Movie Review – Hinckley’s Drop (2014)
by Adam Yull – Roll the Clip
Yorkshire is an unbelievably beautiful place. With its windswept hills and shipwrecked beaches, it’s rich with character and history. In his debut in the directors chair; Hinckley’s drop, Neil Vidler embraces every opportunity to explore the darker side of what it has to offer.
Steeped in grief following the untimely demise of his wife, Samuel Marston retreats to a small coastal town only to have his stay interfered with by an unpleasant apparition but how long will it be before it consumes him?
One of the many strengths of this short is its complete understanding of real horror as it avoids the trite clichés of jump scares, remaining focussed on atmosphere and the unravelling of the story at hand which is strikingly intertwined with extensive shots of Sam’s solitary wanderings through the countryside.
With a diverse range of talent both on-screen and behind the camera, Hinckley’s Drop will leave a lasting impression on you with its layered narrative and admirable cinematography. Following its premier at the Bram Stoker Film Festival, there are plans to make it available on-demand online and I eagerly await the opportunity to revisit the drop.
SHARP SHOCK SHORT: HINCKLEY’S DROP
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?
HINCKLEY’S DROP (2014)
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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Hinckley’s Drop: An Interview with Neil Vidler
Over the years Bram Stoker International Film Festival has fostered an extremely tight knit community of artists, writer / filmmakers and genre fans who gather every year to showcase an international tapestry of cinema and music. While in the past this incestuous context has helped produce films such as B – movie parody Attack of the Mutant Martian from Mars (dir: Neal Harvey), this years ‘Bramily’ fostered film was Hinckley’s Drop, a narrative short from documentary filmmaker Neil Vidler and screenwriter Joz Rhodes . As a nuanced account of psychological torment and redemption set on the literal precipice of a clifftop, Vidler’s debut is an impressive feat.
From cinematic visions of North Yorkshire’s striking coastlines to Vidler’s impressionistic eye for detail as a cinematographer, Hinckley’s Drop maps a tale of a photographer (Ivan Hall) dealing with the fallout of his wife’s recent suicide, lost and psychologically tormented by a ghostly force from his past. In the tradition of psychological thrillers such as Jacobs Ladder (1990) and The Babadook (2014), the film shuns away from didacticism and refreshingly allows imagery, sound design and silence to formulate interpretation. While an almost 30 minute short is an ambitious feat for a first time narrative filmmaker, elements of Hinckley’s Drop undoubtedly demonstrate a director with a visual eye and thematic leanings towards more mature horror which is always promising.
Flickfeast caught up with director Neil Vidler after the world premiere of Hinckley’s Drop to chat filmmaker fatigue, working with the ‘Bramily’ and developing a pallet for psych – horror.
Flickfeast: As a first time director how did Hinckley’s Drop originate and what it always your intention to shoot something locally in the North East?
Neil Vidler: Well I have a massive passion with filmmaking and my background in filmmaking has mainly been documentaries and events. This is my first attempt at a narrative short. I wanted to do something locally because of the scenery we have here in Saltburn / Whitby. It is not really exploited much on film and it is the most amazing coastline. Basically I wanted to do a ghost story hinting at things rather than telling the story overtly. I am a huge M.R.James fan, you know the ghost stories from Christmas etc. So the project started when Neal Harvey our arts and effects director approached me and asked us to collaborate on a film together. I went away and came up with the story and that is when we got Joz Rhodes involved who came on board and did the script writing.
FF: One of the main things that stuck out for me is how impressionistic and dialogue free the film is. Was it your intention to make a ghost story that focused on feeling rather than shocks and scares?
NV: Absolutely. The whole idea was for it to be minimal dialogue and the story to be told with pictures as much as possible. We wanted more of a mood and a feeling about the whole piece and I wasn’t sure how it was going to come along at first but the scenery we have in the local area and the lead actor we got on board gave more focus to the piece. Ivan Hall the lead was amazing and if you had somebody who couldn’t pull that role off I think the whole film would have fallen flat.
FF: Another thing I have noticed at my time at Bram Stoker International Film Festival is the tight knit community you have here. You previously directed a promotional documentary for the festival and your FX supervisor Neal Harvey designed a lot of the art and logos for the festival. Also Neal Harvey, scriptwriter Joz Rhodes and festival organizer Micheal Mcarthy have worked together in Attack of the Mutant Martian from Mars before. How does it feel to premiere the movie at Bram Stoker International Film Festival, is it a homecoming for you?
NV: I first volunteered my time here to do some documentary work and I got to know them that way. Another Bram Stoker legend Mark Rathborne for instance I met at a film called Inbred which screened at this festival and I asked him if he wanted to star in my film. Even Ivan the lead is an actor in the Pavilion in Whitby where the festivals is housed and somebody introduced me to him here and the project ran from there.
FF: Due to the abstract style and tone, the film could be interpreted as a ghost story exploring mental health, grief and depression. Did you intend to use the paranormal elements to explore themes of the psyche?
NV: You absolutely hit the nail on the head. I wanted that sort of ambiguity whether it was the supernatural and sinister at play or his own mind playing tricks. I wanted to get the balance just right so people can’t decide one way or another yes. I like the exploration of grief and how people deal with it but it’s also important to build empathy with the character straight away so the audience is engaged. I wanted to make sure the audience was always engaged.
FF: Scriptwriter Joz Rhodes mentioned a feature script for Hinckley’s Drop. Is a expansion on this short on the cards and what other projects would you like to pursue in the future?
NV: I would probably do a project with 2 locations as this short had about 20. I think the next project is going to a 5 minute short as I have a couple of ideas kicking around at the moment and then I would like to move on to a feature. Hinckley’s Drop is a 26 minute film and in essence it is like doing a feature film. Originally with Joz I gave him a 20 word synopsis of the film and he went away and wrote 120 pages and we needed a 26 page script. That was brilliant because of the amount of detail and back-story he managed to put in but then when you get that you have to trim it down to work in the short film.
FF: As a cinematographer, editor, director on Hinckley’s Drop, how did the experience of several roles effect you as a first time narrative filmmaker?
NV: It is massively challenging. I did the camera, cinematography, direction and editing and wrote the original story and Micheal McCarthy did the sound . When you are an independent filmmaker you do have all these roles. You may not put them all up on the credits as it looks a bit crazy but if you are the cameraman or cinematographer it is really good at getting close with the actors and engaging with them. The downside is perhaps you don’t see the big picture sometimes. There are positives and negatives but if I was doing a bigger picture I would definitely bring a cinematographer in. I would like to be a lot closer with the actors but also have a better view of things that are going on. You have so many things going on in your head as a filmmaker sometimes and it is very taxing but overall very rewarding.
FF: Can you see yourself working with Neal Harvey again in future and would you like to see any of his creations in your films in the future?
NV: Neal is amazing and I would love to work with him again. You will have to ask him if he wants to work with me again really and I have already spoke to him briefly about my new short and he said once he gets Halloween out the way we will sit and talk about a brief for the next project.
FF: As a director exhibiting at Bram Stoker, do you consider yourself a horror fan and what is the your opinion on modern horror?
NV: I am a massive film fan and I love all types of horror. I think I like a lot of stuff that is coming out now as there are a lot more ghost stories and a lot more subtle horror away from the ‘torture porn’ that was prevalent not too long ago. I like horror that plays upon the psychological aspects of people’s lives rather than ‘let’s go chop someone’s head off’. I mean there is nothing wrong with that and it works very well but my preference is the hinting at things.
FF: What do you hope audiences will take away from Hinkley’s Drop and where is the film screening next after Bram Stoker International Film Festival?
NV: I’m not sure what I want people to take away from it because it’s quite a subjective thing isn’t it. I don’t know really. We are trying to get it in a couple more festivals and online. One of the questions at the festival is that a lot of people in the local area would like to see it because of the use of locations so I would like to host it online. This was the first time the film was screened and even the cast hadn’t seen the film up to this point. Only my wife, myself and Neal Harvey have seen snippets but today was the first time it has ever been screened. We had lots of good questions and I was really pleased with the reaction.
For more information about Hinckley’s Drop check out http://moorroadfilms.com/