Cult Movies: Edward Woodward in creepy suburban horror gem The Appointment

Edward Woodward in The Appointment
Ralph McLean

The Appointment

THE late Edward Woodward is rightly revered for several unforgettable leading man roles in his long and illustrious film and TV career.

From Callan to The Equalizer and The Wicker Man, he delivered some truly sublime performances that remain worthy of serious affection and reassessment to this day. And, in quieter moments of his on-screen life, he also appeared in some productions that almost vanished without trace upon their original release.

The Appointment is a perfect case in point. The sole feature-length directing credit for Lindsey Vickers, it's an odd and unsettling supernatural thriller that was produced in 1981 but never made it to British cinema screens as had originally been hoped. Instead, it suffered the ignominy of a minimal straight-to-VHS release before being consigned to the cinematic skip.

Little seen since bar shady YouTube offerings so murky you could barely see it anyway, and long unloved outside of the darkest corners of cult fandom, it languished in limbo for years.

The imminent release of the film on Blu-ray as part of the BFI's superlative Flipside imprint will thankfully right that wrong and allow fans of creepy British suburban horror to enjoy a true gem of the genre.

Woodward is Ian, a button-upped working father who decides not to attend his daughter's violin recital as he needs to drive to a work inquiry into a fatal mining disaster his business is implicated in.

His moody daughter Joanne (Samantha Weysom) is not best pleased at this snub and the simmering resentment finds outlet in some decidedly nasty supernatural happenings for the family.

As is often the way in apparently bland middle class stories like this, something is not quite right about the family set up, and that's where The Appointment works its slow-burning magic.

Ian and his wife Dianna (cult TV and film fave Jane Merrow) have been troubled by awful nightmares that seem to predict a terrible tragedy is lurking in the shadows. Slavering rottweilers and vibes of impending doom on the road ahead haunt their dreams and it feels like their comfortable life is about to come crashing down around their ears.

A deeply uneasy opening sequence showing a young girl attacked by an unseen malevolent force suggests Ian and the family are not the first to be affected by the evil in the air around them.

While the film never really lives up to that startling opening, there's much to admire in this foreboding and menacing drama. Woodward's cold and aloof front could be hiding a dark side,while there's a dreamlike wooziness to the car journey he takes that builds a sense of dread with every passing mile. It's slow and meandering at times but it leads up to a finale that's genuinely dramatic and violent.

Is The Appointment a film about a poltergeist or just a straight-forward supernatural thriller? It's hard to say but this beautifully appointed re-issue for a long lost beauty, blessed with a multitude of enlightening BFI extras as always, is a road trip well worth taking all the same.

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