Thursday, 29 October 2015


I recently met talented young British film-maker Damon Rickard at a genre event thrown by the London Horror Society. It didn't take long for me to work out that this is a man who clearly knows the genre and I was delighted when he was kind enough to offer me access to not just his already released (and very successful) short film, The Tour (which will be reviewed here VERY soon), but also his brand-new short, The Package, which reunites Rickard with The Tour's leading man, Tom Gordon.
Is this film the gift that keeps giving? Or is it best kept under wraps?
Read on…


Dir: Damon Rickard

Starring: Tom Gordon, Dan Palmer

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

The Package is the story of two men, former colleagues who conduct shady business for an unnamed but shadowy organisation, who now find themselves on opposing sides.

One of them (Palmer) has taken an item (the titular 'Package') forcing the other (Gordon) to turn to increasingly desperate measures to discover its whereabouts.
After Gordon's character is able to subdue and capture his former partner, the men become embroiled in a brutal clash of wills.
Will the torturer convince his victim to spill the beans? What HAS the thief done with the package? And what could it contain that is important enough to warrant this bloodshed?

WHY IT WORKS: The Package is an extremely intelligent piece of film-making that walks the line between thriller and horror. I don't want to spoil the plot here, because a huge amount of the enjoyment of this film comes from the way in which it manages to shock and surprise. However, I am prepared to say that it cleverly plays with expectations and flips what the audience thinks it knows several times. It's an enthralling tale that is content to take its time revealing its mysteries. That it builds to a genuinely surprising conclusion is a testament to the skill involved in crafting the tale.

The story (by director Rickard) is surprisingly simple but told in such a way that it hints at much, much more.
Pretty much constrained to a single location for the vast majority of its 14 minute runtime, and focusing on the interaction between two leads, it's pared back and lean story-telling, but that doesn't mean it comes without depth.
The characters have their motives and the interaction between Gordon and Palmer is riveting. 
Of course it doesn't hurt that the two are both sterling actors. Gordon is a very handsome man and he has some serious acting chops to go with his good-looks. I liked his work in The Tour and he's just as good here. As the character who seems most desperate he should be the most sympathetic, but as he systematically and relentlessly tortures his victim he becomes utterly chilling.
On the other side of the coin we have Palmer, who will be recognisable to genre fans for his work in Stalled, Small Town Folk and Evil Aliens. Palmer is a great actor and he understands how to manipulate audience reactions with the simplest of gestures and changes in expression. As the subject of the stomach-churning violence in the film, Palmer is given plenty to work with and he remains utterly believable throughout. 
As Palmer's character grimly resists his former colleague's work, Rickard also toys with his audience, taking our sympathy and turning it on its head.
As I mentioned before, the film primarily takes place in a single location, but what a location it is. Shot in an abandoned Victorian fort just outside Portsmouth, it's a fantastically atmospheric setting and Rickard and his director of photography Richard Bell know exactly how to capture that gloomy atmosphere. Alternating between grim, stony walls and rich deep shadows, the fort reflects the look (and personality) of Rickard's characters.
Now, despite the praise I've already heaped on this extremely accomplished short, some of you may be wondering how this tough-guy thriller qualifies as a horror film?
Simply put, the gruelling and violent torture section of the film is every bit as horrifying as any slasher flick and feels as hard-hitting as the likes of Hostel. However, unlike a lot of torture-p0rn flicks on the market, the gore and violence serve a greater purpose than to simply titillate the more blood-thirsty genre fan — the depths to which the characters are prepared to sink and the trials they are prepared to endure are a vital part of the game of cat and mouse at the very heart of the film. Yes, there is blood — but there's also plenty of brains too.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? The Package is touring the festival circuit at the moment. 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 and his team deserve it.

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A bloody and brutal character-driven thriller with real bite

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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