My notes on Are We Dead Yet?A few FrightFests back, several low-budget British films – House of Salem, Hallows Eve – had the sorts of low-level crooks found in many, many low-budget Britcrime flicks straying off their genre patch and coming up against psychos, Satanists and the like. Then, with the vampire movie Fanged Up, this theme started to be played for laughs. Writer-director Fredi Nwaka takes things further than Fanged Up by including some actually funny bits in this ramshackle horror comedy, which harks back to the sort of movie which put the East Side Kids in a haunted house with cobwebbed skeletons and suits of armour … and, in British pop culture mode, riffs a bit on The Ghosts of Motley Hall or High Spirits. It gives an engaging, interestingly diverse cast fun things to do – and if it can’t quite settle down and concentrate on any of its plots or set-ups, it still has pauses for an unusual haunting premise and one or two moments of poignance.
A crew of crims who get onscreen intro titles – blonde narrator Madison (Jessica-Jane Stafford), cockney wheel-man Gavin (Paul Danan), No-Balls Barry (Aurie Styla), and safecracker Alan (Hakkan Hassan) – are suckered by Parksy (Bradley Turner), the London equivalent of a ‘made man’, into a bungled robbery that winds up with them fleeing to Drakelow Manor, which is a) massively haunted and b) has a fabulous treasure hidden on the grounds. The plot required to get the protagonists to the house – which involves real and fake cops, and cross-purposes criminality – is frankly a mess, and mostly lets the actors claw their bits of screen time for a few jokes … but things get more interesting as the backstory of the haunted house tumbles out and the inept crooks keep blundering into equally clueless apparitions. A multiracial family of aristocratic spectres harbours several seriously cracked eggs, with Winston Ellis and Sharon Lawrence as the prime Drakelows and a big build-up for a hideously deformed daughter who wanders about mutilating folks. It brings on a zombie nun, an undead estate agent, a gang boss (Tim Faraday), a smart copper (Kyla Frye), several random creatures, and a set of rules that tether everyone to the site.