Horror-on-Sea interview with The Ratman of Southend director Michael Holiday

The Ratman of Southend (2019)

Director: Michael Holiday

Stars: Alexander Churchyard

A chilling ghost story which tells the story behind The Ratman of Southend

Date & Venue: 20th January 2019 at 17:30pm

Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend-on-, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK

The Ratman of Southend is a new short horror film from director Michael Holiday, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask Michael Holiday a few questions about what we can expect from the film.


Q. The Ratmanof Southend has been selected to play at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. Can you tell us what we can expect from the film?

The Ratman of Southend is a short experimental ghost story. It tells the tragic tale of a local homeless man who is killed on a cold night in Essex.

Q. The story is based on an English urban legend which originated in Southend-on-Sea. Why did you decide to make this story into a short film?

I love hearing ghost stories! I’ve lived in Southend-on-Sea all my life, yet somehow this particular story has escaped me. It was only when I was researching another local ghost story that I came across it. I think the simple nature of the story works really well for a 3-minute short.

It’s the first entry in a series called The Tape Library which I’ve been working on, each episode explores a different urban legend. I’m planning to get a few other local filmmakers involved in making entries for the series and hopefully broaden it out to wider reaching stories.


Q. There are various versions of the story which have circulated over the years. What sort of research did you do regarding the film and how close does the film follow the source material?

I found a whole host of (mostly now closed) message boards and websites that spoke about local ghost stories and The Ratman was one that kept popping up. There is also the excellent book by Dee Gordon Haunted Southend that has basically been my bible while putting this series together. The version of the story I tell is the one that seemed to be the most commonly told. I wanted it to feel authentic so didn’t want to stray too far from the story that (if anyone has heard it) people already know.


Q. What were your influences for the style of the film and why did you feel that a narration of the story would be more effective?

I work as a video editor and was getting a little frustrated that I wasn’t finding the time to work on my own projects. I had plenty of time sat at a computer to edit but finding time to film was difficult. So just for fun I started shooting footage on my commute to work on my phone. I then started putting together these weird little films where I would play creepy sounds and overlay multiple images on top of each other. Mostly just for something to experiment with. I’d been toying with the idea of making a podcast on ghost stories after a bunch of my work colleagues all started sharing their own ghost stories from when they were children. I had the thought that these visuals I was making would actual create a really nice mood film for something like that.

Q. What were some of your favourite moments bringing the film together?

Just the experimentation and constraints. We only shot new footage for this for about 15/20 minutes, but then spent multiple days editing. Just playing around with the different images, seeing how far things could be pushed. I also didn’t realise how many times I had used this location in previous shorts I’d made over the years. So, I was able to go back and recycle a few shots from there which is cool.


Q. Do you have any other projects which you are working on?

As I mentioned, this short is a part of an online series I’m putting out with a few other filmmakers. The idea is to start out with local urban legends but to gradually branch out to other stories from around the UK. I’m also interested in telling more personal ghost stories. We’re actually planning to have a camera and a microphone on us at Horror-on-Sea. So, if anyone has any good stories and you’re happy to talk about it on camera, track us down at the festival! We’d love to talk to as many people as possible and hopefully create new episodes of The Tape Library from them.

Aside from that, I’ve been involved with a feature length seaside-based slasher movie called I Scream on the Beach. We’ve been working on this on and off for a few years now, but it looks like production is finally going ahead early 2019. So, I’m really excited to finally get that out there for people to see. We’re hoping to have it ready in time for next year’s festival.


Q. Are there any other local urban legends or ghost stories in Essex which you feel would make a good horror a film?

You’d be surprised quite how many there are. We’ve already been working on shorts that cover Canewdon Church and Southend Pier. I’m also really interested in getting into the Palace Theatre to do some filming, that’s got some great stories.


Q. If someone was looking to get into filmmaking themselves what advice would you give them?

It’s become a bit of a cliche  now, but just go out and film something. Everyone has a camera in their pocket these days. Just make something, even if you don’t expect anyone to see it. You never know what you will learn or what ideas you’ll come up with until you’re actually out there making a film.

You can find out more about Michael Holiday’s project and the upcoming film ‘I Scream on the Beech’ by following them on Twitter:

Michael Holiday: https://twitter.com/mikejholiday

Scream on the Beech:  https://twitter.com/iscreambeach

You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.


Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!