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The Appointment


‘…one of the most effective British supernatural movies, mainly because it’s not influenced by American tropes, and ends up somewhere in MR James territory…’

Although Britain’s illustrious history makes it quite the place to go for ghost stories, it’s rarely been the source of modern supernatural scares on the screen; we think of classic Hammer horror as period pieces, but when these movies became too expensive to produce, the studio updated their thinking to late 1970’s settings. Director Lindsey C. Vickers was a graduate of the popular Hammer House of Horror tv series, and beyond that, his one and only feature was this neglected suspense-drama, which has only previously been seen on tv and VHS, but now gets a welcome blu-ray treatment from the BFI. The Appointment is an odd, not entirely coherent work, but obvious faults aside, it’s also something rather special, with a couple of stand-out, set-piece sequences which mark it out as a ‘must see’ for genre fans.

We open with an improvised scene; Vickers was told that US tv would demand a grabber from the outset, and came up with a simple but chilling opener in which a schoolgirl is abducted by supernatural forces in a most unexpected way. This scene is never fully connected to the narrative that follows, although it seems most likely explanation is that the unfortunate victim is a rival for the place in the musical school attended by Joanne (Samanthan Weysome). She’s the daughter of engineer Ian (Edward Woodward) and his wife Dianne (Jane Merrow), whose relationship seems to have become stale. Their differences are exasperated by their daughter’s petulant attitude to Ian not attending her graduation recital; instead, he’s got to travel up north to attend the inquest into the death of an employee (this film is somehow financed by the cultural mavens at the British Coal Board). Ian leaves home the next morning in a rented car, but he’s already disturbed by dreams of devilish dogs and a lethal accident, and it’s no surprise that Ian never makes it back home again…

The Appointment taps into a number of familiar tropes; the gifted child from The Shining, the vengeful teenager from Carrie, and the premonitions of Don’t Look Now and The Psychic. But Vickers is very much doing his own thing here, and the bland 80’s British-ness of his film has a unique, unsettling flavour. There are suggestions that Ian might be an abusive father, his lingering outside his daughter’s door has several possible meanings, although it’s also possible that she’s just a petulant brat with super-powers. There’s a deeply odd diversion into Final Destination territory in which Ian’s turning the ignition on his rented car somehow causes the death of a mechanic working on his real motor, and this connection is pretty much impossible to explain or rationalise even in a horror film. The suburban doom theme finally manifests itself in an extraordinary, absurd yet chilling climax in which a forgotten watch (gifted by his daughter) seals Ian’s fate.

Woodward’s other horror classic outside of The Wicker Man, The Appointment has built up a small cult if not urban legend status; it’s moody, slightly obscure and not for gore-hounds or sensation seekers. But it adds up to one of the most effective British supernatural movies, mainly because it’s not influenced by American tropes, and ends up somewhere in MR James territory. There’s a huge gap between The Appointment’s effectiveness and it’s lack of public popularity, and this timely blu-ray release should introduce it to fans old and new alike. And the moral of the story, not for the first time, is simple enough; don’t leave the house, at all, ever, under any circumstances.

Special features

Presented on Blu-ray in Standard Definition·        

Newly recorded audio commentary by director Lindsey Vickers·        

Vickers on Vickers (2021, 41 mins): the director looks back on his life and career ·        

Another Outing (2021, 16 mins): Jane Merrow recalls co-starring in The Appointment ·        

Appointments Shared (2022, 7 mins): Lindsey and Jan Vickers remember the making of the ‘haunted film’·        

Framing The Appointment (2022, 19 mins): Lindsey Vickers recalls making the film·        

Remembering The Appointment (2022, 10 mins): assistant director Gregory Dark shares his recollections of the film ·        

The Lake (1978, 33 mins): Lindsey Vickers’ eerie short finds young lovers choosing to picnic at a spot haunted by echoes of a violent event·        

Newly recorded audio commentary on The Lake by Lindsey Vickers·        

Splashing Around (2020, 18 mins): actor Julie Peasgood on making The Lake·        

Galleries featuring annotated scripts, storyboards, images and production materials

BFI Flipside present The Appointment on BFI Blu-ray, iTunes and Amazon Prime release on 11 July 2022


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      • But you’d have to leave your house to hide under my table. Wouldn’t that be against every principle and moral that Our Great Movie taught us?

                    • George Orwell’s famous cartoon Animal Farm springs to mind.

                    • Haven’t you seen Animal Farm? Orwell could have been the next Pixar, but wrote some diary instead. Blew the chance to be the next Walt Disney…

                    • Dang authors, always selling out for their own good instead of entertaining us! Next time I see Orwell I’m going to give him a piece of my mind about that decision of his.

                      I have not seen Animal Farm. Is it rated PG, like Charlotte’s Web?

                    • It’s a prequel to Charlotte’s Web, it’s ok, but it’s no Toy Story. Then he write 1984, which some people say was prophetic, but I thought it was good. He was a master of cartoon characters, years before Disney came along. He guess he’ll be sorry every time he sees a Lightning McQueen lunchbox and thinks; that could have been me.

                    • So was Wilbur the archetypal Pig portrayed in Animal Farm? Or was that written in 1984?

                      Never watched the Cars franchise. Pixar had lost me by that point. But maybe if they had made an Appointment, I’d have watched Cars.

                    • 1984 should have been his sci-fi blockbuster, the new Star Wars, but he gummed it up with politics. So close to making a difference.

                    • Too soon to mention that. I had a lot invested in King Harald. I still need time to figure it out. Life’s rich tapestry, I guess.

                    • In line green pants and a pointed green hat with a feather in it.

                    • Oh man, don’t tell me you’ve bought into that “history” stuff. EVERYONE knows history was invented by aliens to mess with us….

  1. I like the kid flying into the bushes in the trailer, but the shot of the violin or whatever it is after kind of wrecked it. I’ll look for this, but not sure where I’ll find it. BFI doesn’t travel well.

  2. Never even heard of this picture. Did it ever get a British release? certainly sounds interesting enough. If it’s the same Gregory Dark as I’m thinking of he had quite a career in another genre.

    • I think it was shown as a movie on itv, and then had a VHS release. Don’t remember it being on at the cinema…even posting the links this morning gave me three different release years, so it’s arguable when t actually came out. Copious info on the blu-ray, I’ll return with a firmer answer…

      • There was definitely a time when British television was lapping up all those films – some of them very good – that never got a showing in the cinema.

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