A group of keen documentary filmmakers set off for the weekend to the mysterious, abandoned Cain Hill asylum to shoot their latest project. Shrouded in enigma and with Chinese whispers rife through the local town, the crew are eager to discover the truths behind the legend much to their own peril. Little do they know that a terrifying assailant still inhabits the gothic building and will not rest easy until he has slain those who dare to trespass.
Written and directed by Gene Fallaize and co-written with Tony Cook, Cain Hill is an independent, low budget passion project that returns to the style and technique of classic horror. This is not your CGI stuffed, glossy Hollywood, jump scare fuelled film that has saturated the genre in recent times. Cain Hill is slow burning, character driven and does exactly what it sets out to do without any pretence and that is simply why it’s an entertaining and compelling watch.
There’s no denying that Cain Hill is a solid homage to the classic films that genre fans know and love. It’s a love letter to the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and even pays tribute to the iconic and much missed Gunnar Hansen in the end credits. There’s certainly elements of The Blair Witch Project (1999) in there too in relation to the film’s overall concept. There’s the documentary film setup and the reluctance from the town to withdraw information due to the mystery and fear surrounding the entity that haunts the historical asylum.
With that said, the film also comes into its own, while displaying its admiration for the pinnacle genre films that came before it. There’s a strong focus on building up the characters and their relationships. The most striking aspect of the writing and character development is they are portrayed naturalistically. The characters on screen exemplify people in everyday life with their own struggles and aspirations.
The audience is provided with a glimpse into their backstories bringing in a sense of authenticity. Fallaize and Cook have ensured that a great deal of care has gone into their creation so that the audience can empathise and literally be gutted when the group meet their inevitable fates. There is too much horror out there in which characters are written superficially that the most anticipated part of the film is to see the elaborately gory ways they will be killed off in. Cain Hill avoids this with its prime focus on the suspense and atmosphere rather than highly gory set pieces.
The standout performances come from Hannah Jacobs as Mary and Edward Elgood as Richard, the documentary’s researcher and director, respectively. Their attraction and budding romantic relationship is established early on and adding in their backstories aids them into becoming characters to root for as the plot progresses. Jason York’s Marcus and Ben Mansbridge’s Steve provide the comic relief and display a somewhat obnoxious likeability about them. Phill Martin’s, Chester Lockhart, the film’s killer is a towering presence and creates a nervous sense of tension every time he appears on screen. In the more darkened shots where he appears as a silhouette he evokes Kane Hodder’s Victor Crowley from the Hatchet franchise.
While Cain Hill is a traditional slasher film in many respects it also modernises itself by incorporating a meta-narrative and becoming critically self-aware. This is nothing new when it comes down to postmodern horror films however in this case it elevates the element of humour and keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek. There are some excellently timed Ghostbusters references in there, guaranteed to generate some laughs. Also, look out for cameos from Soap Star Gemma Atkinson and Rude Tube host Alex Zane.
Cain Hill is limited on gore with more emphasis on the narrative and heightened suspense but what’s refreshing is the film doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. The location alone is incredibly spooky, with long eerie corridors that have Lockheart threatening to jump out at any given moment in a similar fashion to the likes of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Cain Hill is not trying to convey some deep-rooted message; it utilizes the tropes and conventions of the genre and is just pure horror at its finest.
For a film that was made with £18,000 and shot within nine days, Cain Hill is proof of an indie, crowd-funded film done right. Fallaize and his team can be proud of their achievement. They set out to make a film with a clear goal of what they intended for it. It’s a film that displays appreciation for horror and reminds fans of the reasons they became attached to the genre in the first place.
Cain Hill received its World Premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, London on the 21st April 2017. Read Welsh Demoness’s Interview with Cain Hill’s Executive Producer Adam Southwark HERE