-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
copyright © 2001 - 2004 VideoVista
Photos © 2004 Reeltime Pictures.
cast: Miles Richardson, Beverley Cressman, and Andrew Wisher
producer and director: Keith Barnfather
53 minutes (PG) 2003
Reeltime DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail
Also available to buy on video
reviewed by Steven Hampton
This Doctor Who
spinoff by indie filmmakers at
features two supporting characters from earlier Reeltime production, the yetis tale,
Downtime (1995), while revisiting the backstory of BBC adventure The Daemons,
a five-parter made in 1971 during the Jon Pertwee era. Daemos Rising is basically
a low-key sequel written by David J. Howe, the Who expert behind the line of Telos'
original Doctor Who novellas, and at least a couple of companion books to the popular
TV series. In following up strands from both the official BBC works and fandom by-products,
Daemos Rising marries these two distinctive worlds of Who, clearly intending
to celebrate the Time Lord's 40th anniversary in style, whether the eternally hesitant BBC
produce anything new to mark the ocassion, or not.
With voiceover narration by Ian Richardson (last seen - in genre material
- to good effect in
From Hell and
Strange), Daemos Rising
opens with a black magic ritual, and the subsequent arrival at a small railway station of
Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Beverley Cressman), daughter of UNIT leader, the Brigadier (best
portrayed on Doctor Who by Nicholas Courtney?). She finds her friend, ex-UNIT
Captain Douglas Cavendish (Miles Richardson), living alone in a haunted house, stalked by
the mobile 'gargoyle' statue ("I dunno what this thing is, but I'm never gonna touch it
again.") from a woodland clearing, and about to be taken over by evil alien forces
determined to conquer humanity...
The story plods for half an hour, as several threads are established, and
then it picks up considerably to become engrossing for about ten minutes in the middle, when
the psionic powers close in suddenly - to attack Kate and compel Cavendish to summon the
Daemon. With the appearance of a computer-generated monster, the rest of this short film
lapses into studied theatricality again, with drama that's dominated not by acute terrors
or hectic action in a race against time but by the overly talkative villain. With no supporting
characters or scene 'extras', there are no expendable souls on hand for the supposedly menacing
Daemon to kill, so it fails the Who acid test of being a typically homicidal threat to
Director Keith Barnfather's filmography includes Mindgame Trilogy
(1999), the aforementioned Downtime, and numerous video volumes in Reeltime's
Myth Makers biography series. Depictions of the dark dimensions (murky fogs peopled
by cloaked and hooded figures) are sinister enough, while the cottage and cavern locations
provide a striking metaphor of conflicts between ancient and modern ages, as if the time
zones are colliding into uncanny disturbances and demonic possession. There are plenty of
wry in-jokes to please diehard Who fans, such as the lockup garage apparently stuffed
with props from the Doctor's TV adventures. And yet, in the end, this 'episode' is nothing
more than a mishmash of familiar sci-fi trappings and supernatural lore, and sub-generic
borrowings from The X-Files, Sapphire And Steel, and other older TV shows
like The Twilight Zone, and The Omega Factor.
What Daemos Rising has in its favour is the performance of Miles
Richardson as Cavendish, the traumatised ex-soldier who's just seen too much weirdness. He
excels the material in a masterclass example of pitiable human wreckage, standing timidly
in corners, jumping at shadows, and breaking down in anguished tears. Within the constraints
of its PG certificate, this offers a surprisingly mature and affecting treatment of alcoholism,
depressive loneliness, and a compelling study of creepy dementia. It's a great shame that
Cressman (a rather less experienced performer than her co-star) isn't up to the task of
matching Richardson's depth and commitment to role-playing here (she never seems as threatened
or scared by the goings-on as she really ought to be), but Cressman does manage to bring a
contrasting lighter touch to the scenes of sombre drama by injecting some levity and welcome
good humour into proceedings. Standing out in the garden while a haggard Cavendish struggles
to explain his mortal fear of returning indoors, our heroine Kate delivers the authentically
British quip, "We can't make a cup of tea out here, can we?" with good comic timing.
Daemos Rising makes the most of its sometimes painfully obvious
low-budget but probably doesn't get the best out of its promising script. Gripping suspense
and tension are sadly missing, and the 'seduction' scene is stilted and faintly embarrassing.
In an ideal world there'd be a bigger market for homegrown horror movies (teen and adult rated)
and more funding available for genre productions. Meantime, we will have to make do with this,
until the next Hellraiser prodigy, or Hammer revival, comes along.
The DVD boasts crisp Dolby digital 5.1 audio (but no subtitles), and an
outstanding package of bonus featurettes. Behind The Scenes (20 minutes) looks at
the seven-day shooting schedule - revealing both location difficulties and creative solutions.
(Day one of filming is captioned "16th September 2004" - suggesting the makers have
their very own Tardis, perhaps?) Cast And Crew (nine minutes) has a split-screen
presentation displaying selected footage alongside video interviews. The creature-maker
Philip T. Robinson, and the composer Alistair Lock, are both interviewed, and so are Barry
Letts and Robert Sloman (pseudonymous Guy Leopold), writers of the original BBC story
The Daemons. There's also a brief but interesting factual item about Kents Cavern
(the show's atmospheric location) in Torquay.