Looking back on a nation’s output for any artform 20 years removed, there’s a risk of rose-tinted glasses misrepresenting the quality or wider health of the medium at the time. But while certain contemporary commercial successes should perhaps remain left in the past (Ali G Indahouse and The Guru, to name two), a not insignificant portion of the British films of 2002 have endured with audiences in the decades since.
In terms of acting talent, 2002 saw the release of breakthrough films for actors who are still major names 20 years later, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Naomie Harris, Sean Harris, Benedict Wong, Nicholas Hoult and Martin Compston. Regarding early career directors, Lynne Ramsay proved Ratcatcher (1999) was no fluke with her second feature, Morvern Callar. Another key Scottish filmmaker of the last few decades, David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Starred Up, Hell or High Water), also had his debut feature as director – the thriller The Last Great Wilderness – premiere this year. And actor-director Peter Mullan won the Golden Lion prize at Venice for his second feature, The Magdalene Sisters, which explores three teenage girls’ experiences of Ireland’s infamous ‘Magdalene laundries’. 2002 also saw premieres of key films in the careers of Ken Loach, Danny Boyle, Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom.
While not all of the same quality as Boyle’s 28 Days Later…, 2002 was a particularly interesting year for British genre cinema. Neil Marshall’s ambitious debut feature Dog Soldiers transplanted the formula of James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) to the werewolf movie; Jamie Bell followed up Billy Elliott (2000) with First World War supernatural tale Deathwatch; westerns influenced Shane Meadows’ Once upon a Time in the Midlands; and ouija board horror Long Time Dead made solid earnings worldwide. The American-set British thriller My Little Eye is very dated in some ways, yet its story of an online reality show experiment with a deadly twist makes it a crucial text for how internet-rooted horror would later develop.
With a new restoration of Dog Soldiers surfacing on physical media, here – in the order they premiered – are 10 of the best films made in Britain that fertile year…
Full feature for the BFI
Following his BAFTA-nominated breakthrough feature London to Brighton (2006), writer-director Paul Andrew Williams dabbled in horror-comedy and thriller territory with The Cottage (2008) and Cherry Tree Lane (2010). Then came a fairly surprising switch to inspirational drama with Song for Marion (2012), the sweet tale of a grumpy pensioner honouring his recently deceased wife’s passion for performance by joining her former local choir. Williams has kept producing films and directing television – including Broadchurch, A Confession and The Eichmann Show – but Bull is his first feature as director to play on the big screen in nearly a full decade.
It’s a striking return to the mode of film he first broke out with, while also expanding his palette with a slippery, supernatural edge to proceedings. British character actor favourite Neil Maskell takes centre stage as the eponymous Bull, who returns to his home town after a decade’s absence. Once an enforcer, he’s seeking violent revenge on former gangster associates, including David Hayman’s Norm and Tamzin Outhwaite’s Sharon, who double-crossed him all those years back.
With Bull out now, we chat to Andrew Williams and Maskell about the thriller and the current state of British independent film…
Full interview for VODzilla.co
Shot and seemingly set during late 2020, Rob Savage’s Host follow-up, Dashcam, is a similarly short horror that also uses a ‘screen-life’ aesthetic…
Full review for SciFiNow
Saint Maud, the acclaimed horror darling of the past year’s festival circuit, finally reaches British cinemas on a wave of hype – despite release delays owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the debut feature of British writer-director Rose Glass, the psychological drama follows Maud (Morfydd Clark), a reclusive, pious hospice nurse with a dark past, who becomes dangerously obsessed with a perceived higher purpose and her latest patient in a seaside town: Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a hedonistic and embittered retired dancer who’s dying of cancer.
Glass has pointed to Taxi Driver as a specific influence on Saint Maud’s structure, with both sharing narration by the increasingly volatile protagonist. She also pays homage to Martin Scorsese’s film with at least two specific shots. “Generally any stuff that I felt that, in some way, I shouldn’t be watching, I wanted to watch,” she says of her burgeoning enthusiasm for left field cinema in her early teen years in the 2000s, which included films by David(s) Lynch and Cronenberg, Hideo Nakata (Ring), Takashi Miike (Visitor Q) and Fruit Chan (Dumplings).
To mark Saint Maud’s UK release, Huck spoke to Glass at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival – in an interview that originally took place back in March – about making an empathetic genre movie concerning mental illness, body horror, and the extreme places the human mind can take us…
Full interview for Huck