“Oi mate!” By all appearances, it’s a rather mundane British greeting. That is, unless you find yourself in a darkened alleyway trailing behind goth metal legend Dani Filth. If that’s the case, it’s actually an invitation for him to grab you by the throat, rip out your oesophagus and crack your head in half like a walnut.
If you’re wondering how we know this, it’s because we’ve seen 2001’s Cradle Of Fear. Written and directed by Alex Chandon, who also did the From The Cradle To Enslave music video, the low-budget gorefest came as Cradle Of Filth’s first foray into the world of the full-length horror feature. In the words of The Evening Standard’s Neil Norman, the flick promises “enough blood and guts to satisfy the most terminal gorehounds” – according to the quote on the DVD cover, anyway. And, while it may be rough around the edges, we must agree: this bewilderingly blood-spattered flick is more than enough to appease the bloodthirsty masses.
An homage to UK studio Amicus Productions’ anthology approach to horror, Cradle Of Fear explores the downfall of four guilty parties, all meeting their tragic end at the hands of Dani Filth – AKA ‘The Man’. After repeatedly stabbing (stuffed) cats and draining their mewling corpses, The Man is able to consume their feline innards in one gulp. Then, off he shoots, ready to flex his satanic goth powers on those who led to a criminal called Kemper’s incarceration. (Kemper is later revealed to be – gasp – The Man’s father. Because of course he is.)
If your idea of rock and roll is ‘sex, drugs and mutant tarantula foetuses’, then this film is undeniably rock and roll. The vengeance-fuelled tale of ritualistic culling embodies something gritty and brooding – this sense is amplified by nearly every shot of Dani Filth being in slow motion.
It doesn’t matter if Dani is staring mysteriously across a darkened, heaving nightclub at two sexy goth girls, or if he’s simply waltzing through the nocturnal streets of the hazy city – he is always brooding luxuriously, taking his time, revelling in his own aura. It could be argued that the slow-mo sections are an effort to meet the two-hour run time – who’s to say? – but they are definitely an interesting creative choice.
You may also notice a particular theme starting to arise. Every inch of the anthology aims for something sexy and gothic – every chapter includes some kind of darkly seductive woman, who will reliably be shown naked as a lingering male gaze trails up and down her body.
Yet, while it is at times quite laborious, there is something incredibly self-aware in each shot. A stand-out moment comes in the form of one woman repeatedly begging her pal to touch her, seedy music pulsating in the background as said pal prods at her exposed stomach. As the camera follows her fingers, trailing down, down, tips eventually poking beneath some underwear – snap! Off with pal’s fingertips. Blood everywhere. There’s an alien arachnid clawing its way out of an exposed stomach. There’s flailing, there’s screaming. It’s bloody, it’s chaotic, it’s shocking… it’s hilarious.
The excess gore is balanced out with these offbeat moments of peculiar hilarity. Alongside the aforementioned terrifying anti-fingering propaganda, these jaw-droppingly bemusing moments come in many different forms. They range from an inspector checking the pulse and groping a breast before announcing a woman has died (despite her evidently over-spilling guts) to a man ploughing someone down with his car, getting out to check, before proclaiming “not a scratch!” as he scans his bonnet and zooms off.
Despite the chaotic hilarity, some heavy themes are also tackled in Cradle Of Fear. Its Hostel-esque exploration of killing rooms, for example, condemns violent porn addiction in the age of online snuff sites. So there are some nuanced, intriguing ideas amidst the masses of eyeliner and nudity.
Reflecting on the film during an interview with Alternative Press in October 2021, Dani Filth spoke of how the film “was (and still is) the most successful underground British film of recent years.” And we can see why. While this blood-stained flick may have had a low-budget and a high-concentration on promiscuous goth girls, it is, ultimately, a ridiculous, vomit-smeared, gleefully violent good time. Dani has hinted at wanting to make a second instalment in the form of Cradle Of Fear II – and all we can say is it cannot come soon enough.