Two hundred quid: what do you reckon you could do with that amount of money?
As a business person, how far could you get with it? One lunch with clients at a city-centre bistro, perhaps (service not included)? A return flight to London on a budget airline pre-dawn red-eye? The carpets in your office reception professionally cleaned — once — maybe, or a modest Christmas bonus for a single member of staff?
As a consumer, it is roughly what I spend on a weekly shop at Tesco for my family of three, plus pets.
Nothing lavish, either; no real luxuries; just a run-of-the-mill weekly order via tesco.com, including a delivery charge of £6.
It’s not a lot really, is it? Hardly what Noel Edmonds on Deal or No Deal would describe as “a life-changing sum of money”. In fact, you’d feel completely underwhelmed if you even won it on the National Lottery.
And yet, with this miniscule budget — just two hundred quid — a Belfast film company managed to produce a feature-length horror film that is so thrilling and genuinely scary that I actually leapt from my seat and yelped out loud with fear at the world premiere last month at the Black Box.
I wasn’t the only one, either.
The place was packed, standing room only, and most of us were ashen-faced and agog with mild psychological trauma by the time the credits rolled.
Think Blair Witch Project meets Paranormal Activity with a quare bit of Belfast craic thrown in for good measure and you won’t be far off the mark.
Absolutely incredible. As a professional film critic I take some impressing at the movies.
I’ve seen many thousands of film and have been unimpressed with as many as I’ve enjoyed.
Now, even allowing for the fact that one of the cast is an acquaintance, that I avidly support local businesses and really wanted this film to be a great success, I still was not prepared for just how successful it was.
And what an incredible achievement this was, on such a micro budget.
The film is called The Last Light, the director is George Clarke, the company is Yellow Fever Productions and the story goes like this...
Starring Robert Render, Jo Lamont-Crawford, Vivian Jamison and Peter Meehan, the film tells the twisted tale of an honest, hardworking maintenance man who is called to a remote derelict mansion (Cairndhu House) somewhere on the north coast of Co Antrim, to make sure it is securely boarded up after a reported break-in.
On what is supposed to be his last day on the job, he experiences increasingly chilling occurrences that convince him — and us — that the place is haunted.
Inside the house events turn claustrophobic very quickly, as Rob (Render) explores the formidably dark confines of the house. To make matters worse, the natural light of the day is gradually fading and all he has left to light his way is a single box of matches.
The slow-burn approach is enhanced by odd and creepy sound effects and subtle glimpses (to begin with anyway) of ‘things’ skulking in the shadows.
This combination really toys with our fear of the dark.
Meanwhile, back home, his wife has been warned of the terrifying history of the place and heads off with a sense of foreboding to bring him home safe.
But somehow you sense she won’t succeed...
Now I don’t want to tell you too much more about the plot, because no doubt you will want to see it for yourselves — if you dare, that is.
But there is more to it than a writer’s vivid imagination. While researching the story, George Clarke visited the house with a number of mediums and became convinced there was a genuine evil presence embedded there
“The idea for the story came to me when I was at Cairndhu House last October with the investigation group Paranormal Ulster,” he said.
“Although it was pitch black, I was able to piece the place together in torch light and as always, started thinking ‘movie’.
“When I got home, I started writing. A few weeks later, we returned with an actual medium, whose revelations opened up many new avenues for the story.
“I came up with an experiment for the film that would involve recreating the sightings and hauntings in the house, filmed in the exact same spot they would have happened in the past.”
Whether or not it was, or if you believe in the paranormal or not, there’s no denying that The Last Light works only too well as a spooky ghost story that will have you hiding behind your hands if not your sofa.
And it’s not just me who thinks so.
The team were recently invited to the international Horror Film Festival in Florida where Robert was rewarded with the coveted Best Actor award.
Well done guys, what an amazing achievement!
And how incredible that their flights out to the US cost about three times as much as the film’s total budget...