The small Yorkshire town of Thirsk has seen its fair share of horror in the past few years, thankfully mostly on the big screen.
Filmmaker Paul Shrimpton has, for the past decade, been one of the guilty parties at the centre of what’s been labelled ‘Thirskploitation’; essentially a series of gore, horror and exploitation films shot in Thirsk. From Alex Chandon’s delightfully giddy, sick gore-fest Inbred to some of the gorier music videos and shorts to grace the internet recently (see below) Shrimpton has been involved in most of it to some degree. Penning Inbred as a dirty, dark and tongue-in-cheek Deliverance-style story full of nasty characters, the filmmaker ran into some initial trouble from the mayor of Thirsk:
"The mayor really disapproved of Inbred in case people thought that we were trying to say that Thirsk people were as strange and backward as they are in the script. Obviously the story is a parody of some small towns you might encounter, not necessarily Thirsk, so I was keen to smooth things over with the mayor and thankfully he saw sense. I think anyone living in a small town gets a bit sick of it sometimes and the film was a big outlet for us all."
Inbred was shown over the course of 2011-2012 in a series of festivals and cinemas, gaining as many rabidly approving reviews as scathing ones - not a surprise to Paul and the film’s director Alex Chandon, who Paul met when he was a teenager. "Alex gleefully makes ‘Marmite movies’. He and I both entered the Opportunity Shocks competition in Darkside magazine and Alex foolishly put his phone number on his entry so I contacted him and we became mates and started making films together." Chandon made the notorious schlock films Cradle of Fear and Pervirella, gaining a cult following that was already well in place before he asked Paul to write Inbred.
The Thirskploitation scene is partly based around the wryly nicknamed ‘Skipton Grange Studios’, a farm on the edge of Thirsk which owner Michael Sanderson has used for a slate of productions from features Inbred and Whoops! to zombie series Zomblogalypse and upcoming horror short The Herd, which according to Paul, who helped out on the production, is about ‘battery farm’ children: "It’s a ‘pro-Vegan horror film’ drawing similes with dairy farming and human farming, where the children are treated like cattle. It’s pretty barbaric but it does have a very human message."
With The Herd set to do the festival circuit soon, Paul is looking at the series of features he is about to embark on. "I’ve been writing a few scripts - one’s been optioned and one sold - and I’ve been commissioned to write another." The first of these features, Besieged, will trade the farmland of Thirsk to the plains of Arizona next year. The film, about "alcoholics battling demons of a literal sense" will uproot Paul to the States for three months, where the film’s production base is located. "It was written originally to shoot in Yorkshire but with some minor tweaks, the story fits Arizona perfectly."
Paul’s other feature, Skin, is to be a hard-hitting real-life tragedy about the Aryan Brotherhood, or as Paul describes it, "Requiem for a Dream meets Romper Stomper. It’s kind of brutal, quite a topical issue in those Southern states, though again I’m aiming for the script to bring out the human nature of the characters… with a lot of bloodshed, obviously!"
Like many horror directors, Paul got sucked into the world of blood and gore by watching late-night horror double bills on the BBC, pestering his parents for a video camera and thus kicking off an outlet for his obsession. "We did a short film called Slow Rot which got onto Channel 4’s Takeover TV and our film was voted one of the best of the bunch. We tried making a feature version a few years later, thinking we could film for two weeks for £7,000 but realised we couldn’t, so that was the end of that."
Undeterred - and after a decade of touring with his band - Paul settled back into filmmaking and now not only has a slate of movies in pre-production but also a Bigfoot film planned, called The Growling, for which Paul is working out technicalities such as the look of the creature’s wedding tackle. "Graham Taylor - who’s sculpting the creature - and I are working out how regularly to show it, whether it hangs loose and so forth." And so for now, we’ll leave Paul mulling that one over and look forward to a bunch of new films from what seems like the most unlikely centre of filmmaking in the North, to which we’ll most assuredly return later in the year.
Watch Paul’s short horror Teleportal below. WARNING: Contains scenes of comedy gore and video game violence.