Sunday, 22 November 2015


Director: James D Layton
Writer: James D Layton
Producer: James D Layton
Cast: Eleanor James, Joanne Gale, Kim Sønderholm
Country: UK
Year of release: 2014
Reviewed from: YouTube

I was always a big fan of Eleanor James.  Between 2005 and 2012 she appeared in more than 30 films, mostly British horrors but also some overseas stuff like Karl the Butcher vs Axe and Colour from the Dark. Whether it was something well-crafted and entertaining like Hellbride or Bordello Death Tales, or a piece of forgettable nonsense like Le Fear 2, or just a cameo like the spoof advert in Harold’s Going Stiff, Ella always brought a real sense of class to a production. She was a good actress, sympathetic to genre and budget level, with a good scream and unafraid to either add blood or remove clothes. She has been retired these three years gone by. Don’t know what she’s doing now but I hope she’s happy and settled and doesn’t regret her not insignificant contribution to 21st century British horror cinema.

Because these things can take time, quite a lot of Eleanor James’ roles didn’t appear until after her retirement from acting. David VG Davies’ Monitor was finally released a couple of weeks ago. Three’s a Shroud is due out next year. Forest of the Damned 2 and Chinese Burns remain in limbo. I had WebKam down for a similar fate but, to my surprise, it has actually been released.

Way back in August 2008 James D Layton (who at the time was using the name Ibraheem James Layton, for some reason) sent me some stills from WebKam, which he had just shot (in Birmingham, over a single week). Nothing happened for a very long time and the film seemed to be a lost one. Then in August 2013 a trailer appeared on YouTube (since removed) suggesting that a release was imminent.

It turns out that the whole film was posted on YouTube in December 2014, although it took me eleven months to notice it (in which time it accrued 2,800 views). The YouTube account, on which this is the sole video, is called Boneyard Models but it seems to be official because that’s the same photo of Layton and his girlfriend that’s on his Amazon page (he now writes romantic fantasy novels).

So, after a mere seven years, I finally sat down to watch WebKam. Was it worth the wait?

Sadly, no. WebKam turns out to be a load of cheap, dull, amateur, misogynist torture porn. Not even the delightful Miss James can save this one. Damn.

Eleanor is Victoria and Joanne Gale (When Evil Calls, Survivors) is her friend Lilly. Victoria, who has recently split up with her boyfriend Matt and has also quit her job, finds that her PC has somehow logged itself onto a site with pictures of a creepy clown-masked figure called Kam. Leaving Lilly on the computer, Victoria has a nap, after which she finds that Lilly has gone and left a note. It then transpires that Kam has kidnapped Lilly.

The bulk of the film is Kam, leaning over Lilly, who is tied to a chair, ordering Victoria to do certain awful things to ostensible save her friend. Nominally connected to the seven deadly sins, these include extracting one of her own teeth, carving a word into her forearm, cutting her hair, drinking a glass of petrol, removing her panties and carving a lump of flesh out of her thigh.

The actual set-up is a bit vague to be honest, not helped by this version (which runs exactly one hour) apparently missing some scenes. So although Victoria has one hour to ‘save Lilly’ (and in fact sets a kitchen timer to this effect!) it’s not clear what will happen at the end of that hour. Will Kam just let Lilly go? We also seem to be missing the bit where Kam introduces himself to Victoria at the start, and the ‘drinking petrol’ bit seems to come out of nowhere. But even if those extra bits were included, this wouldn’t work. It’s basically a first draft script based around the loose, unpleasant idea of a psycho in a mask forcing an attractive, lone woman to injure and humiliate herself. If you get your rocks off on movies like that, please go read somebody else’s website. I’m not a prude and I’ve certainly never been PC, but pointless sadism like this is just boring.

The one and only bit of character development comes when Lilly, who gets her ear cut off at one point, tells Victoria that she slept with Matt. At the end there’s a ‘twist’ which is completely predictable and obvious and serves only to reinforce how desperately short of imagination this whole film is.

Technically it’s not much to write home about either, being shot almost entirely in one kitchen (presumably Layton’s own). The webcam footage of Kam and Lilly is, according to the dialogue, in a concrete room underneath a lake. Except it’s plainly just a garden shed, quite possibly the one we’ve seen outside in Victoria/Layton’s own back garden. Craig Whyte’s camera-work is shaky and the lighting is flat (is this the same Craig Whyte who directed sci-fi short Hypersleep and now makes documentaries about mental health?). The sound isn’t great and Kam’s voice is so electronically distorted that you can barely make out what he’s saying. (Kam is played by Danish actor/film-maker Kim Sønderholm whose UK horror credits include Sam Walker’s Tag and James Kennedy’s Dead City, plus David Noel Bourke’s thriller No Right Turn, a trying-too-hard Canadian thing called Zombie Werewolves Attack!, lots of shorts and feature lash-ups and his own 2008 horror-thriller Craig.)

The YouTube version of WebKam rather cruelly only credits James and Sønderholm on screen – plus Layton himself of course, who also edited – but not Gale (who, like Ella, gives a performance that’s way better than the material deserves). Neither does DP Whyte get a credit, nor Aimee Long who provided costumes and make-up (including the surprisingly effective leg-carving effect). She now does beauty/wedding make-up. Stills photographer Suzanne Cook is the only other name on the IMDB or EOFFTV pages.

Layton’s production company name was originally ‘Oh Gosh! Productions’ but the finished version, which carries a 2014 copyright date, is credited to ‘Crowmarsh Studios’. (The Inaccurate Movie Database has this down as a 2010 film, which is two years after it was made and four years before it was released.)

In 2011 James D Layton was attached to a mooted found footage horror called Hayze which fell apart before it could reach production, and since then he has been concentrating on his books. It’s good to finally be able to take WebKam off the list of MIA 21st century British horrors, but I can see why it was never properly finished. Its release on YouTube adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle, but its absence was no great loss to cinema and there’s no reason to watch it unless you’re a British horror completest and/or a serious Eleanor James fan.

MJS rating: C-

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