Bizarre Rituals: ‘Hell’s Bells’ reviewed

Things get downright pagan in this short film showing just how weird and sinister some British subcultures can get.

Morris Dancers are weird. The why of it all mystifies me. I’m sorry but I just don’t get it. Writer/director Luke Jeffery seems to be in the same boat as myself because he made a short film about it, although his wanderings and suspicions about the whole enterprise go a lot further than my own.

Things get downright pagan here as Rosie, Magda Cassidy, a young girl with no previous inclination to dance whatsoever decides to go full Morris and joins a troupe of creepy men who like nothing more than to wear funny hats, bells and wave sticks and bits of cloth at each other to folk music that no one in their right mind really likes unless they’ve been tanning big jugs of cider at a village fete on a nice day.

Rosie is taken away from her new friends by her concerned family to break this sway she finds herself. Her potential saviour is a cult deprogrammer who has his own suspicions about why she is so taken with them.

There seems to be a real vein of folk horror that is running through Britain’s horror scene right now. From its heyday in the 1970’s with Witchfinder General and Blood On Satan’s Claw, it was kicked back into life in 2011 when Ben Wheatley’s Kill List burst onto the screen. It seems to be gaining more and more traction; recent release The Ghoul further mined the conceit of matching old English myth to the urban landscape of the Brexit era so there could not be a better time for Luke Jeffery to make this and the prospect of unmasking Morris dancing as a sinister front for Paganistic gods is an enticing one.

The short was crowdfunded to complete its budget and filmmaking at any level is a difficult task of ensuring your vision makes it to screen successfully so it pains me to say it that with this short film the cast and crew do not quite succeed in scaring or disturbing the viewer. Without the aid of special effects or make up here the unveiling of the antagonist here fails to impress or scare the viewer. However, Jeffery creates some off kilter dreamlike imagery here, in particular when Rosie is taken away by sail boat by her parents in one short scene, that suggest with a higher budget he could conjure up something of real interest if given the opportunity.

The folk horror subgenre would seem to be a good fit for him in the future. He does seem to have a keen interest and handle on it, even if it is a bit more humorous than his current stablemates. The creepiest things on offer here are the dancers and the music, in particular a song sang by Rosie at the end casts a sinister shadow over the film showing just how weird and sinister some British subcultures can get.

If you find the opportunity to watch Hell’s Bells you should do so, if only to support a new talent with promise, who could maybe deliver something of real merit in the burgeoning folk horror movie scene. And if it spreads the word of how sinister the Morris Dancers really are then it is all for the better. They really must be stopped. At all costs.

Watch ‘Hell’s Bells’ HERE:

‘Hell’s Bells’ Written & Directed by Luke Jeffery. Produced by Charlie Coldfield & Jocelyn Chandler-Hawkins. Starring Magda Cassidy, Charlie Coldfield, Richard Feltham, Marie Cassidy, Josh Fedrick, Matthew Lawrenson and Philip Kingslan John. A production. Made with the support of Creative England via the BFI NET.WORK.

❉ Images © Wandering Tiger 2018

 Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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