Darklands: Horror film's US release after 10 year fight

Darklands poster Darklands was filmed in Port Talbot, Swansea and Newport

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A cult horror film that was shot in south Wales 15 years ago has finally been released in North America after a decade of wrangling over its rights.

Darklands won a prestigious award after it came out in 1998 and has been credited with leading the revival of UK horror films, like 28 Days Later.

It was due out in the United States but the company selling it went bust.

Now, director Julian Richards has got control of the film rights and it is finally available in the US and Canada.

Darklands was shot in 1996 around Swansea, Newport and Port Talbot, where the imposing steel works provided the film's industrial backdrop.

Influenced by movies like The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby, it tells the story of a newspaper reporter investigating the death of a steel worker who gets embroiled with a pagan cult.

Start Quote

It's very frustrating when a film's potential is thwarted by the obstacles I was presented with”

End Quote Julian Richards Director

Craig Fairbrass, famous for roles in EastEnders and the Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger, takes the lead role, while the late Welsh rugby star Ray Gravell also features in the film.

It was released in some cinemas in London and on VHS video across the UK, France, Germany and Spain.

America beckoned for the film after Roger Corman, the Hollywood producer who released The Wicker Man in the US, saw Darklands at a film festival and wanted to release it across the Atlantic.

But it never happened after the film was handed to a sales company which went into liquidation.

A lengthy battle over the film's rights ensued.

"It took me 10 to 15 years to unravel the legal knot and regain control of the film myself," said Newport-born Mr Richards, who was also the writer of Darklands.

"This year I achieved that and immediately got a distribution deal. So they released the film for the first time last week."

'Black hole'
Julian Richards Julian Richards has now set up his own film sales company

He said there was an "appetite" in the States for horror films and that Darklands had "built up a reputation".

"It's early days and too soon to say how well it's doing there but for me it's a personal achievement to finally get it released," said Mr Richards, who first came up with the idea for the film in his 20s while at the National Film School in London.

"It's very frustrating when a film's potential is thwarted by the obstacles I was presented with."

The director said he had spent seven years writing, filming and getting the movie ready for release "then suddenly it falls into a black hole".

Darklands had a budget of £500,000 and was helped with funding from the Arts Council of Wales.

It won a prestigious Melies D'Argent award for best European fantasy film and was hailed as leading the way for British movies like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead.

Mr Richards, whose other films include The Last Horror Movie and Summer Scars, said he had now set up his own film sales company to ensure he does not have to face any future legal problems in getting his films released.

"It's very difficult to survive in the film industry purely as a creative," he added.

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