Short: The Tour

Directed by: Alex Mathieson, Damon Rickard
Written by:  Alex Mathieson, Damon Rickard
Cast: Jessica Cameron, Heather Dorff, Tom Gordon 

Two American tourists explore the haunted local ‘Dartmoor House’ with the help of a local tour guide in this creepy ghost story.


 


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The Tour is a great little film playing on the typical haunted house scenario, with a few twists along the way, I mean who doesn’t like a few twists in a horror film. Darkmoor Manor is the so-called most haunted house in England and is the subject of The Tour, Tom is the tour guide who gets two American female tourists to visit the house after dark with him, to prove to them the house really is haunted.

Directed and written by Alex Mathieson and Damon Rickard, The Tour really has a lot going for it, the cast for starters is superb. Tom Gordon is Tom, he is cheeky, confident and Gordon plays the role extremely well considering this is his first film. Yet Rickard’s master stroke is the casting of Heather Dorff (Cassie) and Jessica Cameron (Morgan), I’m not saying other actresses wouldn’t have done a great job but both are major names in the indie horror scene, and their names alone will carry the film along way. Dorff and Cameron are both excellent though the film doesn’t just rely on these two actresses, they are just a sum of its parts.

The script is very good, it’s to the point and feels very natural and moves the film along at a steady pace. The cinematography is superb, the scenes in the house are excellent, lit only with torches Richard C Bell has done a fantastic job and it really did look quite stunning in places. Something many shorts miss out on is the music but Eric Elick delivers a solid score.

While the Tour might not re-invent anything what it does it does very well, some nice little scare moments, and the tension builds once we enter the house. Rickard and Mathieson clearly show their knowledge of genre films and put it to good use in the film. It has the prospect to become a feature, I hope it does, I do think it could work very well. I really did enjoy watching this short.


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The Tour is a well shot short that hits far above it’s weight (and budget), as it tackles one of my favourite sub genres, the haunted house movie. Two American friends have a drink with the handsome tour guide of the haunted house tour they’ve just been on. He offers to take the girls in for a ‘personal tour’, assuring them that Darkmoor Manor really is haunted. Once inside the group glimpses shadowy figures and the good looking tour guide disappears.
Is the house haunted? Is there something else behind the legend of the house? Will the girls survive?  The answer from directors Alex Mathieson and Damon Rickard to at leaset one of these questions is, Yes.
This is a film that stubbornly seemed to avoid me at every turn for quite a while. For whatever reason I kept missing it, which to be honest for anyone attending any horror/genre festivals in the last few months is quite a feat. The Tour has played a multitude of festivals around the world since it was unveiled at FrightFeast last year, not least because the producers had the coup of having not one, but two, bone fide ‘Scream Queens’.
Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff play the two friends about to be given the tour. It’s certainly a canny move to cast the pair, who do a commendable job portraying believable friendship within a fairly short running time. Cameron specifically impresses with ‘the best friend’ role, the voice of reason in the pairs relationship. The adequate performance of Tom Gordon unfortunately falters in comparison to the two more seasoned performers, although never to the extent that it seriously affects your watching experience.
The external of the house doesn’t particularly suggest a traditional haunted house, which wouldn’t be a problem except the whole tour surmise does suggest something more aged and archetypal manor house like. But, the cinematography inside the house is suitably dark (always a big thumbs up from me) and foreboding, and does a lot towards ramping up the tension in the latter minutes of the piece.
Ultimately I felt that the biggest Achilles heel here was the running time. The set up was welcome, but the time given to establish the two leads, as well as the tension prior to them entering the pitch black property, just didn’t leave sufficient time for the climax to build. I suppose what I’m saying is that there’s just too much film for the running time, which for me leaves us with a very good short that has the potential to make a great feature.


I had heard a lot about The Tour and its successes globally (mostly due to the cast). But for some reason the Vimeo link I was sent was my first chance at catching the film. Aside from knowing about the cast I went in relatively cold.

Opening with a showman spiel about the history of Darkmoor House, the film quickly follows with a nice little (and very understated) first contact. I was already looking forward to this, a ghost story!
Tom (the tour guide) for me was maybe a touch OTT in his acting style. The opening with the tour guide spiel delivery is only muted a little when he’s interacting with a group of 2 instead of 20 and felt maybe a bit theatrical. Heather Dorff and Jessica Cameron as the American tourists, played the roles well, though at points in the bar the language in the script seemed a little forced/strange.

As they return to the house at the night in the films second act, the scenes within the house look great. Unlike some films that under-light (Woman in Black 2) or over-light (White Settlers) The Tour have managed to shoot scenes of people in a dark, empty house and make it seem believable but also (luckily) watchable. As they explored I loved the location with all the creaks and jumps, it was all being so well constructed. Unfortunately, the end of the tour for me felt like a tad of a damp squib. Due to the running length and the lack of time available to develop the characters, the twist could be seen coming a mile off, both times. That being said, the rationale behind the storyline in the credits was a nice touch and I really liked the idea.

The tour could of easily have been a feature length film, actually scratch that, SHOULD of been a feature length film, allowing the makers more time to play with the characters in and out of the house. They could of also played with the ghosts and the ‘old house’ setting more adding in some more of the great scares they had constructed so well.



Kicking off with a tour group at a haunted house location, THE TOUR seems right up my street! This really captured me from the off as two of the tour group hook up with the tour guide Tom. Agreeing to return back to the haunted house that night for a private tour I was really interested in seeing where this went next.

This turns into quite an effective haunted house chiller around halfway in and this makes a clever use of such an awesome location. Just when you think you are settling into a ghost story it then becomes something more that I didn’t really expect and it is a clever use of just shy of 15 minutes to lull you in and take you on what you believe will be a haunted house story but becomes something else along the way.

I quite liked the idea behind this, the setting was good but the script and acting weren’t the best I had seen yet it made good use of its location. An interesting short to watch but not one that blew me away as much as I had hoped.


Final-Score


 

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