Harold’s Going Stiff
Directed: by Keith Wright
Written by: Keith Wright
Featuring: Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Andy Pandini, Paul Gascoyne
Just a note, this film was not watched on Amazon Love Film, nor any other outlet, I bought the DVD online because it was the only way I could get to see it – this is getting more and more prevalent if you don’t want to watch the more main stream or blockbusting films…annoying really.
Harold Gimble is a lonely widower who has contracted the mysterious disease, Onset Rigor Disease or ORD. The victims suffer from a stiffening of their limbs and muscles, being unable to look after themselves as it progresses, they lose the cognitive powers and finally become deranged and violent. This new disorder’s victims are swiftly labelled ‘zombies’ by the public despite the fact they are in fact alive, ill and always adult men in their later years. Due to the pressure on the police and social services the affected are not always monitored and many can be found wandering their local areas, this causes violent vigilantes to spring up looking to control the ‘zombies’ by any means possible, including extreme violence and even extermination. Meanwhile, Harold is assigned a friendly, bubbly, nurse called Penny Rudge to loosen up his muscles by manipulation. It does not take too long for Penny to liven up Harold’s existence and soon a warm friendship begins. Soon Harold is persuaded to trial a possible cure at a private institute.
I am pleased to say there is at least one more low-budget film that has tried to add a different slant on the saturation of film-making that is the ‘zombie genre’, and Harold’s Going Stiff is that film.
Despite the DVD cover’s claim, this film does not fall between Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later, not being an out-and-out comedy or gore-splashed fright-fest.
Instead, it takes its humour from the situations that characters occasionally get themselves in, alongside a few set pieces and despite the genre, horror, it does not fall into the trap of needless gore and exposed piles of steaming internal organs to get the point across. Plus of course, as the film is ‘NOT ABOUT ZOMBIES’ you are not going to see any. Rather cleverly, it presents a premise wherein people might suddenly start behaving in a zombie-like manner might occur, realistically.
Realistic is also how you have to describe the acting.
The film has a northern kitchen-sink drama quality to it and the clever decision to make it into a faux-documentary meant that the more naturalistic delivery from some of the one-and-only-time actors fits seamlessly into the overall style.
The two main actors, certainly not well-known, Sarah Spencer and Stan Rowe, perform in a believable style of naturalist acting and have a great chemistry making their whole relationship credible. Without the Harold and Penny being portrayed well the whole film would collapse and the more hokey moments would stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Filming on a presumably tight-budget with some enthusiastic amateurs and first-timers can only go one of two ways. It can turn into such a quagmire of utter dross that it in itself becomes a ‘great-bad-film’ or you can turn out a gem. Not a shining jewel of wonderfulness but something that says we have a story, we like it and here it is.
Coming up with an original slant on zombies in this day and age is almost unheard of and then to base it entirely in Yorkshire, populate the cast with enthusiastic lesser-known actors, amateurs and locals and making a film worth watching in a nine-day shot takes some doing.
Nothing is faultless though and the vigilantes were given a minimal back-story, for instance how the general public reacted to them, which made them seem almost Stooge-like and comedic despite the dark overtones they added to the film and in this instance this felt forced to make a storyline point. Furthermore, some of the ‘action’ scenes, particularly at the end, could have been more dynamic and less stilted but considering the originality of the story and size of the budget to criticise smaller points like this would seem churlish.
Just like the independent makers of The Battery everyone connected with this film can feel proud that if nothing else, they have added something new that says something different to a very overcrowded and overused genre in modern horror films.
It will be very interesting if Keith Wright, Sarah Spencer and Stan Rowe, in particular, turn up on small or big screens in the near future, I, for one, would like to see what they get up to…
So if your in the mood give it a go and see how a lovely, empathetic, nurse helps a lonely old man to cope with his loneliness, oh, and a zombie-like illness…