Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – The Barge People

My notes on The Barge People.

The story goes that The Hills Have Eyes – and, by extension, many other American films about semi-mutant cannibal clans – was based on legends about the Scots outlaw Sawney Beane – but, outside of a few atypical horrors like Death Line and Tower of Evil, British films have tended to shy away from such themes.  This cheerfully inexpensive monster film opens with a homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as that nails-on-a-blackboard camera shutter sound effect plays over gruesome still images and a caption announces that a large number of people have gone mysteriously missing on the Avon and Kennet Canal in the last ten years.  Then, it has one of those get-some-horror-in-early flash-forwards as a woman in a dark place witnesses a fishfaced degenerate hauling a corpse in a sack before starting again with a more leisurely, Eden Lake-type tale of two couples on a canal weekend who get into a feud with some aggressive barge-dwellers … only for a barge-invasion scenario to be side-swiped by the arrival (in a striking looming-up-from-the-water shot) of Lovecraftian beings who can’t see any difference between the posh townies and the embittered ASBO crowd.

Sisters Kat (Kate Davies-Speak) and Sophie (Natalie Martins) bring their boyfriends, who don’t get on because Ben (Matt Swales) is a sweater-tied-around-his-shoulder mobile-phone-glued-to-his-hand obnoxious posho even beardy Scots nice guy Mark (Mark McKirdy) can’t stand.  The grudge-holding chavs – also, crucially, not from round these yere parts – are short-fused Ricky (Kane Surry) and equally angry, resentful Jade (Makenna Guyler, who gives the film’s strongest performance).  When the monsters attack, in a slightly torture porny protracted sequence, the survivors of the two factions have to work together to get through the night … though it’s signposted early that things aren’t likely to be better in the morning, so this joins the ranks of ruthless British horror films with an air of hopelessness.  Various folks – a forbidding pub landlady, a local loon, an eco-nerd testing the polluted water, a fly-by-night toxic dumper (who has a convincing Somerset accent, for a change), a whiskery old lock-keeper – are encountered, to add more victims or to give backstory for the creatures (Carl Andersson, Sam Lane, David Lenik, Kane Surry – most of whom play other roles without makeup too).

Written by Christopher Lombard and directed by Charlie Steeds, it has a distinctively British nastiness – even if it takes the form of a typically British misery weekend holiday trip rather than the faster-paced endurance tests of similar American horrors.  Its 1980s-style score (Sam Benjafield, main theme by S.T.R.S.G.N. and Europaweite Aussichten) and ichthyoid monster masks are above average for this budget level.


Here’s a trailer.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.



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