I said in yesterdays post https://thomasjford.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/something-strange-happened-to-me-the-other-day/ that I would tell you all about the day I saw a ghost. Well, here is my ghost story. I’ve taken the unusual step of reviewing it, to see how it holds up against some classic horror films. Is it a genre classic, or just another Paranormal Activity 7? Let’s see…
The Coal Shed (1986)
Starring: Tom Ford, Rob Ford, James Bailey, A Ghost
Director: Tom Ford
Synopsis: An innocent game leads to a startling discovery for a six year old boy. His life is changed forever.
The film starts on a sunny day in the English village Sarisbury Green. The camera moves along, spirit like, towards the road sign ‘Brook Close’ and ends up at the door of number 16. It looks like any other day as cars buzz by, people tend to their lawns and insects buzz in and out of flowers. Nothing scary going on yet.
The first scene sees the protagonist, Tom, playing with a football (soccer ball for you Americans!) in the back garden with his brother Rob and cousin James. Tom and his twin brother Rob (twins. always creepy) are about six (young kids, further creepy factor) and their cousin James is yet to reach ten.
As James plays with his Evel Knievel action figure, Tom and Rob play with the football, oblivious to the horrors that are about to befall them. This scene works pretty well, setting up what is to come but because it is day time you don’t expect anything to happen yet. Full marks to the director for this.
As Tom and Rob kick the ball around, it accidentally flies over the large hedge which separates their garden to that of the neighbouring property. This is where horror cliche kicks in. Would you believe it but the house next door was owned by an old boy called Mr Berry, who just happened to die a couple of years prior, and now the property is empty. It is a big imposing house and the boys think twice about reclaiming their ball.
Tom decides to crawl through (a convenient) hole in the hedge to retrieve the ball. The music gets ominous about now, as the house looms over the young boy, surrounding him in shadow. He shudders to himself, before noticing the ball has rolled up to a coal shed attached to the side of the house. He cautiously wanders over to the shed that provides this movie with it’s name. He bends down and picks up the ball. All is quiet, the anticipation climbs to stupid levels. We all know something is going to happen any minute. Tom looks into the coal shed. BANG! The music hits us in that quiet/loud horror style. This, whilst scary is mighty derivative and to be honest more about making you jump than scaring you. But, the big reveal is worth it I think.
In the coal shed, sitting on a pile of coal in the corner, is an old crippled lady, dressed in rags, smiling at Tom. Is it real? Is it an apparition? Is it a trick on a young boys mind? Many people who have watched this film say it shared similar qualities with Kubrick’s The Shining, mainly because of the young boy and the visions he sees. I don’t think it holds up to anything in that film, there are no rivers of blood or cries of Redrum, but it does have a certain something, especially for a low budget horror flick. Tom Ford is brings a certain gravitas to the role, that not many six year old’s could. The way he nonchalantly leaves the ghost and returns to playing football is pretty impressive, and makes the viewer wonder if what they saw actually just happened. Really clever stuff.
The supporting cast play their part, but the real star is Tom, and the CGI effects for the ghost are fairly decent, although starting to show their age obviously. There are a lot of people who called out for a Coal Shed 2 to be made, but it is yet to appear. Rumours have always persisted that Tom Ford would go on to next make a film about the sighting of a big cat, so we will have to wait and see. Although, a gap of over 25 years between films makes even Terence Malick seem busy.
Overall, I would give this film a 7/10.
Below are some links to photos taken ‘on set’. The places still get tourists to this day:
The house in Brook Close, where our hero Tom lived, pictured in 2013:
The house where the ghost lived, pictured now in 2013:
The view from above. To the left is Brook Close, and the other side of the fence is Mr Berry’s house.