[All images courtesy Hex Media]
Lord of Tears
Written by Sara Daly
Directed by Lawrie Brewster
Produced by Hex Media, Dark Dunes Productions
Copyright 2016 (Special Edition)
Can a movie still be a satisfying viewing experience even if some the elements don’t quite work for the viewer? In the case of Lord of Tears from Scotland’s Hex Media, the answer is yes.
Lord of Tears isn’t without issues (more about that below). But Director Lawrie Brewster mixes classic ghost story tropes, an atmospheric setting and strong cinematography to produce a movie that creates, in the word of ghost story master M. R. James, “a pleasing terror.”
Lord of Tears was originally released in 2013 as The Owlman. Hex Media recently released a spiffed up version (including a new sound mix and brand new edit) available for a free viewing to people who sign up for the Hex Media mailing list. Lord of Tears is worth it – and crew at Hex Media look like they’re putting their heart & soul into creating interesting, original horror with a Caledonian touch.
Here’s a look at the trailer:
Teacher James Findlay (Euan Douglas) receives word of his mother’s (Nancy Joy Page) death. After a sparsely attended funeral supported by his friend Allen (Jamie Scott Gordon), his childhood friend who is dealing with his own father’s terminal illness, a bit of disquieting mystery seeps into the reading of his mother’s will when the solicitor (Alan Ireby) hands James a letter. Apparently, Mrs. Findlay insisted the letter be hand delivered to her son by the solicitor upon her death.
The letter warns her son to never go to one of the properties he has inherited, a stately, desolate house in the Scottish Highlands. Which of course prompts James to make a beeline for the place.
The only other person he meets at the house is Eve Turner (Alexandra Nicole Hulme), a free-spirited American claiming to live in the coach house while keeping an eye on the property. “Evie” and James begin to fall in love as memories of his childhood resurface. Mixed in with the joy of new love are dreams of his friend Allen wielding a bloody ax, a basement cavern lit by red candles, and a man with an owl’s head and hands of long cruel talons warning of disaster.
As James learns more about his childhood, his parents and the cruel history of the house he inherited, the pasts – and futures – of Evie, Allan and James become intertwined and overshadowed by the warnings from the Lord of Tears.
What Didn’t work (for me)
*(Spoiler Alert – Don’t clink on the following link until after you’ve seen Lord of Tears). As a ghost story fan, I was already suspicious of the overly helpful Evie. But I could not get into or understand Evie as a character (instead of a trope) until she … um … revealed a new aspect of her personality and truly came to life.
*I wish there’d been a clearer connection drawn between James, his friend Allen, and their connection to each other and the house James inherited. I understood enough about their relationship to make sense of the twist at the very end of the story. But for me, the elliptical nature of how their backstory was told didn’t help me connect it to events in the present. The final act in their friendship didn’t quite pack the wallop it could have.
*Some scenes took me out of the story due to their length. In particular, a scene between Evie and James in the “living room” of the house just seemed to drag to the point where I was actually wondering is this scene going to end soon? The scene did provide clues that played out in the ending of the story – it just felt like it went too long.
*The script by Sara Daly script contains – and uses well – all the basics of a good ghost story. In particular, Lord of Tears eminded me of how classic ghost stories like The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Mezzotint by M. R. James use the setting to increase the mood of dread and tighten the suspense. The setting becomes a major character without speaking a word.
*Lawrie Brewster masterfully integrates another classic trope ghost story trope; an unsuspecting protagonist interacting with someone who is … not what they appear to be. Another good example of this is the 1995 Aiden Quinn/Kate Beckinsale movie Haunted.
*Argdour House is a perfect setting for a relaxing vacation stay – or a ghost story. Cannot say enough of the skill Brewester and cinematographer Gavin Robertson used the magnificent isolation of the Scottish setting to build mood and tension.
*Real World Folklore – The Owlman is an actual folk legend based in Cornwall that works just as well in the Scottish setting of Lord of Tears.
*The Owlman – Kudos to mask sculptor Angela Allan and actor David Schofield for bringing the Owlman to life. Unlike the overly chatty Freddy Krueger, The Owlman is an almost motionless entity. But the menacing of tone of the few lines he does utter leaves a menacing aura throughout the movie (and James’s head) that you feel even when he’s not on screen.
Hex Media has some interesting project in the pipline (including another Owlman movie that’s almost reached its Kickstarter goal called The Black Gloves) So if Lord of Tears sounds interrguing, check here for more details.