Review: The Shout 1978 – Aboriginal voodoo comes to Devon

A friend of mine called The Walrus recently recommended this film to me on one cold and foggy night (actually it was a sunny Wednesday). He said it was a really interesting film, before admitting that he’d fallen asleep halfway through it. That glowing review was enough for me to seek it out on and give it a good old watch.

The Shout is a little known British horror film made in 1978. Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski and based on a short story by Robert Graves, it’s a film filled with the eeriness you can only find in English country villages in the 70s. It starts off like many short horror stories did in that era, in a Insane Asylum. A very young and bushy tailed Tim Currie turns up and appears to be a helper of some sort at the hospital. Whilst keeping score of a cricket match, he soon gets chatting to one of the inmates who begins to tell him a strange story…

The tale then moves to a sleepy village in Devon, where a young John Hurt, (already looking pasty and ill) is a church organist called Anthony who uses his spare time in his home studio, recording and experimenting with sounds of an abstract nature; bees in jars, sardine tins being plucked, you know, the kind of thing Thom Yorke and co were aiming for on King of Limbs. He lives with his wife in a big old farm house where they seem to have a nice, simple life.

Things start to pick up when a mysterious stranger named Crossley, played by the demonic Alan Bates, begins to follow Anthony, spouting mystical nonsense and behaving very strangely. Being a typical polite Englishman, Anthony invites the complete stranger into his home for some tea. Crossley tells him that whilst living with aboriginals in the Australian outback for 15 years, he had acquired something more worrying than an annoying accent. From studying a witch doctor, he had learnt how to perform a dangerous piece of magic, the “Terror Shout” which can kill any living creature within a large radius. Being  interested in the science of sound, Anthony wants to see a demonstration. Crossley agrees to show him the shout if he lets him stay, but Anthony is unaware that this devilish fellow dressed in black also has his sights set on his wife …

The Shout is a good film to watch if you like your horror cold, countrified and creepy. With a star cast (including Jim Broadbent’s first film role) and desolate scenery, it has elements of the Wicker Man (with it’s odd, small town people and village ) and Straw Dogs (the polite intellectual battling, brute, intimidating danger).

It creates an atmosphere that, although perhaps of its time, is one well worth getting immersed in.

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