Being a bit of a horror boy, you might be surprised to know that The Notebook is one of my favourite films. It is a love story that also deals with the effect of a degenerative illness on a relationship. The acting is stunning and it has me in tears at numerous points.
Now we get to Harold's Going Stiff. It is a love story (albeit one of friendship love) that also deals with the effect of a degenerative illness on a relationship. The acting is pretty great and it had me nearish to tears at numerous points.
Keith Wright has struck a neat balance between comedy and touching drama. It all revolves around Harold (Stan Rowe) who is the patient zero of a new disease that resembles the effects of rigor mortis, eventually turning the afflicted into flesh-crazed zombies. Harold's symptoms are developing more slowly due to him being the first person to contract the illness. Harold develops a friendship with his carer Penny Rudge (the excellent Sarah Spencer). Gangs of vigilantes roam the streets, taking care of the zombies with some judicious placement of baseball bats on heads.
It is set and filmed in Yorkshire and I wonder whether this is why it is so affecting. Everyone in Yorkshire will know of locations like this and will have set foot in a bungalow like Harold's. But, due to its success in other festivals worldwide, it seems that the themes are more universal, with the power to touch a wide range of people.
Much of the comedy comes from a team of three vigilantes, who chase down the stiff-legged running zombies and give them a right battering. In a similar fashion to Heavenly Creatures you know how it is all going to end from an early stage and this increases the emotional intensity. Scenes of Harold talking about what the doctors have done to him are really well acted. The decision to improvise has paid dividends. This also helps the relationship between Harold and Penny. It is very convincing.
I know that when I go into work and tell people about this film, they will nod and say that it sounds good, secretly thinking 'It's a zombie film. It's rubbish. He's talking out of his bum-hole.' They will be missing out on the best film of the festival.
(You may notice that I have lowered the rating on this film. I went a bit giddy when I first saw it, possibly because it was my favourite film from this year's Celluloid Screams, and gave it a ten. In the harsh light of day, it's not that good. Still pretty good though - evlkeith)
If you like this you could also try:
Return of the Living Dead, The Notebook.