Some Photos From My Family's Archive And The Cult Low Budget Horror Films They Became
I’m keeping all the writing on my Substack page free at the moment, and I welcome all free subscribers, but if you are able to take out a paid subscription, it helps me do more of what I love.
Dragon Cottage (1978)
Bored out of their tiny brains after being transported against their will to a cottage on a Welsh mountainside by their vague and foppish parents, Philippa and her thug brother David find an old ouija board in a gap in a stone wall and begin to experiment with it, calling up the spirits of the long-dead creatures of the mountain, learning in the process that animals were often far bigger and more interesting in the past. Now largely known for the overused internet meme of the scene where Philippa surveys a passing fox and says “I ain’t interested in that: it’s shit and small”, Dragon Cottage is in fact a multilayered comment on parental neglect and the bad weather that dogged the British Isles for much of the 1970s, beloved amongst true connoisseurs for its deeply moving final scene, where the constantly dungareed David is nonchalantly decapitated while Philippa, far too involved in her own burgeoning passions to notice, rides off ebulliently in the direction of Llandrindod Wells on a giant extinct species of horse.
The Oyster Boat (1979)
When Jimmy’s time as an undertaker’s assistant in Lincoln fails to work out, he abandons his fiancé, Sharon, and hitchhikes to a village on the north Yorkshire coast, where he takes a job on a fishing trawler. The hours are long, the sea fogs opaque and uncompromising, his volatile personality leads him to frequent disagreements with the rest of the crew and his budget anorak proves to be just one of many regrets but his real problems don’t begin until he rents a strangely inexpensive 18th century terrace fronting the bay. What exactly is the significance of the old folk song that he hears coming from the spout of the kettle every night, on the chime of midnight? And is the hazy female presence who tries to seduce him directly afterwards really the ghost of his great grandma Agnes, who once owned a haberdashery in the neighbouring bay, or just a lookalike with worse hair?
Bonfire Night (1982)
When, having been left unsupervised at home for the first time, six year-old Colin decides to burn a garden bench and various pesticides from his parents’ shed, a dark figure rises from the flames, commanding him to commit several acts of vandalism and arson around a Derbyshire village, with tragic consequences for a local choir group.
Writer’s Block (1981)
After a dip in the sales of the mystery novels that made her a near household name in the early 60s, spinster Violet takes up a kind offer from Giles, a rich actor friend, and uses the house of his recently deceased uncle to work on her latest story: a lighter, more romantic work that she hopes will win her a new fanbase. But here, in isolation, spectres from her past began to play games with her mind that are anything but lightweight, most notably the ghost of Billy, the fictional Chihuahua she killed off in her 1964 novel Murder By The Pound. While poorly scripted - the sample of a woman saying “Get off me, you stupid little dog!” on Snoop Dogg’s 2011 album ‘Doggumentary’ is Violet’s voice from one of the climactic scenes here - this is generally thought of as one of the most atmospheric offerings from the BBC’s 1970-1984 Play For Today series.
Children Of The Edge (1978)
In the aftermath of the Nuclear War that has annihilated inland Britain, orphans Corinne, Natalie and Bob emerge from their self-built shelter in the sand dunes, suspecting that, now every adult they have known is deceased, they will finally be able to live the unshackled life they have always wished to. But, when time proves that they are not the only gang of feral children roaming the coast, they become increasingly glad of Natalie’s Swiss army knife, and, as they approach the industrial skyline of Barrow-in-Furness, wild with hunger, all is not as it first seems.
Nottinghamshire Rust (1980)
This little-known Ken Loach short, scripted by Alan Garner, manages to do more in thirteen minutes than many films do in a hundred, telling the ahead-of-its-time story of Jennifer, who, having been driven half-mad by the increasing number of cars on the road, gathers an army of similarly disillusioned she-gardeners to run amok with spades, trowels and horticultural forks amongst the automobile factories of the East Midlands. But who is really responsible for the production lines that she so fiercely despises? Is it the corpulent men now scattered at her feet, bleeding? Or a more sinister cabalistic force, on whose orders the managing directors having merely been acting?
Pre-order my new novel about nearly northern Britain in the early 80s.
Read my previous novel.