02nd Feb2023

‘The Hounds of Darkness’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: John Bazley, Mike Bignall, Gareth Wright, George Butterworth, Colin Havey, Sully Hay, Neil Gallagher, Louise McNulty, Ste Gittoes, Jayne Kinsella, Jackie Leech | Written by Neil Gallagher, Peter Harper, Peter Mckeirnon | Directed by Peter Harper, Peter Mckeirnon

I feel like I have been following filmmaker Peter Mckeirnon’s career for a long time even though this is his first-ever feature film. I remember covering his short zombie comedy series Dead Town for my own horror blog in 2016 and enjoying its very British style of low-budget humour. Mckeirnon has continued with several short films and now, four years in the making, comes his first full feature, The Hounds of Darkness.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that this is an anthology movie. A nice collection of short movies with a linking story revolving Clifford. Clifford does not want to go to school. The problem is he is no longer a child but a fully grown man who is experiencing an episode of regression bought on by past trauma. With some stories, his dad is there to help him through it. His dad just so happens to be a serial killer though.

One of the most enjoyable things about The Hounds of Darkness is the variety of each ‘segment’. Each one looks and feels very different to any of the others and each story is similarly different. From black-and-white dream-like tales to a one-location love story to nods to slasher classics to several references of a river fishing show. Don’t worry this is all still horror! There are some really cool ideas and the low budget does not affect things at all. That budget by the way is extremely low. This filmmaker doesn’t call his movies micro-budget just for the heck of it. The Hounds of Darkness cost a grand total of £1500 with all the people involved giving their time for free to make it happen. It’s clearly a passion project and it shows.

All the segments are enjoyable but the story about a broken-hearted man was probably my favourite. Like with each one, it’s best to know as little as possible about it but when he takes his cheating girlfriend to the nearby woodland, it is not good news for her. Despite very little gore involved, The Hounds of Darkness manages to remain creepy throughout. This is definitely in part to a really excellent score. The music doesn’t seem massively original but it fits the stories perfectly and definitely adds greatly to the atmosphere. If there’s any complaints it is that not all the humour works for me. This has been the case with the director’s previous work. When the comedy works for me (Dead Town) I laugh a lot but when I’m not laughing much (The Quacky Slasher) the film probably won’t work for me. Thankfully, there are still laughs here but the film doesn’t rely on them. When it is a little more serious, I think the quality improves.

There are good performances from a mainly less experienced cast and long-term collaborator Neil Gallagher plays several roles, being as enjoyable and reliable as ever. The Hounds of Darkness is quite an accomplishment after four years, a pandemic, health concerns and its tiny budget. I’m sure after a few festival performances this year, it will find an audience and hopefully lead to bigger things for the people involved.

*** 3/5


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