Shown at this year’s London FrightFest in one of the smaller screens and a low-budget opportunity to put Wales on the horror film map, Peter Stray’s low budget yarn Canaries is a hybrid of classic and traditional horror offerings.
On one of umpteen New Year’s Eve parties happening in the Welsh valleys, a group of individuals turn up at an isolated cottage. Unbeknownst to them, a mysterious group of yellow rain-coated beings with claws are stalking the area, looking like the villain in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
In the meantime, American intelligence is tracking a mysterious cloud and the link to Wales of various historical incidents, including one that took place at Martha’s Vineyard years before involving fishermen. Before long, though it becomes a fight for survival and a desire to understand what exactly is going on before they all go literally ‘down’ in the Valleys….
Canaries is another movie that will benefit from a platform like the London FrightFest, which each year gives the fans a variety of films from across the world. Director Stray certainly knows the genre and refers to past glories like Jaws (the Martha’s Vineyard reference) with resonance.
It’s a spirited romp, with deliberately dumb and smart characters showing wide-eyed ignorance and belief as their characters grasp the desperation of a traditional horror scenario.
FrightFest fans certainly welcome offerings like this and the Discovery Screens at the event in London always provide a wide choice to fans and weekend pass holders, particularly those who seek out specifically alternate choices to the mainstream like a Saw or Scream.
The pity of this film is not its intention, but the fact that it is slightly over-reliant on classic film references. People seem to forget that the likes of Friday The 13th and Halloween used their locality and settings effectively (be it a New Jersey summer camp or an Illinois street on Halloween night) without the need for layering exposition that dampens the shock and gore on show. Simplicity and a desire to get-to-the-gore hold the key to effective horror films. Fans demand it and will certainly avert their attention if those elements are not fulfilled or played out satisfactorily.
On balance though, the filmmakers ought to be applauded for their ingenuity and enterprise with the low-budget elements on show here. The gore effects - when they come - are well-executed and this was one of the appeals of watching Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead, with a lot of home-made make-up and props. It’s designed to be a fun horror yarn and for the most part, it achieves its goal.
Please do give the film a chance, it deserves a look and there is a far amount of fun to be derived from. Stray may get more opportunity to build on some promise shown in Canaries and we should welcome more films from the likes of Wales in the future.
CANARIES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PETER STRAY / STARRING: ROBERT PUGH, HANNAH DANIEL, KAI OWEN, RICHARD MYLAN / RELEASE DATE: TBC