The opening scene, in which a schoolgirl is violently dragged into the woods by an unseen and barely explained supernatural force, is genuinely terrifying, while a climactic car crash is expertly done.
And if the story – about a slightly pompous middle-class father called Ian (Edward Woodward) stalked by supernatural forces after he chooses to attend a business meeting rather than a violin recital by his precociously gifted teenage daughter, Joanne (Samantha Weysom) – is slight, the gorgeous photography by Brian West and Trevor Jones’s score add to the eerie, otherworldly atmosphere.
Writer-director Lindsey C Vickers favours the long, drawn-out tracking shot, with his camera prowling with nervous energy around the family home at night, picking up on tiny incidental details – a clicking alarm clock, a dripping tap – that assume all kinds of sinister connotations.
Made with finance from the National Coal Board Pension Fund, The Appointment was never screened at a British cinema. The movie was meant to be the first in a series of prestige British television films, to be sold around the world under the umbrella title A Step in the Wrong Direction.
US television networks initially expressed keen interest, and there was talk of 13 films in the series. Unfortunately, the projected series was scrapped after relationships disintegrated. The Appointment eventually crept out on home video and was aired on UK regional television in the early 1990s.
The film has since been restored and released on Blu-ray by the BFI (British Film Institute).
Man on Roadside
Lindsey C Vickers