SCARE ATTRACTION ** UK 2019 Dir: Steven M. Smith. 72 mins
Indie Genre filmmaking has become more accessible to the average person as technology and equipment have become increasingly affordable. The main hurdles left for prospective filmmakers is a great story and a half-decent budget. Although high budgets have been proven not to be the be-all and end-all of a successful horror film, as The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Evil Dead (1981) and One Cut Of The Dead (2017) has shown, it is a completely different challenge when your budget is a scanty £12,000, as is the case with Scare Attraction. But even such a meagre budget could be offset by a singular creative vision and the benefit of a unique and gripping story. When you also consider the fact that the film was shot in 4 days and filmed back-to-back with another Steven M. Smith production, Dead Again, you truly see how enormous the challenge would have been.
The plot to Scare Attraction is relatively straight-forward; Reality TV stars Peter (Elliot Cable) and Susie (Primrose Bigwood) attend a Halloween scare attraction in an effort to raise their profile. The pair are joined by a small entourage of managers, handlers and bodyguards.
After touring the Mafia, Boxing and Clown rooms, the entire group is led into the “crème de la crème” of escape rooms, where they are locked in and eventually gassed and fall unconscious.
When they eventually awake, the group find themselves bound and trapped in a puzzling torture chamber.
The limitations of low-budget filmmaking are often brutally obvious to the discerning viewer, but Steven M. Smith manages to accomplish something quite exciting in the early stages of Scare Attraction, regardless of the tight production turn-around, incredibly low budget and staggering workload. The film starts off with a mundane opening sequence, but the actual opening credits create a foreboding and intriguing atmosphere of what the filmmaker has in store for the viewer. The creature design is on full display during these clips and the potential for horror and gore is promising, while we are also semi-introduced to our protagonists.
The found-footage, mockumentary style and obviously improvised dialogue could so easily have been a cliched hindrance, but instead Smith impresses with a wonderful extended no-cut scene, filled with quirky interactions, led by Jon-Paul Gates, who hams it up in all of his scenes as the tour guide. Gates is used sparingly, which is a shame, as his frequent pop-culture references and playful, charismatic performance is such a delight.
The sound design and score also stands out, as Darren Wonnacott (The Man Who Killed Hitler Then The Bigfoot) (2018) creates an energetic, menacing soundtrack which enhances the action without being too bombastic or distracting.
But, inevitably, it is in the execution of the story where it all seems to fall apart for Scare Attraction. Although Smith makes an attempt to explore the vapid and dismissive nature of celebrity culture and influence, all characters are shockingly underdeveloped and although it wouldn’t be a fatal error to have so many unlikeable characters, of which Peter and Susie are the most petulant and whiny, everyone seems pedestrian, stale and without any depth. The mystery is confused and fractured, with scenes bleeding into each other without rhyme, reason or discernible structure or purpose. It feels suspiciously as if the overlapping productions of Dead Again and Scare Attraction contributed to a chaotic and disorientated mixture of footage. The central mystery is equally undercooked, while the traditional post-Sixth Sense-style twist is astoundingly unearned and uninspired.
Scare Attraction is, unfortunately, a misnomer, as there are little to no scares and no interesting story or characters to attract the viewer.
Review by Louis Du Toit
Also available on DVD