Category Archives: short films

In praise of: Whistle and I’ll Come to You


I really fell in love with the ghost stories of M. R. James while lurking in a sentry box, dressed as a Victorian serial killer (they wore top hats apparently), ready to jump out on unsuspecting tourists with an exclamation of “tickets please!”

Let me explain.

I worked weekends at The London Dungeon to help pay my way through college in the early 90s. To pass the time during each shift i sometimes listened to audiobooks, sneakily hiding my headphones beneath my costume. These were the days of books-on-tape, or cassettes (which, to explain to younger readers, were like mp3 files stretched across two reels of dental tape and listened to via an iPod device the size of a house brick). One of the audiobooks was a collection of M. R. James tales read by Michael Hordern. I had read a couple of James’ classics and knew i was in for a flesh-creeping time – and then i heard “The Ash Tree”. By the gods my heart nearly stopped in my chest at that one and for once it was me who got a fright when the tourists came asking for directions.

I then discovered the telly adaptations of some of James’ tales, presented by the BBC each Christmas. The tradition continued into the new millenium with a series of Christopher Lee-narrated adaptations, which i enjoyed during Christmas hols in the wilds of Ireland. And of course just last month, Mark Gatiss made his directorial debut with his fun, Hammer-esque M. R. James adaptation “The Tractate Middoth”.

But the one that got to me the most was “Whistle…” And to my delight, Father Christmas (or perhaps his pal Krampus) left a copy of the BFI’s double bill dvd “Whistle and I’ll Come to You” under the tree for me this year. The disc includes both the 1968 and 2010 versions, plus extras featuring contemporary master of the macabre, Ramsey Campbell. I’ve seen both versions before of course – and both are beloved to me in different ways. I think one exploits shaky denial in the face of fear and the other channels total, harrowing despair. If you haven’t seen them, do seek them out. But (ahem) a warning to the curious… both are utterly disturbing in the true spirit of James’ original short story “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” (also included in audio form as a nice bonus on the dvd – now all i need is a draughty sentry box. The garden shed will have to do).

Here’s to the traditional festive ghost story – long may they continue to scratch at our windowpanes, rattle our doors.

And tangle with our bedsheets.

Happy Birthday to me: The Stay


FEB 1st: Today is my birthday. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the well-wishes, thanks everyone. I spent a lovely morning with my family opening presents, cards and eating cake!

Then I hit the road and travelled to a cottage in deepest, darkest Gloucestershire. For today is also another birthday – the birth of my new short film ‘The Stay’.

Last October I was at the London Screenwriter’s Festival participating in a panel discussion on Horror Films. After the panel, at the wrap-up session, organiser Chris Jones challenged all attendees to turn to the person next to them and pledge their goal to be accomplished by the next festival. Talented writer/director Steven Sheil (Mum & Dad) was with me and I pledged that I would direct my next film by the next Festival.

And today, that pledge was fulfilled thanks to the generosity and support of our Sponsume backers and my amazing cast & crew.

Everyone arrived right on cue, we set up and shot the first couple of scenes before dinner and a quick drink. Now it’s time for some shut-eye before 2 more days of shooting.

I’ll be Tweeting throughout the shoot & post-production, and posting updates, photos & videos on the official movie blog, so please check out Twitter hashtag #TheStay / and visit

Best birthday ever?

This one will Stay with me for a long, long time :)

The Curse of the First Time Director

A few thoughts on filmmaking today, inspired by recent events and trends.

In addition to my screenwriting, novel writing and short stories, I also directed a couple of short films; On Edge (1999), Red Lines (2002) both with the now defunct Robber Baron Productions, and some TV promos; True Horror With Anthony Head (Discovery Channel, 2004).

So, I haven’t directed anything in eight years, and am often asked the question, in interviews and Q&As, why not?

Naive (and much younger) me thought that making a couple of award-winning shorts would pave the way to feature directing. Not so. I have scratched a living these past 8 years as a screenwriter/script doctor, secretly hoping those credits would also stand me in good stead for a feature debut. No dice, as yet.

It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Over the past decade I’ve had a number of potentially brilliant feature length projects in the works, writing and polishing and rewriting dozens of screenplay drafts for each at the behest of producers and executives keen on shaping the project to the demands of the marketplace.

Truth is, financing a movie seems to be the most difficult thing on earth. I recently completed a round of talks about one of my screenplays to which I’m attached as director and I was told point blank, by the producer that not one of his investors would risk financing a movie with a first time director attached – too risky.

So how do first time directors get to cut their first feature if no-one is willing to risk taking a punt on them? Surely the film biz is one built entirely on risk? “Nobody knows anything,” William Goldman reminds us – and even a seasoned director can make a turkey. It’s a frustrating chicken and egg situation and the longer it goes on, the greater the (perceived) risk.

All the meetings I’ve taken, all the unsuccessful funding applications I’ve made (for shorts and features) have taught me one thing – one simple, inconvenient truth: 

Movies cost money – and it is usually someone else’s money. Even if you go down the microbudget route, you have to pay insurance for your shoot, catering for your cast and crew, transportation costs, etc., etc.

Add to that the growing trend in the movie business; first-timers get it done for free. “Just pick up a camera and shoot” is an approach that has worked for some, sure. But it sets a precedent. First timers are expected to self-finance and prove themselves, screenplays are expected to be optioned for free. This is a difficult environment for anyone who has a family to support, bills to pay. It’s “a game for the young” as wise old Admiral James T. Kirk once said.

After reading Christopher Fowler’s revealing blog post on the subject of “the death of the script“, it seems the new wave of first-timers are eschewing a script entirely in favour of improvised microbudgeters, edited on-set on laptops. No risk to anyone else, and the filmmaker (no longer a first-timer anymore) then gets hired to do studio remakes…

See, after a decade in development hell I’m becoming cynical! Maybe it is time to give up after all.

But I might just take one more meeting first.


Frazer Lee interview by Samhain author Brian Moreland

I was interviewed by fellow Samhain author Brian Moreland about all things horror; film & fiction. Check it out!

World Horror Convention 2012 Film Festival Schedule

Remember I said ‘On Edge‘ is playing WHC 2012? Well, the full film festival schedule has been released by the organizers, who have put together an amazing line-up of cinematic horrors old and new.

‘On Edge’, starring Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), Charley Boorman (The Emerald Forest) and Beth Murray, based on the short story by Christopher Fowler (Spanky, Hell Train) with cinematography by Alan Stewart (Sherlock Holmes) and special FX by Bob Keen (Hellraiser), screens in the International Horror Shorts selection on Friday March 30th, 3pm.

Entry to the film festival is free to anyone attending WHC 2012, and separate tickets are available for all screenings for those wishing to take in a few movies outside of the main event.

If you’re in Salt Lake City this weekend, be sure to check out the films. It is an honor to be part of such a cool line-up.

Here are the full details, courtesy of the WHC 2012 website:

Here is the film festival schedule for WHC 2012. We will be featuring entries from filmmakers across the U.S. as well as England and Australia, with a special emphasis on locally made (Utah) films. The festival will also serve as the world premiere location for “Down the Road” starring Clint Howard, and “Abraham vs. Zombies” from The Asylum. With the exception of “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” all films will be screened in the Blue Spruce Room:

Film Festival ~ Screening Schedule

Thursday, March 29th

4:00 p.m. “The Bake Street Haunting” (feature film)

6:00 p.m. “Down the Road” (feature film)

Friday, March 30th

1:00 p.m. “Bite Nite” (feature film)

3:00 p.m. International Horror Shorts, featuring “Alistair,” “On Edge,” “Love Bug,” and “Night of the Little Dead”

4:00 p.m. Viscera Film Festival Shorts, featuring 10 horror films from women filmmakers

5:00 p.m. John Skipp Screening, featuring “Stay at Home Dad” and “Rose: Fetching Danny” with filmmaker Q&A

6:00 p.m. “Ground Zero” (feature film) with filmmaker Q&A

Saturday, March 31st

12:00 p.m. “Disembodied” (short) and “Disembodied 2” (feature film) with filmmaker Q&A.

2:00 p.m. Favorite Shorts, featuring “Skye,” “Seance,” and three films from Killship Productions: “Living With Zombies,” “Ben Whitman Hears Voices,” and “Offing Adolf” with filmmaker Q&A

3:00 p.m. Best of Utah Shorts, featuring “Monstrosity,” “4,” “Capital Punishment,” and “Doppelganger” with filmmaker Q&A

4:30 p.m. “The Jar” (short) with filmmaker Q&A

5:00 p.m. “An Evening with My Comatose Mother” with filmmaker Q&A

6:00 p.m. Best of Utah Shorts 2, featuring the premiere of a zombie music video from Amorous, “Amendment,” “Serum X,” “All Night Laundry,” and “The Brink” with filmmaker Q&A

10:30 p.m. “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” (feature film)

Sunday, April 1st

12:00 p.m. Best Feature Film

2:00 p.m. Best Short Films

3:30 p.m. Awards Ceremony

4:00 p.m. 2012 WHC Film Festival Ends

Countdown to The Lamplighters: 5 days

Today’s Lamplighters countdown post is all about ‘Simone’, a short horror film with… bite.

I wrote the screenplay, originally entitled ‘Hair of the Dog’, a few years back with a view to shooting it in London someday. Those plans never came to fruition (for further details on that, check out the print edition of ‘Urbane and Other Horror Tales).

The project was given a new lease of life when indie filmmakers 386 Films of Florida USA optioned the screenplay. Within just a few months, uber-prolific director Joops Fragale and producer Michael Long had adapted the screenplay, cast the film, assembled a killer crew – and shooting was underway.

Since its completion, the film has been very well received at film festivals, winning awards including Best Short (Audience Award) at Shockerfest, CA USA along the way, not to mention a raft of positive reviews. The finished film is almost double the length of my original screenplay, which focused mainly on the black comedy aspect of waking up with a hangover and not remembering what happened the night before. Joops and his team added a dark, melancholy love story to the mix and the end result is in my view a very unique and atmospheric movie.

Simone screens in London tonight at Crystal Palace Pictures‘ Halloween Special, opening for one of my very favourite movies of recent years, The Orphanage. If South London is a little far away from you, be sure to check out the 386 Films website for photos, reviews, an EPK, and those all-important DVDetails!

‘Til next slime, take scare.

Countdown to The Lamplighters: 6 days

check out On Edge at South African Horrorfest 2011!

Today’s Lamplighters Countdown post is all about the South African Horrorfest, which kicks off today at the eloquently named Labia Theatre in Cape Town.

This amazing festival has an embarrassment of treats on offer; everything from costume parties, live music, thru zombie walks and screenings of dozens of short films and features to give you goosebumps and set your teeth On Edge with fright.

Hee, that’s right trick or treaters, my own horror short ‘On Edge‘ screens on Thursday 4th November, along with dark delights including ‘The Theatre Bizarre’ and a prize draw that will see one lucky winner staggering away with 40+ DVDs.

On Edge‘ (adapted from the story by Christopher Fowler) stars Doug Bradley (perhaps best known as ‘Pinhead’ from the Hellraiser movies 1-8) and Charley Boorman (The Emerald Forest, Excalibur) and tells the wicked tale of impatient businessman Peter Thurlow (Boorman) who jumps the queue at the dentist’s surgery… and gets a little more than he bargained for when he meets enigmatic dentist Dr. Matthews (Bradley). The film has played festivals around the world and has garnered several awards along the way (including Best Horror Short, 1st Place at Dragon*Con USA 2009). Horrorfest marks the film’s South African debut.

If Cape Town is a little far away for your dental appointment, you can check out the film online and the DVD/VOD release is available at

The South Africa Horrorfest runs 26 Oct-4 Nov and you can check out the full line-up at the official siteFacebook Group & Event Page and follow events via the festival’s Twitter.


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