Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Legend of Harrow Woods/Evil Calls: The Raven (2008/2011)



I was unreasonably excited about The Legend of Harrow Woods for the longest time before I managed to see it. I mean unreasonably excited bordering on obsessed. In my defence, this was largely because of the incongruous ensemble cast. The Legend of Harrow Woods/Evil Calls: The Raven stars absurdly stars;

Rik Mayall: 80s alternative comedy star and master of the knob gag.

Jason Donovan: Australian ex soap star and sometime botherer of the 80s charts

Robin Askwith: improbable 70s sex machine star of the ‘Confessions....’ films

Norman Wisdom: comedy legend and undisputed king of the pratfall

Christopher Walken: yup, Christopher ruddy Walken


Unreasonably excited

With a cast like that you expect something, you expect there’ll be something about it that drew these people to put their names to it, some degree of quality or interesting experimentation, you expect at the very least it will be bizarrely compelling, but Harrow Woods Evil Ravens provides none of this. Bloody hell does it provide none of this. 

A group of students go to an apparently haunted forest, Harrow Woods, to investigate the disappearance of horror novelist George Carney and his family who have been missing (presumed dead) for two years. Led by inappropriate lecturer, Karl Mathers, the group embark on their investigation and soon discover that in the 17th century the infamous witch, Lenore Selwyn, was burnt at the stake within Harrow Woods and, wouldn’t you know it, before she succumbed to the flames she cursed the land her ashes fell upon. This is just one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t burn ladies at the stake. Then everyone, thankfully, begins to die and to everyone’s dismay the story of George Carney is told in nonsensical flashback as the remaining students doggedly continue their investigation of the woods and the abandoned log cabin where the Carney family spent their last days. Laughingly it’s also in 3D.

Reality dawning

I really don’t know what to say about Harrow Woods Evil Raven Calls. Largely I’m just annoyed. If I’m honest with myself I was never expecting much, but for a long time the gimmicky cast made me desperate to track it down and because I love my genre so much and I’m optimistic by nature I secretly hoped it was going to awesome, well, maybe not awesome, but that at least there’d something in it that I’d appreciate, some warmth or love for the genre, some well crafted effects, even just some comedy value out of the sheer awfulness. But no, I just found depressing, particularly on seeing the late, great Sir Norman Wisdom.



Sir Norman Wisdom was an actor, comedian, singer-songwriter and skilled and dexterous physical performer with career that spanned in excess of 60 years, he is one of our country’s most beloved entertainers. In his heyday in the fifties Sir Norman made a series of low-budget star-vehicle comedies in which he played the hapless but well-meaning Norman Pitkin. Although never popular with critics his cheery films were hugely successful with domestic audiences and he gained massive celebrity in many unlikely countries including Albania, Iran, South America and Australia. Although his comedy was largely slapstick in nature, Sir Norman’s performances were full of heartbreaking pathos, in his ill-fitting, threadbare suit and disarrayed cloth cap he could as easily make laugh as make you cry, a fact further epitomised by the self penned hit song 'Don’t Laugh At Me (Cause I’m a Fool)' becoming his theme song. His innocence and plucky resilience resonated with British audiences (and, indeed, those abroad), he was the guileless underdog that you needed to see triumph in a cold, hostile world.

Sir Norman remained eternally youthful until the end. He passed away in a nursing home on October 4th 2010 aged 95 following a series of strokes and a tragic battle with increasing dementia.
Norman Wisdom was proud of two things in his life; that he was hailed by Charlie Chaplin as his comedic successor and the fact that he never raised his voice at anyone throughout his career.

And this was probably his last film.

This is the main reason for my irrational distaste for The Legend of Harrow Woods Ravens and Stuff. On seeing Sir Norman working hard, acting circles around everyone else in this embarrassing mess I genuinely welled up and the crying, quite frankly, ruined my birthday.

I’m very proud of my country’s history in horror, we Brits have been responsible for some of the greats of genre and we continue to push boundaries and in recent times several modern classics have had their bloody births in our green and pleasant land. And sometimes we just churn out some godawful shite like The Legend of Harrow Woods/Evil Calls: The Raven.

Now I’m generally a supportive and all round lovely person, I hate to speak ill of something somebody else has put a lot of work and effort into. I don’t think it’s big or clever to tear down someone else’s work. And, let’s face it, I’ve watched a hell of a lot of crap in my time and I’ve always found something positive to say about it. But sometimes, a bag of arse needs to be called a bag of arse, and Woods Blah Raven Blah is a bag of arse, a bag of 3D arse to add insult to injury. Granted I’m predominantly angry with it because it made me cry, but Norman Wisdom aside, it’s still really a terrible film with no redeeming features.


Sad, just sad

’m actually now annoyed that I’ve wasted your time with this, though you did get hear stuff about Norman Wisdom, but still I’m sorry. Here is a picture of some kittens to cheer you up.

We're sorry

5 comments:

  1. The funny thing is, when I see that cast list - and I'd never ever heard of this movie - I feel exactly the same as you, and I still do, even now I've read your review.
    It's just too enticing. It's one of those casts that is so enticing you simply cannot take anyone's word for it that it's going to be a waste of time. You have to find out for yourself.
    And don't think I won't.

    What does Norm actually do in the film?
    And what does Rik Mayall do in it?
    And why does it have such a preposterous title?

    And lastly, a more general "hooray!" for the return of Jinx.

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  2. Hello, Matthew! I've missed you. I'm still rubbish at updating at the mo.
    I'm not really surprised you still want to see it - that cast list could have designed specially to entice you and me.
    Rik and Norm play the same character in a bizarre/ridiculous twist. Essentially they're Lloyd from The Shining. It's just awful and sad. There's a lot of The Shining in there. I like to imagine the director, before filming watching The Blair Witch Project, falling asleep and then waking up during The Shining, that's what the film is like. But bad, very bad. And 3D.
    Hope you are well, m'dear. You have to let me know about the blog project you want me to join in with. I'd love that.

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  3. Forgot to say I can't explain the preposterous title. The Raven bit probably comes from Poe (tenuously). It had crap loads of titles, Alone in The Dark was another. Norm shot his bits back in 2002 apparently, so evidently it was a long while in the making, which just makes it worse.
    Apparently they used Vincent Price's voice at one point, not sure if entirely missed this in my rage or if it got cut, either way it further annoys me. And, Wikipedia claims, Marianne Faithfull's voice is there too. Madness.

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  4. loved this post!! i tend to give movies credit they don't deserve based on someone in it and have been disappointed numerous times.

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  5. I had heard of this. Thanks for the warning, although I am still terribly curious thanks to that cast - most exciting cast since The Expendables.

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