I don’t usually put horror movies in my basket when shopping in my local Sainsburys, but on this particular occasion I felt compelled to make an exception. The reason for this is that Margam Castle is just a few miles up the road from where I live. I’ve been there many times and I know it well, so I was intrigued.
But before we proceed, be warned, this review contains spoilers.
Margam Castle is a magnificent and imposing building built between 1830 and 1840 in Port Talbot, south Wales. It has a reputation for being haunted and was featured in the TV series Most Haunted. Ghost hunts are regularly held there, although I’ve never attended one.
The boast on the DVD cover read, “Based on a true story.” Needless to say, I was somewhat sceptical, and as it turned out my scepticism was entirely justified. I’m pretty sure that if a team of American parapsychologists had died horribly in Margam Castle, it might have warranted a mention in the local news.
I watched it with my girlfriend and the next day she confessed that it had given her nightmares. I only wish I could say the same as it really wasn’t very good. Despite having a location to die for (see what I did there?) it all fell a bit flat. There was not much of a story to speak of, most of the characters were rather uninteresting and pretty much all the horror movie tropes were crammed in there…
Superstitious locals? Check.
Messages in the bathroom mirror? Check.
Creepy little girl? Check.
As the film progressed it sank into silliness and there were moments where we were just laughing at it. Researcher being dragged into a computer monitor, anyone? Also, many of the performances were very wobbly to say the least. However, it wasn’t all bad. There was just enough creepy atmos, a few effective jump scares and a certain trashy enjoyability. Also, there were a few cast members worthy of mention.
As historian Hugh Morgan, veteran actor Derren Nesbitt was excellent. His presence alone actually elevated the quality of the whole film, in my opinion. And there were some notable cameos too. First up was Garrick Hagon, best known for his role as Bigg in the original Star Wars. Also present were Jane Merrow, Judy Matheson and Caroline Munro, all of whom previously appeared in Hammer horror movies. The appearance of Bond Girl Munro was also notable for another reason. A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet her at a geek convention that took place at…Margam Castle.
But the real star of the film is the location itself. Margam Castle simply oozes creepiness, and in all fairness it is beautifully shot. The cinematographer does a great job of capturing the scale and eeriness of it. For this reason it worked better for me as an interesting curio rather than as a horror movie, so I’ll be hanging onto this DVD and very possibly watching it again in the near future.