The Pocket Film of Superstitions (2023) Review
The Pocket Film of Superstitions opens with a title card that reads “The Following Moving Picture Presentation May Contain Scenes of Irreverence”, and irreverent is a very apt way to describe the latest film from writer/director Thomas Lee Rutter (Bella in the Wych Elm, Video Shop Tales of Terror).
It’s shot with the visual stylings of an old silent movie complete with the blue tint they used to indicate a night scene and the occasional title card. But it isn’t a silent film, there are sound effects and occasional short exchanges of dialogue. But most of the information is relayed to the viewer via narration by Shend (Split Second, Preaching to the Perverted), which is probably the best choice for a film like this.
That’s because The Pocket Film of Superstitions is, for all intents and purposes, a film without a plot. As the title suggests, it takes its cue from the various “Pocket Book of…” tomes and sets itself up as a guide to superstition and folklore with the narration leading the viewer through various aspects of these topics. And, I should add, all of them are genuine. Even The Devil’s Nutting Day which sounds like the setup for a raunchy joke is an actual piece of folklore about Satan (Gary Baxter, Day of the Stranger, Beyond Fury) looking for chestnuts to roast on Hell’s open fires.
The presentation is a mix of short snippets and longer segments connected by the narration which leads each topic, usually fairly seamlessly into the next. It’s much like the rabbit hole you fall down when you Google something which leads you to something else, so on and so forth. As a linking device, it works quite well and some of the connections it makes between topics are quite inspired.
All of this is handled in a less-than-scholarly manner with our humble narrator sticking to the facts but frequently shading his words and tone to show a distinct lack of reverence for gods, demons and everything in between. Jesus is the “high muckity-muck” of his religion and prayer is compared to a telephone party line. An attempt to find proof that fairies exist is staged like a safari into the deepest jungles of Africa. It may not be laugh-out-loud funny, but it is damn amusing.
As Shand’s toffee warbles are educating the matter blobs in The Pocket Film of Superstitions’ audience on the topic at hand, we see it illustrated on the screen. Sometimes it’s in the form of intentionally low-tech animation, the kind you would find in a Monty Python sketch while the longer pieces are acted out by an interesting cross-section of the English horror film community.
The Pocket Film of Superstitions’ most recognizable name is Caroline Munro (Maniac, The Haunting of Margam Castle) who looks more than a little like W.A.S.P.’s singer Blackie Lawless in her part as a coven’s high priestess. Annabella Rich (Millennial Killer, Found Footage of Fear: Digital Terror) appears as a sleepwalker, and Dani Thompson (Cowgirls vs. Pterodactyls, Cute Little Buggers) turns up in a pair of roles. And while not British, Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Fang) should be recognized as one of the original scream queens.
Those whose taste in British horror runs deeper into indie films should also recognize Martin W. Payne (Mask of the Devil, VHS Violence) whose appearance as a human sacrifice is another step in his quest to become the UK’s answer to Bob Glazier. Michael Fausti (Exit, Dead Celebrities) and Lou Nosbod (The Legend of Helium Mary, The Pyramid) have recurring roles as a bowler-hatted businessman and the woman trying to cast the evil eye on him, and Bazz Hancher (Hate Little Rabbit, White Goods) pops up a few times as Errol.
Between the nature of low-budget filmmaking and COVID lockdowns, The Pocket Film of Superstitions took four years to shoot and get through post-production. Thankfully that wasn’t time wasted as the result is one of the more enjoyable folk horror fantasies to come my way in a while.
It won’t be for everyone, but if you have an interest in superstition and folklore as well as a taste for English humour, The Pocket Film of Superstitions will be right up your alley. And for those who keep saying the genre needs something different, this is the kind of different it needs.
The Pocket Film of Superstitions had its premiere at the 50 Years of Classic British Horror celebration in July and will be screening at the Pompeywood Genre Film Festival and Festival of Fantastic Films Manchester. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details and announcements of other screenings.