Stormhouse Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Directed by Dan Turner
Written by Jason Arnopp
2011, 88 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Katherine Flynn as Hayley Sands
Grant Masters as Major Lester
Patrick Flynn as Justin Rourke
Munir Khairdin as Salim Hassan
Grahame Fox as Lieutenant Groves
While the big players in Hollywood are still wringing every last drop of blood out of the torture-porn genre, there's a bit of a revival of your actual scary movie going on from certain quarters. Films like Paranormal Activity and Insidious are the higher profiles, and this year's Frightfest featured two distinctly unbloody yet inherently spooky offerings in the shape of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and The Innkeepers. Out with the grue in with the BOO!
One of the titles playing on the Discovery Screen at the London festival was Stormhouse. Fortunately the producers sent me an advance copy of the finished article, which is a huge advantage as otherwise I'd have missed this excellent home-grown horror. It's not that it hadn't registered on my radar, just that the variety and quality of the Main Screen films left very little time to duck out and catch the lower profile movies.
The year is 2002, a few months before the invasion of Iraq, and the secret Stormhouse military base holds a dark secret deep underground. As a potential for a new kind of weapon, the army has captured a paranormal entity and has it held in a special facility some nine floors below the surface. Much to the annoyance of Major Lester, government bureaucrats have despatched Hayley Sands, a ghost whisperer, to snoop around and prepare a report on the General's project. But in the presence of Miss Sands the entity becomes agitated and wants to 'play'.
Stormhouse is the brainchild of British director Dan Turner and writer Jason Arnopp, who has penned various Doctor Who audio plays and books, and a tie-in novel to the Friday the 13th series, Hate – Kill – Repeat. No surprise then that this is a quality yarn with a twist in the tale that delivers scares aplenty as well as a couple of nicely ensanguined scenes to keep the gorehounds happy.
The deep underground location is in a permanent state of semi-darkness (I know defence budget cuts can be harsh, but light bulbs? Really?) that creates a gloomy world of shadows that can harbour something nasty. When things take a turn for the worse and a momentary loss of power allows the entity to escape, those shadows are something to avoid at all costs. This invisible force can jump between bodies, using them to communicate with its captors so there's always something intensely unnerving about the darkness, especially when the host drawls a chilling version of ‘Frère Jacques’ – the entity’s melody of choice.
The cast is solid across the board with Major Lester (Grant Masters) showing a palpable disdain for Hayley (Katherine Flynn), while kind-hearted tech Justin (Patrick Flynn) is her only ally. Grahame Fox casts a formidable shadow as Lieutenant Groves and is really not the sort of character you want possessed by a malevolent spirit, making it all the more tense when he is. The cast reportedly followed a military regime during filming, staying on the base and becoming completely immersed in their characters and this is reflected in some great performances.
On the downside is some dodgy sound quality in certain scenes, making it very difficult to understand the dialogue. There’s also an entire sequence where Minister McGillis (Hayley Sands’ Whitehall boss) visits the base and all of his dialogue appears to have been dubbed. These are important things to fix for a final release as they jar the viewer from the otherwise immersive story.
The film plays out almost like a supernatural version of Carpenter’s The Thing, culminating in an ending that is fantastically cold and heartless, yet brings the story full circle and wraps it up perfectly. Stormhouse is a great ghost story and all the more impressive for being shot on a small budget so I’m really hoping it gets picked up by a distributor and is seen by the wider audience it deserves.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.