A soldier returning from manoeuvres in Lancashire is found brutally murdered - like so horribly, viciously mangled and mutilated that they can't show any of it on screen. Nearby little old ladies are informed there's nothing to worry about and the constables will have it all sorted out shortly. Little old ladies in horror movies though...

hey cool
BRITAIN, BRITAIN, BRITAIN (said like Tom Baker)
but YUCK
Like spending the night at grandma's

After watching enough movies from all over the big weird world one begins to get a sense of what is iconic to certain of its peoples. I'm not implying that the whole national psyche of a country can be divined merely by watching its cheap horror flicks (surely the Italians aren't like that in real life, are they?) but certain cultural colours bleed through. It's what makes you say "only in America" when you see something like Poultrygeist, Night of the Chicken Dead.

So after a month of watching 70s grindhouse and ultra freaky Asian shit like Mystics of Bali this movie is sort of like coming home, and just as coming home in the real world it's a mixture of comfortable nostalgia and despair. There's a certain quality of dull, quaint, and matter-of-factly horrific unique to older horror films produced by the people of England. Who else is going to feature two elderly spinsters as the primary characters in a motion picture? Yeah there's the pretty young nurse who stops by occasionally to be escorted home by Corporal Do-Right, but really this is a romance and protagonist free movie, and for me at least watchable for that alone.

I'll speak nought of the movie's events, as this is one of the rare times when I sort of give a damn about blurting out spoilers on here. The big secret is out of the bag pretty early on anyway, but I appreciated the very understated reveal and don't want to step on it. I'll just say it's a lightweight movie in terms of horror content, although there's a really nice chilling shot of the thing silhouetted as it's coming up the stairs.

And yes, spending a whole movie with two old maids does have its downside. There are extensive scenes of hen squabbling and going on about what a nice young fellow that corporal is and what a shame the grocer was out of celery because a meal just isn't proper without celery (spoiler: they find some in the garden). But one could argue that this is a necessary part of the British tradition of a pleasant facade concealing something black and foul in its heart. That vibe, more than traditional horror, is what this movie's all about. It's these batty old ladies carrying on in quiet desperation; one trying to make it all okay with tea and cakes, the other with a slowly cracking stiff upper lip, and over it all hangs the last tendril of a miasma we've collectively forgotten as ancient history. 1970 is a long time ago now; so long ago that the loss and maiming of an entire generation in The Great War and the national psychosis which followed were still in living memory.

I can't call this a terribly entertaining movie; it's rather dull much of the time, but there's an unflinching truth to this sort of thing. For all its gentility, it depicts something very dark and broken that cannot end well. Basically a very English way of saying life sucks and then you die.