Sunday, 24 January 2016


It often seems to me that the sole purpose of most established folklore was to terrify the living crap out of those who heard the stories.

Obviously lots of these tales served as warnings to very real dangers (plenty of them involve dangerous creatures that lurk in areas in which it could be all to easy to get lost or suffer harm, such as rivers and the heart of the woods), but was there really any need to add quite so much grim, gory detail?
Of course there was! That's what gives these stories the edge!

I recently came across a short film from the folks at Red Headed Revolution that brings the classic Appalachian backwoods legend of The Tailypo to life.

Would this beastie sink its claws into me?
Or would I be gunning for it after my viewing?

Read on…

TAILYPO (2015)

Dir: Cameron McCasland
Starring: David Chattam, Joseph Aguon Drake, Danielle Gelehrter, Ranger

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

The story (like the folktale) follows a poor country dwelling man, Levon (Chattam) as he hunts for his supper alongside trusty hound Jasper in the depths of the woods.
While prowling for prey, Levon comes across a bizarre creature he opens fire,
clipping the strange creature and severing its tail.
Pleased to have secured some fresh meat for his evening meal, Levon heads back to his log cabin where he proceeds to cook and eat his prize in a stew.
However, later that evening he is disturbed by an eerie voice calling out in the dark forest... one asking for the return of its 'tallyho'.
What does the creature want? And is the hunter about to become the hunted? 

WHY IT WORKS: When taking a Southern-style folktale and turning it into a horror story, atmosphere is everything. I love Pumpkinhead for the way in which it weaves its fable-like tale with a rich Southern flavour. Writer/director/producer McCasland sees the importance of 
establishing and maintaining this authenticity, conjuring up a campfire story feel and encouraging the audience to submerge themselves in his short.
He showed a similar style with his fine slasher flick, The Lashman (expect a review here very soon), which should come as no surprise considering that it reunites him with his 2014 feature's cinematographer Josh Icke. 

Icke ensures that the film has a dusty, almost sepia- tinge. This conjures up a timeless quality for the short, while it heightens the earthy feel of the picturesque Copper Canyon Guntown Ranch setting, all shot on location in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. 
McCasland used the ranch to great effect in The Lashman and it works a charm once more, both peaceful and beautiful yet creepy and threatening in equal measure. It brings a level of authenticity to the film that really works in its favour.
Tailypo also sees him collaborate with actor Chattam once more. McCasland says he wrote the role specifically with Chattam in mind and it's easy to see why. 
Essentially a long monologue to delivered to a dog, the role of Levon could have been a terrible flop in the hands of somebody else. However, Chattam is a fantastic actor and exudes a sweet charisma that makes his character sympathetic, likeable and (most importantly) keeps him entertaining. He delivers his dialogue impeccably and uses subtle gestures and facial expressions to fill any moments of silence. It's excellent work and ensures that you care about his fate by the time the mythical Tailypo comes a-calling.

The build-up to this climactic confrontation makes for a skilful exercise in mounting tension. The camerawork cleverly switches between wide open shots of the wooded location and tight close ups, building both a sense of isolation and unnerving claustrophobia. This is ratcheted up into overdrive for the spine chilling conclusion.

However, at just under 15 minutes in length, this is a story that feels no need to rush its hand, giving the plot room to build and gently unfolding at its own pace. The pacing is pretty much perfect, not stretching its tale to an unnecessary length but also never feeling hasty in its storytelling.

Now, I know what many of you will be wondering: 'Do we actually see the titular monster?'

I'm loathe to give spoilers here, but I feel it would be remiss of me to write a review of Tailypo that fails to acknowledge the wonderful creature effects used to bring the bobcat from hell to life.

Drake provides a creepy performance under a costume created by puppet effects wizard Dustin Mills. It's an eye catching design that doesn't overplay itself, and McCasland uses deep shadows and clever quick cuts to hide any shortcomings in the effects. With a modest budget at his disposal, this proves very shrewd and prevents the film from becoming derailed at the key moment through any unconvincing effects work.

One area in which the crew needn't worry about a lack of realism is in the sterling voice work for the tailypo.

Using the vocal talents of Gelehrter (AKA TV horror host Penny Dreadful) the all-important plaintive cries of the Tailypo are eerie and really do contribute to the creepiness of the piece. Gelehrter's voice combines elements of Andy Serkis' Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and classic cartoon voices, along with a strangulated, feral quality. It does exactly what is needed and keeps the audience on tenterhooks.

The Tailypo's voice isn't the only audio treat for audiences either. The bluesy, atmospheric Southern fried soundtrack from composer and musician Thomas Berdinski is superb, it evokes a similar mood to the visuals and perfectly complements the story, locations and acts onscreen. 

In short, Tailypo just 'gets it'.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? Luckily for all of you, the good folks at Red Headed Revolution have put the film live on YouTube and you can watch it right here!

Be sure to check out their official Facebook page for news on their upcoming projects. Give it a Like while you're too, show some love!

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A beautifully told creepy folktale with a very cool creature

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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