‘The most haunted building in the United Kingdom’
The Haunting of Margam Castle is a 2020 British horror feature film about two American parapsychologists who travel to Wales. Their purpose? To conduct a study of Margam Castle, allegedly one of the UK’s most haunted buildings.
Written and directed by prolific Andrew Jones (The Jonestown Haunting; Werewolves of the Third Reich; The Legend of Halloween Jack and sequel; Robert the Doll franchise; et al) the movie is based on an original idea by Robert Graham.
The Northbank Entertainment production stars Caroline Munro (Vampyres 2015; Slaughter High; Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter; et al), Derren Nesbitt (Burke & Hare), Jane Merrow (The Spiritualist; Hands of the Ripper; Night of the Big Heat; et al), Vernon Dobtcheff (Horsehead; An American Haunting; The Beast in the Cellar) and Judy Matheson (Crucible of Terror; Twins of Evil; Lust for a Vampire).
For many years the dark and foreboding Margam Castle (actually, a large Victorian Gothic revival country house built in the 1930s), which was allegedly one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, has been abandoned – or so it seemed.
An American research team led by Professor Annie Holzer (Amy Quick) and Doctor Daniel Barron (Ashton Spear) take an interest in the castle’s macabre history of unexplained deaths and supernatural sightings.
The pair travel to Wales to stay at the castle, intending to conduct a series of experiments in parapsychology. But when night falls the research team’s study goes awry and they’re forced to fight for their lives when they incur the wrath of the vengeful spirits who live within the walls of Margam Castle…
Welsh writer-producer-director Andrew Jones popped onto the horror scene in 2013 with his cleaning lady (!) protagonist-led bandwagon-jumping The Amityville Asylum and he’s been highly prolific since. Prolific, that is, in the quantity of his work but not in its quality.
The vagaries of differing British or American accents have never seemed to have troubled Jones and in recent years he has set his Welsh-shot movies in the USA using British accents that stand out for being peculiarly and amusingly inauthentic. He is perhaps best-known for his five staid Robert the doll movies which have inexplicably sold well enough in supermarkets to keep his North Bank Entertainment Charles Band-wannabe production company busy.
Meanwhile, his more ‘ambitious’ diversions such as the would-be Tarantinoesque Werewolves of the Third Reich and the puppet dinosaur atrocity that is Jurassic Predator have since left even Z-movie fans with jaws permanently dropped.
And so we come to The Haunting of Margam Castle. It’s set in Wales, so Jones is right at home. And there are some seemingly token Americans so he’s ticked another box. There is even a posse of name actors from past British horror – Caroline Munro, Derren Nesbitt, Jane Merrow and Vernon Dobtcheff. What could go possibly wrong? Well, the lack of verisimilitude for starters.
The name actors are all wasted too. Caroline Munro as a barmaid in a pub having a dull five-minute discussion with the Yank investigators about what is Welsh rarebit (it’s “posh cheese on toast”) is possibly the film’s lowest point. Presumably, this bar-side banter was intended to be vaguely amusing?
Outdoor shots of the mock-Gothic Victorian country house Margam House are brief and indoor scenes do nothing to take advantage of what could have presumably been a genuinely creepy location if used well. Indeed, some shots seem like they were filmed in the local bed and breakfast instead.
The clichéd use of classic music such as public domain pieces by Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ (previously used in Asylum, 1972), inaccurate references to the Pendle Hill Witch Trials (there were twelve accused women, not ten, and ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins was never involved) and turgid dialogue such as “What inspired you to become a parapsychologist?” is enough to make anyone lose interest.
Production values are largely none existent and there are no scares, jump or otherwise. There are, however, poorly-lit outdoor night ventures and a one-off attempt at some Suspiria-esque lighting in one scene. Meanwhile, the protagonist paranormal investigators and the British psychics remain seemingly trapped inside – because perhaps the windows are barred? nope – so they wander around until they helpfully find a copy of the Necronomicon in the basement so they can banish away the evil spirits. After some brief cheaply-done visual effects all is suddenly well.
The Haunting of Margam Castle is pretty much on the level of a dreadful Richard Driscoll (Evil Calls: The Raven; Kannibal; The Comic) Britshit production – particularly with its inclusion of name actors from yesteryear. It’s generally a complete waste of time, sadly.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
“A solid B-movie spook-show with a nostalgic cluster of British horror veterans, Andrew Jones’ latest is a treat for fans that effectively combines classic and contemporary horror […] Jones’ regular DP Jonathan McLaughlin ably photographs the actual Margam Castle, an early Victorian monstrosity built for William Fox Talbot’s family.” British Horror Revival