Ghosthunter | Press | Fangoria

Fangoria - issue #208

  • Short horror films vary enormously, from slick, professional works to the Dad-can-I-borrow-the-camcorder school of moviemaking. Ghosthunter, a recently completed short by British duo Alison Reddihough and Simon Corris, definitely falls into the former category, shot on 35mm at the legendary Pinewood Studios with the assistance of some of the biggest names in British cinema.

  • The 20-minute film stars highly respected stage, film and television actor Frank Finlay (Van Helsing in the 1977 BBC version of Dracula) as a widower searching for a way to ease his pain by contacting his dead wife. In a strange English village, he meets a young historian (played by Reddihough, who shared writing and producing duties with director Corris) investigating tales of a sinister Victorian organisation. It is behind the scenes that Ghosthunter really scores, with four massively experienced “consultants” helping out: production designer Peter (Aliens) Lamont, composer Barrington (Inspector Morse) Pheloung, sound man Mark (Elizabeth) Auguste and legendary cinematographer Freddie Francis.

    ”We just asked the consultants and they liked what we were doing and liked us, and they very generously agreed to add their names to the project and provide us with advice,” explains Reddihough. “Freddie and Barrington Pheloung were the first to come aboard, and their confidence in us probably helped to attract other people. It was through Freddie that we got Gavin Struthers, our DP, who is on the Freddie Francis Scholarship at film school.”

    Francis, the recipient of Lifetime Awards from both the ASC and BSC, is one of the greatest living cinematographers and twice an Oscar winner, with a list of credits that includes The Innocents, Dune, The Elephant Man and Cape Fear. He is also, of course, a veteran horror director himself, having helmed such frightfests as Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and The Evil of Frankenstein.

    ”Gavin had almost finished his course at the National Film School,” Francis recalls. “I thought he was quite good, so when Alison and Simon approached me, I suggested that they let my scholarship boy do their film. Of course, I was then involved on both sides. And I supplied my gaffer, Maurice Gillett who was in the army with me; he’s a wonderful guy, so I put him there to keep an eye on Gavin.” Gillett’s résumé includes The Innocents and Batman; also on the crew were experienced camera operators Rodrigo Gutierrez and Trevor (The Phantom Menace) Coop.

    ”I fear for the state of the business in this country,” says Francis, echoing the thoughts of many in the British film industry. “There are so many kids who want to get into it -­ too many kids actually, most of whom won’t get in. But Gavin Struthers is a good lad, and I felt Simon and Alison were keen, and I thought, ‘Get them together and something good might come out of it.’”

    ”Freddie came to several meetings and came down to look around the sets,” Reddihough recalls. “The consultants all acted as mentors to the people doing the actual jobs. The budget for the film was £30,000 [about $42,500 U.S.], all privately funded. We’ve tried to make a short that looks like a feature, with the same production qualities.” Sponsorship from Pinewood Studios, The Computer Film Company, Quantel, Panavision, Kodak and others helped to boost the on-screen budget, resulting in one of the finest British short films in many years. Ghosthunter premiered in England last December, 11 months after it was shot.

    But there is more to the project than just the film. A behind-the-scenes book ­ How to Make Great Short Feature Films: The Making of Ghosthunter by Ian Lewis - has been published, complete with a DVD featuring the whole film, a documentary and extensive supplementary features. For ordering details, go to

    ”I thought it was a worthwhile project,” says Francis of Ghosthunter. “An awful lot of movies I get approached about I don’t touch, but this one I thought, ‘Give it a chance’ ­ - mainly because of their enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is almost 110% of this business anyway.”

    So is the 83-year-old veteran of more than 70 films, whose last credit was David Lynch’s The Straight Story, now ready to retire?

    ”Unless somebody offers me something I feel like doing,” he smiles, “I’m not prepared to do just any old film.”

    M. J. Simpson

    Published November 2001
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