It’s always good to see something new from up-and-coming horror talent Mike Tack, and his latest, garden-core nasty The Allotment is a step forward for the hardcore accountant.
Following the success of Two Careful Owners, which had international screenings, he’s gone down to earth with a tale of murder, revenge and garden tools. Featuring our favourite Leading Man, Clive Ashenden, and X&HTeam-mate Keith Eyles, The Allotment is a hoot. I caught up with Mike and asked him to explain himself.
Mike, what were your influences in writing The Allotment? It has a lighter touch than the Careful Owner films… although the emphasis on bloody revenge is still front and centre!
I wanted to make a monster movie which wouldn’t look out of place in a Creepshow or EC comics episode. My wife had a nice scarecrow at her allotment and she suggested it would be a great location to shoot a film. I then wrote a script which was more obnoxious and violent than I ended up filming, with swearing and a bigger gang. As my father-in-law was lined up to play the pensioner, it was too hardcore to be honest to subject him to that draft of the script. So I went back to the drawing board and trimmed the scope and nastiness down but kept the revenging scarecrow idea. A good move really, as my moral compass is a bit out of whack compared to "normal" people... as I am frequently reminded! I think the film is better for it too. I still wanted visceral death scenes and those are still in there. I think a lot of people will get some perverse satisfaction that the hoodie scumbags get their just desserts in the film.
A completely outdoor shoot for you on this one: what challenges did you face in shooting The Allotment in, you know, an allotment?
Wind and sun periodically coming out then going in all the time proved very challenging. I had to prep every take to get the white balance and exposure consistent which was a real headache as it was the first time I'd used a DSLR (Mike's first film was, famously, shot completely on an iPhone 4). Also we thought that all of the live sound recorded was useless due to the very windy conditions. Luckily we salvaged most of it and just about got away with it (Rob says: This didn't strike me as a problem at all. Dialogue was clear and sharp. There's a lot of traffic noise throughout, but to be honest this adds to the ambience of what is, even in pastoral surroundings, a typically Tack urban horror). I also had to secure a film licence from the parish council so we did not upset other allotment holders during the shoot. That's why we shot the death scenes in my back garden late at night, so we didn't get the police called on us!
I love your use of POV shots to heighten the eerie mood of the night sequences. What made you decide to try that?
Well, as we could not shoot on the allotment at night I chose to use POV for suspense and simply to move the story forward so I shot that sequence during the day and had to try and make it look like it was night. I am going to see if I can make it look a bit more seamless as a couple of shots still look a bit too different from the real night scenes. I also like POV as it puts the viewer in the shoes of the character in a way that hopefully makes them say "don’t go there!"
As ever, Tim Richard’s gore SFX are nicely juicy. Can you shed any secrets on how the gags were pulled off?
Tim is an artist and a hard worker. He spent over an hour stuffing sausage meat and blood into some sausage skin we procured from my local butchers. He also got some garden tools so he could cut them up for different stages of the big death scene. The guts were held in a reversed hat attached to a t-shirt in order to keep them in one place. Cheap, nasty and effective is how I sum up our gore FX and Tim gets all the credit for that.
What plans do you have for The Allotment? Any festival gigs lined up yet, following on from the successful appearance of Two Careful Owners at British and American fests?
I am hoping due to the shorter 7min length and the fun monster elements that we should get a good festival run. 12 tests so far have been submitted so fingers crossed.
Fingers crossed indeed. As ever, Mike blends a tough urban feel with an almost biblical sense of bloody retribution for wrongs committed. The Allotment is a great deal of fun, and if you like EC-style horror, you’ll enjoy this a lot. I’ll keep you posted as to where and when you can watch the film. For now, here’s the trailer.