A short film by Joe O’Byrne
Poster Design: Mike O'Hanlon
Halloween, on a housing estate in Salford. Young gang-bangers in blank, ghostly white masks prowl the streets, jacking cars and looking for trouble. Freak atmospheric conditions are affecting CCTV and car radio alike. Good-hearted Polish cab driver Marek is having trouble communicating with his Controller, and drives around the estate increasingly uncertain of where he is. A homeless man sits by a burning brazier, face grim, eyes haunted. A troubled-looking man stands in the street, in front of a house, his shoulders hunched, keeping watch or standing guard, while an anxious child and her mother in turn watch him. A cold-eyed, hard-faced man watches the house in turn.
The stage is set for a tale of ghosts, both real and metaphorical, and the night on which all of those ghosts make their presence felt.
THE WATCHER is the latest episode in Actor-Writer-Director Joe O’Byrne’s cycle of stories, films and plays set in the fictional Paradise Heights estate [www.talesfromparadiseheights.com]. Previous installments have included the films I’M FRANK MORGAN and LOOKIN’ FOR LUCKY, and the plays I’M FRANK MORGAN, THE BENCH and RANK. THE WATCHER is a companion piece to RANK, set on the same night, and exploring some of the same events from a very different angle. But it is also a stand-alone piece - an effectively eerie little ghost story, with a powerful emotional undertow.
All of the film’s characters are implicated one way or another in a past crime, be it as victims, perpetrators, or simply as those who stood by and allowed the terrible events to occur out of fear of involvement. None can forget, nor ever forgive themselves, least of all on this night of the year, when all the ghosts and unclean things walk. O’Byrne uses the supernatural primarily as a metaphor to explore themes of guilt, moral weakness, failure, regret and loss. But he does not do so at the expense of creating an effective ghost story. The film has a jaw-dropping final twist that shakes the viewer’s perception of everything that has gone before, moving the film back into the realms of the supernatural, but only to underline the full tragedy of the events depicted.
The film is tightly directed by O’Byrne from his own screenplay, and beautifully and atmospherically shot by Colin Warhurst, making striking use of a DSLR camera to create a shadowy chiaroscuro cityscape, lit by fires, car headlights and the occasional streetlamp. The cast is strong throughout, but particular kudos must go to the lead turns from Ian Curley as the nervous, superstitious Marek, David Edward-Robertson as the embittered homeless man, Danny, and from O’Byrne himself as the vicious gang boss Frank Morgan.
The result is an effective and affecting modern urban ghost story, both creepy and poignant. Though a stand-alone piece, it also serves as a fine introduction to the world of O’Byrne’s Paradise Heights cycle , knowledge of which can only add to one’s enjoyment of the film. And after seeing this, if you don’t know the other works in the cycle already, you will certainly want to track them down very soon.
STEVE BALSHAW, FILMONIK and Director, Salford Film Festival
Below you'll find Brian Gorman's Review, posted for The Public Reviews and FICTION MAKER...it's another CRACKER...Jx