Friday, 27 November 2015


Recently I reviewed the excellent and award-winning short, The Package, from director Damon Rickard. It made a very good impression, which meant that I was extremely excited at the prospect of watching and reviewing his previous short, the equally acclaimed The Tour.
Could this film prove just as a big an attraction as its successor? Or would it lose its way?
Read on...

THE TOUR (2014)

Dir: Alex Mathieson, Damon Rickard

Starring: Jessica Cameron, Heather Dorff, Tom Gordon

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

American tourists Cassie (Dorff) and Morgan (Cameron) are taking in some of the more offbeat sights of the British Isles. Their most recent stop sees them visit Darkmoor Manor, the most haunted house in England — and a major tourist destination for the nearby village.

After a suitably melodramatic speech from tour guide Tom (Gordon) in which the dark and disturbing history of the house is outlined, the pair approach him and get chatting before heading to the local pub for a drink. Cassie thinks he's quite the hottie, so when he says he can organise a tour inside the Manor after nightfall, she leaps at the chance.
Morgan is a little less keen (and understandably quite creeped out), but as a good friend she reluctantly agrees to tag along.
As darkness falls the trio arrive at the ominous building and slowly creep in through the front door... but will any of them ever leave?

WHY IT WORKS: One of the coolest things about The Tour is the way in which it feels very much like a full-length feature condensed into a compact 16 minute runtime.

Writers Rickard and Mathieson manage to pack lots of character development and plot twists into this lean shocker, and even more impressively, they never let it feel rushed or underdeveloped. It's a rare thing to find a short that has much depth — as a medium it simply doesn't offer enough time for lengthy examination or elaboration of themes and plot details — yet, thankfully, that is precisely what the pair deliver here.
The story feels very rich, the haunted house and small village over which it looms feel like a part of a deeper mythos, as do the events that occur within its shadowy confines. The story is never predictable and zigs and zags on its way to a killer ending that will have you itching to watch it again. This is grade-A storytelling.
The character development is helped by the sterling cast that Rickard and Mathieson have assembled. I was very impressed with Gordon's work in The Package and he is excellent here too. He's a handsome guy, so you can understand how the girls could well be charmed by him, yet he's also able to give his character a subtle edge. Obviously I don't want to spoil the plot here, so I shall just say that Gordon's Tom is given the opportunity to show plenty of range, and he does so admirably.
The heroine of the piece is played by modern horror megastar and upcoming scream queen extraordinaire Jessica Cameron. Cameron is a marketer's dream — a hardworking promoter who sells the hell out of any project, with legitimate genre cred as her super hard-hitting upcoming releases in Truth or Dare and Mania prove. However, what many people overlook is that the delightful Ms Cameron is a fantastic actress, which is proven by her superb turn in The Tour. She brings charisma and serious acting chops to the role — in short, she's brilliant.
Filling out the central trio is regular Cameron collaborator Dorff. She too is a superb actress and you can tell that she's having plenty of fun in her role as Cassie. She's fun, edgy, but never overbearing. This is a talented actress that I would like to see a lot more of.
However, there is a fourth main character — the atmospherically creepy Darkmoor Manor. The house is shot in such a mesmerising way by the directors and cinematographer Richard C Bell that it becomes just as captivating as the attractive young cast. Shot on location at Wymering Manor in Portsmouth (which dates all the way back to the Domesday book), it's not just the dark, warren-like interior that sets the grim and ghoulish scene — the imposing and looming exterior of the house is equally spectacular. This really was a wonderful find for the filmmakers.
The manor is not the only element which is well shot  — the camerawork throughout is superb, giving each scene that extra bit of professionalism and quality that really heightens the enjoyment of the film. It is well framed, while great work in the editing suite ensures that it cracks along at a brisk but comprehensible rate. This is polished and accomplished filmmaking from top to bottom.
With a twisted and compelling story, stunningly atmospheric visuals and an absolutely top-notch cast, The Tour is one of those shorts that acts as a perfect example of how marvellous the medium can be. You really should check it out.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? The Tour is STILL knocking them dead on the festival circuit well over a year since its first screening. Get yourself over to the film's official Facebook page for more information on when it may be coming to a screen near you. Give it a Like while you're there too, Rickard, Mathieson and their crew deserve it.

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A stellar cast makes this a superlative haunted house flick

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