TO FIRE YOU COME AT LAST **** UK / USA 2023 Dir: Sean Hogan. 45 mins
Writer of (among others) the superb Midnight Movie monograph about DEATHLINE and ENGLAND’S SCREAMING and director of THE DEVIL’s BUSINESS, Sean Hogan continues his smart, imaginative revisions of vintage British horror with this highly effective homage to the chilly, scarring U.K. TV frighteners of the 1970s. Beautifully shot (almost entirely in monochrome) by Paul Goodwin and Jim Hinson, it’s an authentic evocation of the look, sound and casting of a typical GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS.
On a windswept moor in the 17th century, nerves are tested within a small group of men transporting a coffin containing the body of the Squire’s (Mark Carlisle) 21 year old son to a local graveyard for burial. Recent sightings in the area of a headless hound and rumours of Old Scratch himself roaming are on their minds, though the grieving Squire scoffs at the talk of demons. He does, however, double the wages for those tasked with moving the cadaver, including his servant Pike (Richard Rowden) and drunkard Ransley (James Swanton).
Divided into chapters (The Coffin Walk, The Darkness, etc.) and awash with superstition (the body is carried feet first so it can’t find its way back), the central nocturnal walk is marvellously uneasy, gradually exposing existing tensions, secrets and indiscretions as the eerie wind prevails. There are frissons of terror as ghostly faces are seen in the darkness, the sounds of footsteps break the silence and one of the group vanishes.
Set to a chilling score by Timothy Fife and Renato Montenegro, it’s superbly performed and builds to a nightmarish climactic worthy of those fondly remembered festive GHOST STORIES. A plot twist unveils the grim truth about a key character, and the only splash of colour in the oppressively eerie palette is as startling as a silenced scream.
Review by Steven West