out of Five stars
Running time: 77
Despite its all too familiar storyline, this British documentary-style horror project is brilliantly funny with endearingly natural performances, which perfectly deliver the film’s comic and deadpan dialogue
What’s it all about?
Set in the North of England, Harold’s Going Stiff stars Stan Rowe as Harold Gimble, an elderly and lonely gentleman suffering from ORD, a rare and new neurological disease, which causes stiffness in limbs, before sending sufferers into a dangerous, zombie-like state. Harold is still in the early phases, but the sharp pain from stiffness has left the widower deeply unhappy.
When Penny (Sarah Spencer), a chirpy, thirtysomething nurse arrives to treat his stiffness, the pair quickly become friends and Harold slowly shows signs of improvement. But with neuroscientist Dr. Shuttleworth (Phil Gascoyne) fancying Harold as a guinea pig to test his new drug, Harold and Penny are forced to escape to the countryside, where they quickly realise a group of violent vigilantes are on the hunt for Harold’s blood.
Harold’s Going Stiff makes fairly intelligent use of its low budget (director Keith Wright and producer Richard Guy independently financed the film on their credit cards), avoiding any unattainable gore and minimising scenes that would look unintentionally frightful without the required funding. Instead, they rightfully maintain focus on the delightfully funny performances from Rowe and Spencer, who effortlessly deliver the down to earth film’s amicable dialogue to a noteworthy degree.
The comic factor of Harold’s Going Stiff is also balanced out perfectly by the splashes of touching scenes between Harold and Penny, whose unlikely friendship provides the occasional heartwarming scene, exposing important dimensions of the two likeable leads.
With successful zombie comedies already filling recent film history (Shawn of the Dead, Fido, Zombieland etc), it begs the question: Do we really need another one? As a result, a lot of the storyline seems all too familiar and thus, not as thrilling or innovative as it could be.
Regrettably, Harold’s Going Stiff eventually stumbles over its tight budget in its energy-short and enthusiasm-lacking climax, consequently making the film look languid and amateur. This notion is intensified by the presence of some badly filmed camerawork resembling Smartphone camera footage. A little more work on post-production would have been appreciated.
There are some evident mistakes in Harold’s Going Stiff but its brilliantly funny dialogue and entertaining cast might just make this the surprise British horror comedy of the month. Don’t rule it out.