David McGillivray’s a bit of a legend in certain circles, having, in the 1970s, gone from film critic to actor and writer in a number of low-budget porn and horror vehicles, most of which are considered quite decent low-rent entertainment by aficionados of these sorts of thing. Including us at STARBURST, of course.
Worst Fears is a compendium of seven shorts written by McGillivray and filmed during a two-year period in the mid-2000s, given a wraparound set of linking segments and basically resembling a modern equivalent of the old Amicus portmanteau movies. It’s a little rough around the edges, with the sound and picture occasionally a touch uneven, but it is on the whole quite a thrilling collection of little vignettes with twists in their tails, that will certainly appeal to fans of the old Hammer House of Horror TV series.
The opening piece, Tincture of Vervain, is perhaps the strongest, the story of a coven of Home Counties witches with pretensions above their station who get the comeuppance they deserve when head Satanist Fenella Fielding pays a rare visit, while After Image maybe feels the most incongruous, it being the work of ex-Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel and featuring McGillivray solely in an acting role. The weakest story is undoubtedly Child Number Four, the only one that’s an adaptation and perhaps doesn’t work quite as well in film; it is still, nevertheless, an interesting and disturbing experiment. In between times, we pay visits to a number of foreign climes while spending time in the company of murderers, demons, and yet more devil worshippers. If there’s a linking theme, it’s that of the lengths that people will go to in order to satisfy their immorality.
All seven shorts are directed by Keith Claxton, who has an eye for interesting compositions and a feel for galvanising his actors into giving arch performances entirely appropriate to the material. In spite of the lack of budget on display, there isn’t a single segment that doesn’t feel accomplished and stylishly achieved, and almost all are darkly humorous in a way that offsets the lack of cash. Another Doctor Who alumni Dominic Glynn provides the music throughout, having tremendous fun with compositions that evoke movies of bygone eras while still feeling consistent with the material at hand, and helping to maintain the congruity of the piece as a whole. Everyone involved is having a ball.
With its absence of nakedness and bad language, Worst Fears might not appeal to fans of graphic modern horror. But with a raft of great bonus features it should easily find a home with those who prefer their scares a little more unfashionable, and a little more invigorating.
Special Features: David McGillivray interview / bonus thirty-minute feature “Horror Icon”
WORST FEARS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: KEITH CLAXTON / SCREENPLAY: DAVID McGILLIVRAY, KEITH CLAXTON, ANDREW CARTMEL / STARRING: FENELLA FIELDING, REBECCA SANTOS, HOLLY DE JONG, DAVID McGILLIVRAY / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 5TH