[Review] Strange Waters [Fortean Film Festival]: Otherworldly Terrors Await Invited Guests on an Isolated Sea Fort

Director Andy McLeod and screenwriter Rowena Amos take the classic mystery/horror film set-up of a group of people, some of them strangers, being invited to a remote location by an enigmatic host and give decidedly different riffs on it in the short fear-fare film Strange Waters (U.K., 2022).  

Spitbank Fort, an actual structure located in the center of the English Solent, is a sea fort that started out as a naval installation in 1878 and in recent years served as a luxury hotel. In the premise of Strange Waters, it is a private residence whose owner has invited singer Casta (Lydia Cashman), illusionist Jax (Yinka Awoni), their assistant Vince (Tim Rowe), and cameraman Ellis (Mark Joseph) for a personal performance. The owner’s assistant Angel (Byrony Tebbutt) greets the quartet and tells them a bit about the history of Spitbank Fort, including how four sailors stationed there perished. She tells the guests to make themselves comfortable but not to wander. This being a horror film, astute readers can guess that curiosity wins over common sense regarding that last request, and supernatural circumstances unfold.

Spitbank Fort makes for an intriguing, eerie, isolated setting, which gives scenes exploring the creepier parts of the installation more gravity than the usual wandering around in dark rooms in horror movies. Kevin Early’s cinematography deftly captures the suspenseful proceedings that sometimes occur in rather tight spaces. 

McLeod builds the intrigue and suspense impressively, working from Amos’ solid script. The ensemble cast members give fine performances. This all adds up to a chilling viewing experience that works as a stand-alone short but also holds great promise for potential expansion into a feature film.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Strange Waters won nine Platinum Awards including Best Horror, Best Movie (Short), Best British Short, and Best Director at Fortean Film Festival, which took place in Gloucester, U.K., on September 1 and 2, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.forteanfilmfestival.com/ and https://www.strangewaters.co.uk/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.