Director Christopher Smith’s Horror, Severity and Vigor

Posted: October 18, 2010 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS, Uncategorized
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Christopher Smith, (born 1970) is not just a British film director but also a great writer, while not celebrated as the likes of the comparable Neil Marshall or the now mainstream Christopher  Nolan, Smith certainly deserves his place in directing Brit history. Here’s my lowdown on his fabulous quad of films 2004 -2010…
Creep (2004)
Franka Potente is party goer Kate, after she misses her last train, she is pursued by a deformed crazy and has to fight for survival in the London underground system.
British films had played it safe for a jolly good while with costume dramas, romantic comedies and gangster flicks. However, the UK have started dishing out a few original horror gems in recent years, Dog Soldiers, Descent etc. Writer/ director Christopher Smith (who went on to make Severance) with a small budget gives the viewer an effective, interesting chiller.
There’s no bad acting here, the actors deliver the goods with a limited dialogue driven script. To build up the tension Smith utilises the underground, music and sound to full effect. He creates a genuine creepy atmosphere, the lighting is fantastic and the gore effects are note worthy.
The quirky small cast that Potente encounters are believable and the killer who dwells in the underground is one of the better original killers in a longer while.
The film is very bloody at times and was quite shocking in 2004. Creep remains a strong claustrophobic and underrated horror.
Severance (2006)
Imagine your on an office bonding weekend with your boss and colleagues, with all the typical office banter and goings on but you then get stuck in the middle of nowhere and your colleagues start to get killed off- this is the basic premise to the highly recommended film Severance.
Severance is laced with genuine humour, mostly supplied by Steve played by Danny Dyer and Tim McInnerny as clueless office boss Richard. The supporting cast give memorable and plausible performances that highlight underlying relationships making the characters likable. The character build up pays off as you find yourself rooting for their survival. The bad guys are menacing and there is plenty of realistic gore.
This very enjoyable, ironic, balanced, horror/comedy written and directed by Christopher Smith remains witty and shocking throughout.
Highly recommended whether you work in an office or not.
Triangle (2009)
Written and directed by Christopher Smith, lead Melissa George gives a
justifiably odd but mesmerising performance as Jess, as her and her
friends are forced to abandon their sailing boat and take refugee on an
ocean liner.
Some may find the story frustrating, however, it’s a taught mind-bending thriller, about how your actions can change your life.
Triangle is an interesting grounded and emotionally driven chiller that explores time travel, doppelgangers and choices.
George effortlessly carries the weight of the film on her shoulders and the small supporting cast are more than effective. Smith’s direction is superb, with few locations, as the film mostly takes place on the marvellously dressed ‘Ghost ship’, his angles and use of movement ensure the viewer is never left uninterested and credit must go to Robert Humphreys’ photography direction. Stuart Gazzard’s editing is fantastic and key in making the interloped story work. Christian Henson’s score is the icing on the cake and adds to the eerie, creepy atmosphere.
Triangle gives the viewer a lot to think about and ponder over well
after the credits roll.
Black Death (2010)
Two British directors and writers really standout for me in recent years, Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent and Doomsday) and Christopher Smith (Creep, Triangle and Severance). Smith’s latest offering has it the mark with a blend of swords, Catholicism and Wicker released the same year Neil Marshall’s well advertised Centurion, which on first viewing was sadly average.

Set in 1348 the Black Death is at it peak, however, one village appears to be immune to the plague. Ulric (Sean Bean) devoted Christian enlist the help of a Monk (Eddie Redmayne) to lead him and his men through dangerous lands to this unholy village where it is said the dead are being brought back to life.

With marshes, fog and mists across the lands it oozes atmosphere. The gritty realistic sets and settings are note worthy, everything looks authentic and aged, perfect for first outbreak of bubonic plague. There’s some great practical effects, cadavers, dismemberment’s and blood. The flights are finely choreographed and swordplay is raw and relentless as limbs are hacked off.

The latter part of the film slows down, building tension in the seemingly safe village, Smith’s develops the eerie strangeness of the rural superbly, reminiscent of the Wickerman (1973 & 2006), In the Name of the Rose (1986) and The Village (2004).

Although in fear of being typecast as another chain armoured soldier Bean gives a passionate and gripping performance, and newcomer Redmayne plays the confounded monk Osmund’s admirably. The supporting cast, even though another band mercenaries are memorable and the characters are developed. Comedy actor Tim McInnerny is satisfactory in an unusual serious role as the village head. There’s a notable cameo by David Warner as The Abbot. However, it’s Carice van Houten who steals the show as Langiva the striking necromancer.

There’s a little too much shaky hand held camera work at times, that aside the cinematography is first rate. Dario Poloni screenplay is the icing on the cake, as the dialogue feels authentic and unforced, compared to the aforementioned other period piece. It explores religious beliefs, faith, witch hunts, occultism and much more.

With low expectation’s for another period piece, I was pleasantly surprised by Smith’s vision. Certainly not perfect or the grandest film; however, it’s a gripping medieval, satanic mystery action that has a nice original twist at the end.

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