Oxford professor Rex Shepherd stays at an out of the way hotel in a secluded English coastal spot. During his stay he follows the directions contained in a mysterious book, venturing over to a Roman temple, which turns out to be a ruined Roman pet cemetery. Here he discovers an old chest hidden within a wall – and inside the chest he finds a leather, bone-shaped artefact, which he takes back to his hotel room. After deciphering the latin written on the artefact, he squeezes the object, making it squeak like some kind of ancient dog toy. Now Rex Shepherd will soon find out that something is going to come out to play…
Inspired by the works of M.R. James, SQUEAK AND I’LL RUN TO YOU is a parody of those ghost stories, especially the tale ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’.
What I like about this short is that director (and writer) James Head has created a story that is both a parody of the M.R. James-style ghost stories and is also a caring recreation of the kind of well-loved BBC ghost story adaptations that were produced in the 1970s.
William Fitzgerald plays the story’s protagonist Rex Shepherd straight, as the kind of rather arrogant, dusty academic seen in many M.R. James adaptations. Director Head (who, amongst other things, is also the movie’s cinematographer, producer and editor) plays the hotel owner Albert Bassett as a kind of slightly creepy Bill Bailey, adding most of the low key humour to the tale. Tony Stansfield is also fine, as the local vicar, revealed to be a ghost.
The BBC ghost story adaptations this short most reminds me of are 1968’s WHISTLE AND I’LL COME TO YOU (of course) and A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS from 1972. Like those productions, SQUEAK AND I’LL RUN TO YOU doesn’t rush its plot: it is a slow burn tale, with atmospheric shots of the protagonist striding across deserted beaches, etc.
Set in the 1950s and shot in black & white, SQUEAK AND I’LL RUN TO YOU is lovely to look at. Head uses superimposed stormy clouds in many scenes, and these shots of clouds scudding past the hotel’s roof & tower evoke the kind of process shots seen in Corman’s series of Poe films. The scenes set at the Roman ruins use scale model effects and, though obviously looking like special effects shots, these sequences add a moody, quirky artifice to the film.
Okay, time to talk about the supernatural creature that Rex Shepherd unwittingly summons… it is a ghostly, bandaged demon-dog! Yes – this spirit is a small, dark, mangy passed on pooch that drools gooey saliva!
I love this critter!
The cadaverous canine is brought to the screen using an articulated puppet dog (built by Fitzgerald) that is rotten-looking, bandaged, with exposed ribs and dribbling jaws. As is fitting for a story that deals with ghosts but also names all the characters after breeds of dog, this spectral hound is equal parts nasty and somehow cute (in a grim kind of way!)
The many ‘No Pets’ signs in the hotel are a nice touch and there’s also a memorable shot of a steaming pile of spectral doggy do! So, all in all, this movie is a great way to pass 69 minutes of your time.
Finally, here are some behind the scenes shots of the demon dog puppet…