Tuesday, 2 June 2015


What is it about the wild and rugged Yorkshire coastline that lends itself so well to ghost stories?
Those of you who saw the visually stunning Remember Me when it aired on ITV last year will remember how Scarborough was transformed into a nightmarish location, an eerily timeless setting for ghostly goings on. 
Now we turn to its neighbour, Whitby, itself already linked to horror for the key role it played in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Directed by Neil Vidler, who was born in the area, this spooky tale aims to combine psychological horror, supernatural scares and its breathtaking setting to craft a heart-stopping horror film.
So will this one drop you? Or is it all set to fall short?
Read on... 


Dir: Neil Vidler

Starring: Ivan Hall, Mark Rathbone, Nadia Vincent, Alice Frost, Louse Mitchell, Michael McCarthy

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short so I'll try not spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

Samuel (Hall) is a man battling crippling grief following the death of his wife Justine (Vincent). Looking for a break from his busy city life as a photographer, he decides to go on a holiday, and his friend Stephen (Mitchell) kindly agrees to let him stay in his remote cottage on the North Yorkshire coast.

Upon arriving Samuel takes to exploring the surrounding area, camera in tow, snapping away at the stunning location. However soon he is drawn to a dilapidated old building, ominous in its isolation, and he finds himself impulsively shooting it.
One evening in the local pub, Samuel gets talking to the landlord (Rathbone), who explains the dark and tragic nature of 'The Drop'. It seems the locals don't like to go near, nor even talk about the building and the treacherous stretch of cliffs nearby, which seems to only heighten Samuel's morbid fascination with the place. 
As his obsession with the Drop grows, Samuel finds himself haunted by recurring nightmares and visions, reliving his wife's suicide and stalked by something else, something darker. Is Samuel's bereavement twisting his view of the world? Or is there something otherworldly that stalks the Drop... and is its gaze now on a new victim?

WHY IT WORKS: This is the first narrative film from director Vidler, but he has several documentary credits to his name. From watching Hinckley's Drop it has become all too clear that he is also quite the cinematographer. 

Quite simply, the film looks gorgeous, not just in the use of some marvellously dramatic scenery but in the camera work and framing of each shot. Every scene looks stunning, the camera telling as much, if not more, of the story than the dialogue. It's a refreshing choice from Vidler, allowing the story and visuals to breathe throughout the long silences and intelligent sound work. Long, languid takes effortlessly portray the listless drifting that Hall's Samuel finds himself doing along the coastline by Saltburn and Whitby, far more efficiently than any shoehorned expository conversations could do. By keeping the dialogue so sparse, extra weight is given to each word, while also heightening the sense of isolation surrounding the damaged lead.
Hall is a strong, capable actor, beautifully portraying a man who has been broken by the tragedy around him with some subtle gestures and brooding facial expressions. It's impressive and understated work from a very talented actor. He's a sympathetic lead (how could a character with his backstory not be?) but he's also that most wonderful of ghost story tropes: the self destructive hero. It is Samuel's actions and exploration that invite the horror into his life, he digs too deep and finds something far worse than he could have imagined. It's the sort of character the master of the ghost story, M.R. James filled his books with, and it's a suitable parallel that both Vidler's hero and Professor Parkin of Jonathan Miller's 1968 Whistle And I'll Come To You find themselves doomed by a chance discovery on more rugged parts of the British coastline. In fact, I'm pretty confident that fans of Miller's classic BBC drama will find plenty to love in Vidler's effort.
Yet while there can be no denying that Whistle And I'll Come To You is a good old-fashioned ghost story, there are some doubts as to the true nature of the threat in Joz Rhodes' script for Hinckley's Drop. Like The Babadook, there are plenty of psychological explanations for the terrifying visions surrounding Samuel. This could easily be the imagination of a deeply disturbed man grieving a seriously traumatic personal loss. We are given clues and hints throughout the film's pretty substantial 26-minute runtime, but nothing that truly settles the mystery either way, and for this Vidler and Rhodes should be applauded. It's refreshing to see cerebral, thought-provoking genre storytelling and this is something that Hinckley's Drop delivers in spades.
Of course, while marvellous visuals and some brains are to be applauded, one of the key areas for a horror story is just how scary it is. Suffice it to say, Hinckley's Drop delivers the frights. From it's pulse-pounding opening scene high above the rolling sea, to a genuine jolt with a mobile phone screen to the spectral presences in Samuel's nightmares, there's plenty to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. Fans of M.R. James may also be 'pleased' to see a familiar malevolent flapping shroud make a couple of heart-stopping appearances too.
However, arguably the creepiest scene comes via a simple telephone conversation in which hints of something truly nightmarish are delivered and we are encouraged to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps. Brrrrrr!
While I had strong words of praise for Hall's performance as Samuel, I would also care to single out the frankly fantastic Rathbone too. Adding a friendly face and warm heart to the isolated locale, he delivers some exposition without ever feeling like an info dump, and heightens the tension with his own dry delivery. 
I especially loved the line: 'People who get obsessed with The Drop tend to end up dead. Which doesn't please me, 'cause if there's one thing dead men don't do it's drink.' 
I hadn't seen Rathbone's work prior to this, but I shall be eagerly following it from now on. He's quite excellent.
Finally, let's return to the point at which this review started — the incredible North Yorkshire scenery. From the ominous empty, swaying fields of long grass, to the raw and beautiful seashore with its clusters of rocks and windswept sands, to the winding cobbled streets and stark, oppressive buildings — Saltburn/Whitby are as much characters of this film as anybody else. That Vidler is clearly in love with the area is apparent in every single shot, and having seen how startlingly breathtaking it is onscreen, I can utterly understand it.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? Hinckley's Drop is currently touring the festival circuit and, quite deservedly, is doing very well. If you'd like to check out when it may be coming to a screen near you, you're best off heading over to the short's Facebook page for all the latest info. Give it a like while you're there too, this is the sort of filmmaking that deserves your support

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A beautifully shot and thought-provoking psychological Yorkshire ghost story 

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


  1. Lovely review, thanks Hickey! Nice to see such heartwarming (or spine-chilling?) praise for our work - Joz Rhodes :)

    1. The pleasure was all mine, thank you for taking the time to read it!