Shot in Belfast, set in New England, Generator Enterainment's first horror film keeps it brutally real

Freakdog is a film of firsts. It’s the first commissioned script by Northern Irish screenwriter Spencer Wright. It’s the first completed production by Generator Entertainment, the Belfast-based low-budget movie company. And it’s the first Ulster-shot horror flick to be both scary and consistently entertaining.

Irish director Paddy Breathnach’s follow-up to last year’s Shrooms is vastly superior to that film and, in fact, manages to hold its own against the recent wave of Hollywood, Ring-inspired shockers.

There’s more than a hint of Asian horror about the eerie hospital setting, mounting death toll and pseudo-possession. Freakdog also riffs on the 1980s ‘slasher’ cycle, with an inventive body count and an innocuously monikered central villain, Kenneth.

Andrew Lee Potts’ character might not yet be ready to join Freddie, Jason and Michael in the all-time bad guy hall of fame, but the English actor, recognisable from ITV’s Primeval, portrays Kenneth with just the right air of affected menace.

Shot in Belfast but set in New England, the filmmakers used Musgrave Park Hospital to double for the fictitious Fort Haven Teaching Hospital. It’s here that Kenneth Chisholm, an emotionally stunted janitor, is languishing in a vegetative state after a dreadful incident in a local bar.

Shunned by beautiful trainee doctor Catherine ‘Cat’ Thomas (Arielle Kebbel – The Grudge 2, Reeker), the depraved loner attempts to blackmail the medical students over a batch of stolen drugs. But the plan backfires when a sleazy drinking session triggers a deep coma.

Cat administers a powerful and untested ‘magic bullet’ of drugs, hoping to rouse the pervert from his condition and ease her own conscience. But instead of curing Kenneth, it creates a bizarre ‘out of body’ experience, enabling his spirit to inhabit other people’s bodies and wreak violent vengeance.

With everyone a possible killer and nobody knowing at which stage they might be possessed, there are strong overtones of John Carpenter’s classic The Thing, while the hospital-based body-swap angle will be familiar to anyone who saw Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. But as supernatural revenge movies go this is above average and grimly engaging.

Genre stalwarts make up much of the supporting cast, with Sarah Carter (Final Destination 2, Wishmaster 3: Devil Stone), Martin Compston (Doomsday) and MyAnna Buring (The Descent) adding another low-rent fright-flick to their CVs. Compston is particularly impressive as the students’ amoral leader.

Sure, caricatures such as Stephen Dillane’s ambitious Doctor Harris and Colin Stinton’s dogged Detective Carter have been seen before, but Breathnach’s creepy camera moves and Wright’s self-aware script carry Freakdog through to its downcast denouement in bloody, brutal style.

Freakdog will be in cinemas in 2009.

Andrew Johnston 

Learn more about Freakdog with Generator Entertainment co-founder Mark Huffman.