FILM MAKER Julian Richards may be about to join the ranks of Holly-wood greats with a low-budget horror movie.

Newport-born Richards, 35, began making films at the tender age of 13 with friends from St Julian's High School and his father's 8mm cine camera.

Now his most recent feature,The Last Horror Movie, is tipped to become next year's big box office hit.

The story of a serial killer who lures his victims through horror video rentals, it cost less than £100,000 to make but is expected to make waves when it hits cinemas next February.

"Using digital technology allo-wed me to dramatically cut costs and indulge my creativity," said Richards, whose other films include Darklands and Silent Cry.

His previous work has achieved critical acclaim across the globe, in places as far apart as Latin America, Portugal, Bulgaria and Switzerland, but The Last Horror Movie looks set to be his first major commercial success.

The son of a DIY store owner, Richards' first taste of the film industry came from visits to his uncle, ex-Welsh rugby player-turned actor Rex Richards.

"He lived in Miami and had the lead role in The Wild Women of Wongo, generally regarded to be the worst film of all time, but it made the industry seem accessible to me," said Julian Richards.

Using his sister's boyfriend's driving licence to get in, he spent much of his youth watching horror movies at Newport's ABC cinema. He said: "I grew up at a time when the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were revolutionising cinema.

"I was attracted by the thrill and enjoyment their films gave me." After completing an art foundation course at Gwent College he went on to Bournemouth Film School and the National Film School where he soon made a name for himself. In 1992 he moved to Los Angeles to adapt a novel for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.

"Los Angeles can be very glamorous and awe-inspiring," he said. "But after a while Hollywood Boulevard seems to become more like Commercial Road in Newport."

Now based in London, Julian Richards regularly visits his home town where his parents and family still live.