Directed by: #RobertHackett
Written by: #MikeGoldfarb
I remember walking through London one terrible day and passing by the blue heritage plaque for Ian Fleming and just by chance, I found myself pausing to take in the history and impact of the man who once occupied the building in front of me. While Fleming’s plaque resides in the affluent boroughs of Belgravia even the mightiest of titans have the humblest of origins as the premise for Boris in the Forest is so delightfully clever and peculiar. An American horror aficionado Merv Blanco played to perfection by Mac McDonald has travelled to London to visit the birthplace of William Henry Pratt, more commonly known as the iconic Boris Karloff. A Karloff biography in hand along with a t-shirt featuring the iconic Frankenstein’s monster, Merv finds himself as the blue heritage plaque site for the horror icon; above a kebab shop in London where a dog is licking himself outside.
Right off the bat director Robert Hackett and screenwriter Mike Goldfarb’s vision for the black comedy short is gold, the wide-eyed American tourist against the cynical, uncaring kebab shop owner Giannis. The performances are terrific as McDonald brings Goldfarb’s script to life with amusing wit, for Merv this kebab shop is his Mecca, a pilgrimage he has wanted to take his whole life and treats the mundane atmosphere of the shop as holy ground. For Giannis, this is just another weird tourist who isn’t going to buy anything, George Georgiou gives a hilarious performance as the back and forth with McDonald creates many laugh-out-loud moments. While Merv gushes about Karloff, Giannis boasts on the strength of his donner and the diversity of his menu (it’s all donner but with a different side). Georgiou’s delivery of the one-liners against McDonald’s earnest reactions has Hackett instantly create a believable world and characters. Even quick moments like Joyce Henderson’s scene as a customer describing her experience meeting Karloff just adds to the beautiful quirky world-building.
While creative liberties are taken with Karloff’s origins (according to Google maps his heritage plaque is actually above a Fish and Chips shop) Hackett and Goldfarb honour the actor’s creative legacy as the story unfolds into an unnerving thriller. When Merv explores the second floor of the property where Karloff was born, it is an abandoned, derelict place straight out of a horror film. Hackett’s direction is quite tense without devolving to melodrama as the cinematography from Bjørn Ståle Bratberg creates an amazing contrast between the two locations. Meriel Hunt’s production design as well sets an unnerving tone, making the most mundane objects seem gothic and haunted; a disturbing Karloff shrine hidden within a cupboard or a brick fireplace increases Hackett’s foreboding tone. Though the comedy isn’t lost either as Merv seems oblivious to the danger growing around him. McDonald’s delivery of “nice shrine” upon observing the occult imagery was perfect.
Hilarious, eerie and brought to life by brilliant performances, Hackett and Goldfarb’s offbeat yet charming tribute to Boris Karloff is definitely one worth watching. Fantastic production design, scripting and direction deliver a simple effective story with an ending that will knock your socks off and brings new meaning to the phrase ‘never meet your heroes’.