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last update 9.Sep.15
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dir-scr Steve Oram
prd Steve Oram, Andy Starke
with Steve Oram, Lucy Honigman, Toyah Willcox, Julian Barratt, Tom Meeten, Sean Reynard, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey, Noel Fielding, Waen Shepherd, Shelley Longworth, Alice Lowe, Tony Way
honingman and oram
release UK 4.Sep.15
15/UK Lincoln 1h19

fright fest
Aaaaaaaah! With no discernible dialog, this experimental, blackly hilarious social satire relies on grunts and wails to depict communication between the characters. It's a deranged twist on a silent movie, placing primitive humans in modern-day Britain. Utterly unhinged, the film is mesmerising and telling, and rather brilliant too. It also has cult gem written all over it.

Alpha-male Smith (Oram) and his beta sidekick Keith (Meeten) need to find a new family group. So Smith sets his sites on Denise (Honigman). But this means they have to challenge her alpha Ryan (Rhind-Tutt) for supremacy and win over her companion Barabara (Willcox) and Ryan's beta Og (Reynard). But out in the garden is the household's former alpha, Jupiter (Barrett), humiliated and hoping that one day he can get back into the house. And no one is willing to give up without a fight.

As a writer-director, Oram is cleverly inverting the usual civilised British drama, letting caveman instincts emerge in ways that are utterly jaw-dropping. The interaction is unnervingly detailed, even without intelligible dialog, as it's quite literally obvious who wears the trousers and who's in the doghouse. The intertwined relationships continually reveal telling information, with flashbacks and TV shows adding to the texture. It's relentlessly odd, but never as random as it feels.

The actors are all up for it, having fun with challenging roles and never shying away from the violence or vulgarity. Each character has his or her own distinct way of communicating (the men almost always quickly resort to violence), and everyone's animalism is raw and unfiltered, from sexuality to social hierarchy. Sometimes this is very ape-like (lots of excretion and masturbation), but there's also some tenderness, especially in Barrett's sympathetic outcast. The flashback in which he loses his family due to his inability to repair a washing machine is eerily moving.

The film is shot in a bare-basic style, using academy-ratio video, real locations and live sound, with an anachronistic electronic score. And within the shocking imagery, Oram has a lot to say. By reducing humanity to its most basic instincts, he's exploring all of those things that we neglect to express because they're not considered polite. He's touching on how society continues to value masculinity and femininity according to rules that simply don't apply anymore. And he's offering a provocative challenge about the dangers of extreme political correctness. Which is one thing this film could never be accused of.

18 themes, violence, sexuality, vulgarity
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Bloodsucking Bastards
dir Brian James O'Connell
scr Dr God, Ryan Mitts
prd Justin Ware, Colleen Hard, Brandon Evans, Brett Forbes, Patrick Rizzotti
with Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern, Joel Murray, Emma Fitzpatrick, Yvette Yates, Justin Ware, Marshall Givens, David F Park, Neil Garguilo, Zabeth Russell, Sean Cowhig
kranz and kern
release UK Aug.15 ff,
US 4.Sep.15
15/US 1h26

fright fest
Bloodsucking Bastards This sitcom-style movie links dead-end jobs with murderous vampire insanity. It's probably too gentle for comedy fans and rather elusively violent for horror audiences, but once the grisly mayhem cuts loose about halfway in, the nuttiness becomes infectious. And in the end it also cleverly ramps up the workplace satire.

Call-centre salesman Evan (Kranz) has been waiting for his boss Ted (Murray) to promote him to manager, egged on by his chucklehead colleagues Tim and Andrew (Kern and Ware). After a messy breakup with his girlfriend, the HR director Amanda (Fitzpatrick), Evan's life gets considerably worse when the manager job goes to his old school rival Max (Pascal). But once he arrives, the office atmosphere begins to shift: some employees vanish while others have a drastic personality change. And all signs point to the fact that vampires are taking over the company.

The first half of the film is like a muted variation on The Office, as this gang of comical losers deal with the silliness of a daily life of phone sales. Adding wrinkles are the usual workplace politics, improper relationships and the general desire to do as little actual work as possible. With its quick-paced banter, the script definitely has its moments, and continues to develop these storylines even after pandemonium breaks loose. Suddenly this job feels even more soul-destroying than it used to be. So the final, increasingly crazed act is hilarious.

All of the characters are goofballs, with the possible exception of Fitzpatrick's sensible-but-wounded Amanda. The only likeable person is Kranz's Evan, whose life is a series of humiliations. And the members of the ensemble around them are clearly having a lot of fun. Pascal adds some snap as the evil newcomer, while Kern and Ware are amusing losers. Even characters with relatively little screen time contribute to the wackiness, such as Givens' over-eager security guard, who only knows what he reads on Wikipedia.

All of this is enjoyable because most of us know firsthand how it feels to work for a corporation where the bottom line is the most important thing: no loyalty, no justice, no future. So as the employees start to become vampires, the comedy works on two levels. It's corny and riotously blood-soaked, and it's the kind of movie that's a lot of fun to watch with a well-lubricated group of friends.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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Buttercup Bill
dir-scr Emilie Richard-Froozan, Remy Bennett
prd Emma Comley, Sadie Frost
with Remy Bennett, Evan Louison, Pauly Lingerfelt, Mallory June, Monroe Robertson, Becca Gerroll, Alexis Horton, Connor Mire, Reid Meadows, Katie Belle, James Concannon, James Jewitt
louison and bennett release US Oct.14 noff,
UK 4.Sep.15
14/UK 1h36
Buttercup Bill Swirly and elusive, this Louisiana-set drama was made by a largely British team, and it seems desperate to alienate the audience by refusing to make any sense of what happens on-screen. Even an attempt to explain things at the end leaves the film without a clear idea who these people are, why they're such a mess or why we should care.

After attending someone's funeral, Pernilla (Bennett) heads home to visit her childhood friend Patrick (Louison), with whom she has always had a mutual on-off romantic attraction. But for some reason they just can't be together. And they're driving each other nuts: when Patrick hooks up with a random girl (June), Pernilla goes off with his friend Joey (Lingerfelt). But Pernilla and Patrick also remember their golden-hued childhood (played by Horton and Mire, respectively) with their friend Flora (Belle), before everything went horribly wrong.

Sun-dappled photography never quite makes the most of the run-down sets, while the attractive cast are made abrasive by their whiny voices. Yes, this is the kind of movie that never ceases to annoy us. Much of the dialog is either obtuse faux poetry or inaudible whispers. And performances are so understated that they almost don't exist. Bennett at least invests some emotion into a few key moments, while Louison finally sparks some energy in the perplexing final sequence.

Bennett and writing-directing partner Richard-Froozan strain to tell a darkly emotive story about two young people who have never quite dealt with a grim event from their past. But it's so difficult to piece the clues together that neither the plot nor the emotions register. There's a hint that Pernilla has a happy life somewhere, but flickering flashbacks paint her as a trashy drug-addict game for anything sexually. And Patrick is even more of an enigma.

The film is beautifully shot by Ryan Foregger, with a striking musical score by Will Bates. And the filmmakers have created an intriguing setting in which these two characters swirl around each other, with hints of incest and some dark control issues. So it's a shame Bennett and Richard-Froozan were so reluctant to share the story with the audience and let them in, merely insisting that these two should not get together without exploring why. Fans of aloof art films may find enough to engage them, but those wanting some depth will fight the urge to walk out after about five minutes.

18 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
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The Visit
dir-scr M Night Shyamalan
prd Jason Blum, M Night Shyamalan, Marc Bienstock, Ashwin Rajan
with Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Patch Darragh, Samuel Stricklen, Jorge Cordova, Benjamin Kanes, Ocean James, Seamus Moroney
oxenbould and dejonge release US/UK 11.Sep.15
15/US Universal 1h34
The Visit Even though it's tinged with a sense of black comedy, this is essentially just another trite found-footage horror movie, only scary because it makes the audience jump two or three times. Otherwise, the characters are too thinly drawn to care about, and the gimmicky filming style feels badly contrived.

When a single mother (Hahn) heads off on a cruise with her new man (Cordova), she sends her teen kids Becca and Tyler (DeJonge and Oxenbould) to spend the week with her parents, with whom she's been estranged for 15 years. Becca and Tyler are videotaping this experience, and when they notice Nana and Pop-pop (Dunagan and McRobbie) acting oddly, they chalk it up to their old age. But things get progressively more bizarre. And soon they suspect that the reason they're forbidden from going in the basement has nothing to do with mould.

Frankly, the script is riddled with gaping holes, hinging the entire premise on the implausible idea that Becca and Tyler's mom reconnected with her parents on Facebook and would send her kids there without meeting them herself. There are also continual sinister references to the mental home where the grandparents work as counsellors, including glimpses of a doctor (Darragh) and one of their patients (Keenan-Bolger), but none of this adds anything sensible to the fabric of the story.

The bigger problem is that no one in this film is a remotely rounded character. DeJonge's Becca is a pretentious film student moaning about mise en scene, while the obnoxious Oxenbould's Tyler thinks he's an amazing rapper (he isn't). Both are so insufferable that we actually like their clearly insane grandparents a lot better, and Dunagan and especially McRobbie have a lot of fun leaping around acting like they're "sundowners", old people who lose the plot after dark. Hahn is as always superb, although most of her performance is in Skype conversations.

There's some promise in the set-up, and as a writer-director Shyamalan knows how to draw an audience in, even if there isn't much there to connect with. But the home-video aesthetic is so stale that we can easily spot every time he cheats, wondering why he didn't just make this as a proper thriller from the point of view of two curious kids. That could have made the brittle comedy a lot funnier as well, because as is, the film is neither amusing nor frightening.

15 themes, language, violence
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