a nearby rest home. Unfortunately some maniac is going around chopping people up. And the local policeman (GRAHAM COLE – PC Stamp from THE BILL!) has an old grudge against Harry. The rest of the cast is made up of weirdoes, magic shop owners who may or may not have second sight, and some of the least convincing yobbish youths you will ever encounter. Meanwhile Harry is haunted by flashbacks, and so are we. The film-makers apparently had a bit of a row over these and they add little and take away a lot. We see Harry’s past in which he is depicted as a ruthlessly violent nutcase, which is at odds with the sensitively tortured figure that Scannell plays. We also get to see Neil Maskell (KILL LIST) contribute precisely one line of dialogue which is just idiotic. And then there’s Harry’s gangster pal / nemesis played by PJ Moriarty (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY) who has all the threatening presence of a Me to You cuddly toy.

So who is the maniac killer? What is the secret of Harry’s haunting? Are the two linked in some way? Why is Katy Manning mad? You won’t be surprised by much of the resolution, but there is something that is so bizarre, so eccentric, that you have to either take your hat off to the film-makers for their brazen daring in going through with such a storyline, or else track them down on Twitter (etc) and troll them to death.

Despite the absence of pace, directorial flair, and a decent script, I did like the film’s attempt to focus on a single character. And although the film-makers have made it difficult for themselves with a nonsensical back-story (rejected by the original screenwriter) they succeeded in getting an actor who could do something with the material (contrast Michael Nardone in the awful but in some ways similar WAYLAND’S SONG). Tony Scannell and Katy Manning as the haunted husband and wife rise effortlessly above the nonsense they are mired in. This would have made for a decent hour of 1970s TV; the sort of play that would have nicely fitted into Armchair Thriller or Hammer House of Horror or Tales of the Unexpected. It even looks very televisiony. As a feature film (even as a no-budget Z movie) it doesn’t work: it just doesn’t know what it wants to be (a problem reflected in its change of title), so a load of ideas get thrown in with apparently little thought.

I suppose the conclusion and explanation make sense (at least in terms of the film’s internal logic) but it just doesn’t feel like they do. It all gets very silly, though an indulgent viewer happening upon this one night in 1977 might well have appreciated the conceit. This one’s probably for Scannell / Manning completists only.

1.5 out of 10



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