Dudley Castle After Dark review by Lisa Evans

Flatpack: Assemble presents

Dudley Castle After Dark: An American Werewolf in London

Saturday 5th August 2017

As the final fleeting rays of sunset bathed the ruined walls of Dudley Castle in an amber glow, and the sky deepened further into twilight, an electric hum of excitement was building in the crowded courtyard. Beyond the upper reaches of the ramparts there was an (almost) full moon on the rise and more than a thousand Flatpack film fans were settling in to enjoy a night of classic horror, gratuitous gore and dark comedy that promised to be gloriously good fun.

Following the wild success of last summer’s outdoor cinema event: Dudley Castle After Dark: Bride of Frankenstein, attended by over 600 people, Flatpack Projects has dug deep into the vaults of retro horror to present legendary werewolf movie: An American Werewolf in London (1981) by John Landis.

Judging by the size of the turn out, the full moon wasn’t the only thing on the rise. Beneath a colossal inflatable 36ft cinema screen (courtesy of Cambridge Film Trust), a diverse but congenial mix of over 1200 spectators were comfortably camped out across the central courtyard, meaning that the success of last year’s event has significantly risen in popularity, with this year’s event being a sell out. A DJ played an eclectic mix of 50’s and 60’s crooners, classic blues, 80’s rock, and everything in between with a soundtrack that would have been a perfect accompaniment to a Tarantino movie.

Following an ingenious animated short and a specially-recorded video introduction for Dudley Castle After Dark by John Landis himself, the grassy arena echoed with the haunting sounds of Blue Moon by Bobby Vinton (namely one of three versions to be found within the film). By the time we saw the ill-fated American backpackers being delivered to their grisly fate in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, the darkness had begun to swallow the courtyard of Dudley Castle, and the crowd were not just devouring the on-screen brilliance of the famously-tense scene in The Slaughtered Lamb, but also enjoying the excellent BBQ and hot food catering provided onsite.

I wolfishly tucked into a delicious burger, which was so good I returned for a second helping. For those like me who failed to bring their own twilight picnic offerings, alcoholic beverages were available with a simple choice between beer or cider, and the staff were jovial, welcoming and warm. Speaking of temperature; even a mid-summer night can be cold, so the wisest of audiences would be advised to arrive well-equipped with blankets/groundsheets and camp chairs for a truly comfortable outdoor cinema experience.

By the time darkness fell, American Werewolf was in full swing in all of it’s technicolour carnage with superb clarity and volume; the sound reverbs within the slightly sunken courtyard like a giant amplifier. Strange light projections had begun to appear on all sides upon the crumbling walls and ramparts, featuring iconic images from the film: blood, burning torches, inverted pentagrams and ghostly full moons. As the werewolf howled and rampaged onscreen, an (almost) full moon hung brightly over the castle grounds, shrouded by eerily moving clouds, in a display of pathetic fallacy that would have made Shakespeare doff his cap in respect to a truly outstanding outdoor cinema event by Flatpack: Assemble.

As the final film credits rolled and the crowd packed up, rapidly evacuating the courtyard of Dudley Castle for the warmth and shelter of home, I paused on the way out to ask for some travel advice.

“Stay on t’road. Keep clear of t’moors…”

Review by Lisa Evans for Grapevine Birmingham |Insta. @Lisa_doeslife

This event is also a part of Shock & Gore Festival, the Electric Cinema Birmingham’s annual horror and fantasy festival. Find out more about Flatpack @ flatpackfestival.org.uk

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