Director: Anthony Waller
Writer: Anthony Waller, Duncan Kennedy
Cast: Elizabeth Hurley, Mia Jenkins, Jack Stewart, Tara Fitzgerald
Music: Wilbert Hirsch, Anthony Waller
Cinematography: Roger Simonsz
Editors: Peter R. Adam, Anthony Waller
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 105mins
What’s the story: History teacher Liz Haines (Hurley) relocates to Hamelin, Germany with her teen daughter Amy (Jenkins). When strange occurrences befall mother and daughter, Liz begins to suspect the Pied Piper still plays…
What’s the verdict: Bouncy, enjoyable horror film that feels from a bygone age (i.e. the early-1990s when Waller had his breakthrough movie, Mute Witness). The haphazard plotting and erratic character motivations echo the Euro horror puddings popular at the time, and it is refreshing to see a horror film that wants nothing more than to deliver ghost train thrills. Adding to the 90s atmos, is the sight of Liz Hurley in the lead, plus Tara Fitzgerald supporting as a wise-old Roma woman in the woods.
Hurley is on spirited form as Liz, the mum who realises something is rotten in Hamelin when daughter Amy develops bloody wounds on her fingers and succumbs to mysterious maladies. As Liz suspects the tale of the Piper may be more than legend, dark secrets from her past come to light.
The Piper (to give its onscreen title) will put the frighteners up only the most timid movie watcher. But, Waller and co-writer Duncan (Deep Blue Sea) Kennedy have fashioned a lively Nancy Drew Halloween Special-style story. As Liz and the pro-active Amy delve deeper into the mystery, their journey takes them into catacombs, haunted woods, and a girls’ school that was once an old prison. Amy gets a romantic subplot involving dashing gypsy lad Lucas Shandor (Stewart). Lucas is also on hand to explain local customs, despite a Scottish accent they seemingly didn’t get around to ADR’ing.
Waller has a good stab at turning The Pied Piper into a Candyman-alike horror icon through a couple of effectively staged sequences. Good rat CGI work too. Roger Simonsz’s misty, colourful cinematography gives the whole thing a storybook look.
Sure, the surprises ain’t too surprising for anyone paying attention, and not all the laughs are intentional. But, in an age where “elevated horror” often means po-faced misery fests, it is nice to see a film having old-fashioned fun with the genre.