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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [February 6, 2013]





[]  Mocumentaries about "true ghost-hunter" TV shows is the latest horror film cycle, including such recent films as The Feed and Spirit Stalkers. Now Britain steps up with its take on the subgenre -- The Legend of the 5ive.

"[Co-writer/director] James Weatherall and myself were watching a popular British ghost-hunting program," said 5ive's co-writer/actress Leenah Seelig to the Hollywood Investigator. "They were broadcasting from a castle. The presenter kept rolling an old wooden games ball into the darkness, commanding the presence to roll it back. As tension built, I imagined the ball hurling back at them with vicious force straight into the awaiting soundman's face.

"That's how The Legend of the 5ive was born. With so many paranormal shows out there, it is a natural evolution for filmmakers to use as their subject. All we had to do was find a great antagonist, which history supplied with Anne Foster, the last woman convicted and hung as a witch in England, in 1674 in Northampton. Her accused crimes were the inspiration for the deaths in our film."

In The Legend of the 5ive, Seelig plays a filmmaker doing a documentary about Paranormal Investigations, a ghost-hunter TV show. On Halloween night.



5ive is a low-budget affair, set mostly in an empty field. There's also a car, a van, and an empty barn. That's pretty much it. The film claims a 2,000 pounds production budget, which is impressive for what's onscreen. I assume most of that money was spent on makeup effects, which are lurid. Some nicely gory shots of people being torn apart by an unseen force.

"We didn't pay for anything except catering -- sandwiches, microwave burgers, and hot chocolate drinks -- tape stock, costumes, fuel, and the gore supplies," says Seelig. "The production design was minimalistic. If we didn't have it at hand, if it wasn't essential, it wasn't written into the script. Even the EMF meters were borrowed from actual, practicing ghost-hunters.

"As for the gore, simple and effective was our approach. We buried our actors underground, tried to stop them crying from the cold (-6 degrees Celsius), and laid out our dismembered body parts made of chicken-wire and stuffed with -- wait for it -- newspaper! We dressed the surface with all manners of nasty, sticky, bloody gore.



"Sometimes we hid the cast from the scenes, to evoke natural and unpredictable reactions. The only 'in camera' effect that was complex was Greg Connell's as he is snapped in half, on-camera, without cutting away. This was a chicken-wire mould of Greg's body, rigged with bungee cords and hinged at the spine. When triggered, it ripped back the latex stomach lining and exploded the inner guts outwards. We only had one chance at this. Luckily, it worked first time."

The Legend of the 5ive takes its time getting started. The scares don't begin until 40 minutes into the film. That might be too much exposition for some viewers. But for those willing to wait, 5ive is heavy on atmosphere, largely -- and cheaply -- obtained by shooting night-for-night out in the country. As in The Blair Witch Project, the cast is surrounded by the dark void of night. Anything can be lurking out there, hidden and unseen. That unseen element adds much to the film, because otherwise all we're looking at is a handful of actors wandering about an empty field. Good choice, not to shoot day-for-night.



Lee J. Higgs and Greg Tanner are the two standout performances. Higgs projects a quietly intense presence as the psychic, his deadpan pronouncements on the edge of fakery and sincerity -- we're never sure about him. Tanner is appropriately self-important and smarmy as the TV host. Also deserving mention is Les Necus, who gives an admirable (albeit brief) performance as Old Man Joe, a colorful country local who warns about the witch.

Seelig says 5ive was shot "1440/1080 on Sony Z1's, partially because producer Robert Fairhurst had three of them, but mainly because they were the ideal prop camera for our low-end 'onscreen' production team to be shooting with. We also shot a number of night-vision shots, but decided to ditch these because the night-vision look was very much in vogue with the current TV shows." 5ive was edited on Premier Pro 5.5, with After Effects used for some composite and VFX shots.



Seelig graduated from Bretton Hall College, the University of Leeds "with an honour degree in writing, acting and directing for theatre." The Legend of the 5ive is her first feature production effort.

The Legend of The 5ive is doing the film festival circuit. It screened at UK's Horror-on-Sea festival last January. It's being represented by Ytinifni for sales and distribution.


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