CONJURING THE DEAD

4.5 out of 10

Release Date: 4th August 2015 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Andrew Jones (Robert 2 / The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund / Robert / The Haunting At The Rectory / Poltergeist Activity / The Last House on Cemetery Lane  / Theatre of Fear / Amityville Asylum)

Cast: Rachel Howells, Lee Bane, Alison Lenihan, Ross Owen Williams, Andy Evason, Bill Bellamy, Lisa Jay Jenkins, Patricia Ford, Linda Bailey, Jessica-Ann Bonner with Kenton Hall and Jared Morgan

Writer: Andrew Jones

Trailer: CONJURING THE DEAD

007-CONJURING-THE-DEADDirector and writer, Andrew Jones (ROBERT THE DOLL) has racked up an impressive number of ‘straight to DVD’ titles in the last 12 months. In fact Mr Jones and his leading actor Lee Bane (THEATRE OF FEAR) may have broken a legitimate Guinness World Record or two. A) Number of films released in a year b) highest number of actor / director collaborations. This is not a criticism but a fact.  Lee Bane is a fine actor and I’ll go on record as saying that he’s the best actor at work in low-budget cinema. No matter what his director as thrown at him, he’s grabbed it with both hands and delivered a convincing performance everytime. Whereas he’s probably got to give some of the credit to his director, as Andrew Jones seems to have a knack at picking talented unknowns again and again.  On the whole, the director has impressed with his grip on the ‘ghost / horror’ story with interesting scripts that only clang once in a while. The reason, Britpic isn’t having a party every time one of his films comes out is because there’s a problem and it runs through his films like a stick of Blackpool rock. We won’t harp on about it because we discussed the matter when we saw his first film, The Last House on Cemetery Lane, (so read that review) but his locations are dismal and common place and often or not just not spooky enough.   This factor put the mockers on The Haunting At The Rectory and to a lesser degree, Poltergeist Activity. If he’s going to continue making scary movies, he needs to work on his scares and atmosphere. At the moment his films are generally on the same scares rate per half-hour as a week of Brookside. This last set of negatives is however eclipsed on the whole by the positives and I always look forward to watching Lee Bane get a good scare every few weeks. So I won’t say great just yet, I’ll say above average and improving all the time.

Conjuring The Dead gives a local Welsh myth a modern spin when our heroine played by Rachel Howells returns to town. She makes friends with her next door neighbour who is a white witch (ALISON LENIHAN – SHOW ME WITCH WAY). Rachel gets disturbed some dreams of witches being burnt and it would seem that there is a real cause for alarm. The town’s first sons are all committing suicide, and the deaths are being investigated by glum local detective played by Lee Bane (his best role yet). The investigation leads him in circles that bring him into contact with a caring priest, played by Jared Morgan (POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY).  What connects the ancient witch burning with the strange behaviour around town and at the local Spar Supermarket? Maybe there’s a curse. Will any of our heroes live to tell the tale?

Props also go to Jared Morgan, who appears in this and many of Andrew Jones’ films. When him and Lee Bane share a scene around the halfway mark the film is transported to another realm. One of dramatic quality and extra merit, and it was the first time I wondered what Jones, Bane and Morgan would do if they bailed out of the cheap horror end of the market and tried to do something for a more discerning audience. Maybe it is time for them to put away the toys and try something a little more challenging, seeing as they can’t seem to get their horror films to jangle enough.

The plot for Conjuring The Dead is a bit nonsensical at times, and it does look like it could have been chopped down to a way shorter version (like Alien 3). The heroine has mood swings that Eartha Kitt or Grace Jones would be proud of, so credibility is ditched whenever the main plot kicks in. I was far more interested in the police procedural, which could have been in danger of becoming the Welsh version of Seven… (imagine!)  It’s a good job the well-framed and delivered ending kicks ass – this is down to a bold use of music (which would have been at home in a ‘spaghetti western’), a decent dose of slow motion and a big fire.

It’s one of the better Andrew Jones films as it’s nowhere near as set-bound as some of the previous films and it’s got one or two decent set pieces, committed actors and a great score this time.

4.5 out of 10 – A great open ending, an interesting but flawed plot, coupled with great performances by his regulars Lee Bane and Jared Morgan.  It feels like it’s got chopped down to a slender running time though, this would have benefitted from a slow build rather than a sprint to get it in at under 80 minutes.

Try ditching the ghost stories next and let’s see what you can do with a drama. We feel that the best is yet to come.

Look below for a second review by Matthew Usher aka Joe Pesci II

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THOSE ACTORS IN BEFORE?

Advertisements

One thought on “CONJURING THE DEAD

  1. Review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    Forgive me for reviewing yet another film from the bountiful one-man Welsh film-industry that is Andrew Jones, but he makes films faster than I can write about them. His prolific output displays an exemplary work ethic and is to be applauded. But has he managed to make a film worth watching yet? This time he’s made a WICKER MAN tribute. And who doesn’t love a WICKER MAN tribute?

    Me, for a start.

    MAKE YOUR OWN ORIGINAL, IDIOSYNCRATIC FILM, JONES!

    But THE WICKER MAN is merely (I’m sure) a framework on which Jones weaves his own tale. Yes, a protagonist (a woman so that’s different) with a supposedly dubious emotional/personal state (she’s divorced as opposed to the Woodward virgin) is lured to a mysterious remote Celtic village in order to be sacrificed for ritualistic reasons. But aside from that it’s all very different.

    For a start, CONJURING THE DEAD is terrible. But it’s also the best of the Jones oeuvre that I’ve yet endured. First time round I called SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT tripe, drivel, the cinematic equivalent of a painting by numbers set with a picture by Rolf Harris, and I cast aspersions on the catering. Second time round, I was kinder, describing HAUNTING AT THE RECTORY as rushed, confused, slapdash, long, uninvolving and lacking visual flair. And although CONJURING THE DEAD is desperately poor (no-one should be fooled into parting with money to see it), and maybe I’m just getting used to his work, there are moments that work. Two by my count, which is more than in the other films put together.

    There are three story strands interweaved. A woman moves into a remote Welsh village after inheriting a house. She does all the normal moving-house things: meets neighbours, chats with shop assistants, bursts into tears every time it looks like the words ‘husband’, ‘wife’, ‘partner’ or ‘marriage’ are mentioned (she’s recently divorced and therefore an emotionally unstable wreck), meets some white witches and kills some bloke who tries to strangle her in her kitchen. You know, the usual. Meanwhile Lee Bane (who seems to be a real actor) plays a policeman investigating a series of mysterious suicides of young men. Suicides which seem to affect him in some deep, disturbing way. And finally there’s the small matter of witches being sacrificed to propitiate someone or other on the beach several centuries ago.

    Obviously all these three are combined. I think you can see what’s going to happen to our leading lady. I missed how the suicides fit in, and I’m not going back to find out. Although there’s clearly some sort of thing which dovetails everything somehow (at least in the script-writer’s mind) that’s not the important thing. This is an attempt at an exercise in atmosphere. Whereas HAUNTING AT THE RECTORY was (I hope) Jones finding out how to work with actors, and SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT THE HOMECOMING was (I hope) an exercise in finding out how films are made, CONJURING THE DEAD seems to be Jones trying to work out how to generate scares

    and tension. There are one or two good creepy bits and even a shock moment (though I can’t remember it now). There are some shots composed with (some) care, and we have a music score calculated to counterpoint the imagery. We even have a number of scenes where the acting borders on competent. Indeed, at the heart of the film is a scene between Bane’s troubled copper and Jared Morgan’s even more troubled priest. They have a chat about the past, faith and themselves, which fools you into thinking the scene could be from a proper, better film, meanwhile generating tension by raising the stakes and literally slowing the film (in a good way) whilst also telling us stuff about the story. It’s a surprising scene, very well-played, the director trusting his actors, and it promises all sorts of things which alas the film then promptly fails to deliver.

    Meanwhile our hapless heroine (Rachel Howells, who has little to do but whimper and grumble, but who whimpers and grumbles more to irritating than empathetic effect), having moved in and met some nice white witches who are so nice they don’t want to convert her, decides to move back to London the moment she suffers a bit of unpleasantness (the attempt on her life by the mysterious hooded figure whose involvement in proceedings is not entirely clear). This assault leads to our heroine inadvertently slaying the assailant. Unlike most characters in such a predicament (who would dispose of the body) she does the right thing and calls the police. Only for the police (i.e. Bane) to come round and find that there is no body. Now, I realise I’m throwing spoilers around all over the place (apologies for that) but I really would like someone out there who is familiar with police procedure to explain something to me. Next day the body turns up dead somewhere else but killed as per the description given by our heroine. Instead of, you know, arresting her for murder or manslaughter, Bane just asks her to do some paperwork. Also gloriously improbable was the hugely impressive genealogy website everyone uses. It’s brilliant – you can find out your entire ancestry in seconds (provided you have witchcraft in your blood that is – ah well, nothing’s perfect).

    But credit where it is due. This is Jones’ most accomplished film of the three I’ve seen. He’s moved on from his point and hope filming style (that’s assuming this is a more recently made film). And he has a real leading man in Lee Bane. This is the sort of credible, layered acting which could ruin the Britpic brand – Simon Phillips should look to his laurels if he had any. I’m curious to see what else this team has up its sleeve – rather a lot by the looks of it, so I’ll report on their progress after I’ve watched ROBERT – the true story of a haunted doll apparently. Oh dear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s