Two years of incredible hard work boiled down to just 55 minutes on Thursday 27th September … For this was the day that Torquay-based director, John Tomkins, premiered his new thriller, They’re Coming.
A paranoid thriller that tips its hat to the likes of The Fugitive and North by Northwest, They’re Coming was shot entirely on location in and around Torbay, and showcases a host of creative talent.
Tom Menary stars as David Yorke, who receives a mysterious note reading ‘they’re coming’. After an equally cryptic call from his wife Amanda (Kirsty Anne-Symonds), David returns home, only to find that she has disappeared and that two policemen (Boyd Rogers; Julian Lee Seager) are after him. Teaming up with his friend Sarah (Lexie Carducci), David sets out to find his wife – but is he a victim of a wider conspiracy? And is his boss, Ian Webber (Sam Morgan) also involved?
The film screened to a sold-out crowd in Screen 1 of Torquay’s Merlin Cinema, and the atmosphere was palpable. In an ironic twist of fate, the build-up to the film was prolonged when the projector refused to work … But it proved worth the wait. A black screen and ominous piano chord immediately and effectively sets the tone for a pacy story that wastes no time getting underway.
The editing (by Ed Chappell) is crisp and efficient, expertly stitching together the terrific location photography by Jim Elton (a chase across Torbay’s Rock Walk is a highlight). Despite its relative crudeness, on a technical level, the film is a success, with a thrumming John Powell-influenced score by Dom Lee and others, discreetly employed at key moments. There’s also a sophisticated and striking credits sequence by Torbay Film Club’s David Burbury, with overtones of Saul Bass’ work for Hitchcock.
The film puts a lot of pressure on Tom Menary’s shoulders in the lead role, as he has to juggle disbelief, fear and his burgeoning attraction to Sarah over a very brief amount of time. Fortunately he shoulders the pressure brilliantly, and convinces throughout. Not all of the actors sell the scenario: although Lexie Carducci is a likeable presence, her dialogue feels forced, although this is more down to how her character is written than her abilities.
Perhaps the greatest issue with the film is its compression: it could really do with being longer, as the sense of meaty conspiracy is sketchy and then left open with a climactic revelation that suggests a sequel. A climactic cat-fight is also misjudged considering the low-key intensity of what has gone before.
Nevertheless, considering the non-existent resources with which it was made (including a backpack standing in for a steady-cam rig), They’re Coming is a coherent and engaging piece of storytelling, which wraps up its convoluted machinations confidently. Tomkins has cast the film strongly (Morgan’s sinister voice is noteworthy) and successfully throws in much humour which works a treat (several moments focusing on characters running out breath during the various chase scenes are a delight).
Above all, it fulfills John’s wish to put Torbay on the cinematic map: there was a very particular thrill in seeing a character pursued across the footbridge near Torre Abbey Sands, with the sun gleaming off the calm sea in the background. Elsewhere, a confrontation on top of a car park is lensed in beautiful, noirish light with the lights of Torquay in the background. Not only does the film show off Torbay to a wonderful extent: it also showcases the enormously talented people within the community itself.