Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #09 – The Last Seven & Suckerpunch

This week London empties itself out in fear of being associated in any way with The Last Seven and Zack Snyder has had way too many sweets as he vomits up the multi-coloured fantasy fest that is Sucker Punch.

The Last Seven promised me a couple of things: that it was some kind of post apocalypse movie, which it isn’t, and Danny Dyer, who it transpires is merely a bit part player. Come on man, you don’t waste and asset like Dyer. And in this movie, that’s not even ironic. It’s terrifyingly true.

A man wakes up, face down, on a wet London street, all alone. All. Alone. We follow him around the grey, empty streets as he tries to find out what’s gone on. It’s all so hauntingly familiar at this stage. But we won’t let that get in the way of our enjoyment of the film. In fact, it’s pretty much the least of our worries in that regard. Our guy is walking the empty, rain slicked streets of the City of London. Clearly it’s easier to film as it’s deserted on weekends anyway. See 28 Weeks Later for further reading. In fact, it seems as if many of the scenes, the overheads, that pickle shaped building that wasn’t there when they made 28 Days Later, but featured prominently in 28 Weeks later, built in a funk of over-adrenalised productivity by the not-quite-zombie denizens of London while coked up on blood lust and the rage to just get things done. I digress: Our dude, William, walking aimlessly, lost, confused, alone, differs in one salient aspect from Cillian Murphy’s damaged wretch in 28 Days, in that after a while he not unreasonably loses his nut over the fact that there’s no one around and fucks up somebody’s car with a bin. That scans that little bit better than wandering into a church because, well, you’re Irish, and that’s where the answers traditionally are, right? But enough of the comparisons, we do Messers Boyle and Fresnidillo a GREAT disservice.

William tramps through a deserted building, taking to the roof to check out the view of the entirely empty city below. But he’s no longer alone. He’s been joined by a couple of clichés. A posh guy, swigging on a crystal decanter of brandy, a fey looking young one, a gruff and potty mouthed soldier with a gun. They are likewise confused, not sure of why they are there, or indeed who they are, although the soldier thinks that logically there was a terrorist scare and the city has been evacuated. We’re privy to flashback, disjointed narratives. Some nails, a hand, a hammer, a gun going off, the aforementioned Dyer, some verbals from the characters. Lots of oblique shit like that. They wander around and happily bump into a few other people. Phew. A city the size of London, with, as the title suggests, only seven people apparently left alive, and they bump into the only other souls out there. Thank god, eh? Among them there is, of course, the guy who spouts biblical rhetoric. Isn’t there always? All along the gang are being followed by a flitting, shapeless, dark character, that fackin khaaant Dyer. There are some attempts at scares, using the eerie emptiness as our atmosphere, but they fail to raise a hair on the neck. Not one hair. It gets daft when the scariness becomes prompted by a strobing, pulsating blue light that’s supposed to be spectral or something but just looks cheap. As the characters begin to disappear, one begins to envy them. The reveal is unrevealing, like waking up from a dream to find yourself in the same bed that you went to sleep in, in fact you weren’t even dreaming, just nocturnally passing wind.

It’s been done before, there’s that prickly sense of embarrassment at watching knowing that nearly every aspect has been, well, lifted. There’s a kernel of a good idea here, one can imagine Hollywood filling the cast with a few Dicaprios, emptying Chicago for a weekend, adding a couple of explosions and turning it into a bit of a money spinner what makes you think. Here, it’s all a bit belaboured. The dialogue is heavy handed and unedited and the actors are either weighed down by it or just not competent enough to make it work. I suspect it’s a bit of both. It’s a kind of community centre acting class on a day out kind of thing, or one of those hammy, not-quite sci fi, really low budget programmes LWT used to fart out back in the seventies. Like Day of the Triffids without the superior acting ability of the Triffids.

The characters themselves seem as clichés; you may think that this is initially a device, that, due to their circumstances and amnesia, they’ve reverted to a kind of type. It may, however, simply be that, like the dialogue, and indeed casting, not a great deal of thought went into their creation. Obviously the creation of this movie took up every single waking minute of someone’s life for a year or two, and, despite appearances, it wasn’t knocked together over a weekend, but unfortunately it’s not worth the effort put in, assuming there was any. The script is just unreal, forced, leaden with cliché, the acting is plywoodian, the direction is non existent. Empty, desolate London looks good. Cold and still and jarring, the many useless, empty ornaments of mankind laid to waste, but we’ve seen that before, and better. The only thing the movie does ok is a total, verbatim, rip off. Ho hum.

We must take a moment to admire the genius that is Danny Dyer. He has an innate ability to choose movies that are so bad that he does not look like the worse thing in them, in fact he often comes across as the chummy lad who’s really doing his best with the fackin drivel what he’s bin forced to say, innit bruv. Here he has his wasted, serious face on, smudged with make-up devised by a sausaged brained 5 year old and applied by a walrus brandishing a paint roller. He still manages to be the best thing in this crock. Enjoyably bad, if bad is something you tend to enjoy. If you enjoy decent cinema, why are you even reading this?

There is a scene at the beginning of Suckerpunch, where rain streaking a car window coalesces into the title of the film before sliding away again. It’s a neat trick that no doubt cost more than the entire budget of The Last Seven. Having no budget doesn’t mean that you have to make a bad film, of course, and having an articulated lorry full of used notes and a warehouse full of RAM-crammed servers doesn’t, by the same token, guarantee that you’ll make a good film. Oh dearie me, not a bit of it.

In zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, Babydoll, our preternaturally tiny protagonist, is committed to a skanky looking asylum by her apparently abusive step father who wants to get his hands on the inheritance she’s due since her mother passed away. That and the fact that she shot and killed her younger sister. Sure, she was aiming for the abusive step dad, but still. It seems to me if you shoot, and kill someone, take your fucking medicine, no? The place is a rundown, corrupt, filthy bedlam, run by the nefarious orderly Blue. He arranges it so that that Babydoll will get a lobotomy in 5 days time, for a certain price of course, nullifying her as person, and thus passing on the inheritance to the dastardly step dad. Babydoll then reverts to a fantasy world in order to escape from this living hell. The asylum turns into a brothel, her abusive step father turns into a paedophilic priest with, naturally, an Irish accent, Blue turns in to a shiny suited, tiny moustached pimp. It’s good that Hollywood still uses to the Irish accent to convey a certain ecclesiastical evil. It’s good that we’ve imported more than just drunk writers and corrupt bankers over the years, isn’t it? It was a proud moment, like when Brenda won that Oscar or all those Hollywood films with IRA blokes, Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones and who have you, back in the nineties.

Into this sleazy bordello/dance club, where ladies dress in hot pants, and dance and shag for money, (because, clearly, on some level all women fantasise about being prostitutes, right?), Babydoll descends. Unimpressed with a career path in harlotry she concocts a plan of escape, co-opting four other young ones in on her mission. They agree to go along despite having no personalities or motivation and armed only with winning smiles and legs from here to ya ya. They need to appropriate certain objects from the various sleezes around the club, and to distract them Babydoll dances to some awful music. While she dances, she slips deeper into fantasy, a dream within a dream, and her fantasies become crazy fight sequences against incredible foes; massive Samurai, the Boche, some silver robots, a dragon, and as each is vanquished, so each aspect of the escape plan is achieved. Or not. It’s super-slowed down; spent cartridges arc for an age in the air, choreographed moves, like violent ballet, show off various knickers, extraordinary things happen while all along Scott Glenn looks like a preserved raisin and dispenses wisdom. It’s really quite dull, and I wondered when it would all end. Frankly if I weren’t bound to get to the end of it, I wouldn’t have. It’s visually stunning, for sure, but fails to engage the brain, and everything is smothered in noise and music and artifice. The girls are scantily clad, spending all the film in mini skirts, and it comes across like the kind of thing that the police would find outlined, with fat-breasted illustrations, in a dog eared notebook in the knapsack that Eric Harris used to carry all his ammunition in prior to deciding to kill everyone. It’s a high school outsider flick for the ADD generation, wank-fodder for twenty-something adolescents.

And the music! Non stop music. Each new mission and dance presaged with yet another awful cover version, sickening misinterpretations of classics, like Search and Destroy by the Stooges, mangled, or White Rabbit by the Airplane, fucked. The film at times seems like little more than the commercial to sell its own soundtrack. It’s a convoluted, confused, egotistical mess of ideas and visuals, bound by no rules. But how can this be? we stutter, how does that happen? we ask, confusedly. It’s fantasy, we’re told. But why are the characters two dimensional and irritating, and why could I not care less if they all lived or died, and what’s up with the end, that’s just fucking nonsense, and the narrated coda is just the lyrics to The Greatest Love Of All but written by a confused sixteen year old on the front of her biology folder one wet afternoon down the back of the library during a free class, right?….. But it’s fantasy…we’re told. It’s a fantastic load of barse. At least The Last Seven has an excuse for being terrible, this was just charmless fudge.

Zack Snyder divides the critics. His remake of Dawn of the Dead, while undoubtedly exhilarating, seemed to miss the entire point of the original. Watchmen was so literal it lacked nuance, and, despite one of the greatest graphic novels of all time as his source material, it was dull. There’s something in Snyder’s work that always seems to be missing the point, or it’s me who’s missing his point, not being fourteen. As a one time director of commercials, he clearly knows how to appeal to people with no attention span, and a commercial is what Sucker Punch feels like all the way through. There’s no space, no time, no reflection, no characterisation, there’s just action sequences and music, neither of which represent “plot” or “narrative”. But perhaps I’m wrong in this, perhaps plotting, narrative, dialogue and characterisation are now the poor cousins of stunning visuals and sumptuously choreographed fighting. After all it’s Snyder who’s the minted Hollywood professional, and I’m clearly showing my age. Go back to the sepia tone and the tongueless kiss, granddad. Go back to Jimmy Cagney’s fifteen minute death throes, why don’t you. This is modern cinema, brash, loud, soulless, immediate and obvious. So like life. Back in my day….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…snore….zzzzzzzzzzz…sorry what? An exploding Zeppelin you say? Oh, okay then.

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Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #08 – The Ward & Panic Button

Horrorshow! John Carpenter is back after 10 years, but is The Ward any use? And the internet, is it a prick? Panic Button knows.

Panic Button: the name is wrong, and other than one fleeting reference late on, it’s irrelevant. But it conjures something in the mind. Panic and such. Madness, crazed abandon, wanton destruction, terror and confusion. It even has that perennial faint praise emblazoned on the dvd cover: “The best British horror movie in years”. I’ve seen that odious canard doing the round on a few movies in the past, some of which were just about okay, most of which were utter shit. Djinn, anyone? Long Time Dead? Hush? To pigeonhole Panic Button as a slashy-horror, with screams and confusion reigning on the cover, seems to be a marketing ploy, and while it’s not exactly misleading, neither is it entirely legitimate. There seems to be a bit more to this number working away under the surface.

It starts out promisingly enough, if utter shit horrahshow! is your thing, which I find it is. 4 complete strangers have won the trip of a lifetime, on a private jet, to the eternal city of light apples, New York, thanks to social networking site All2gether.com, a kind of Facebook meets Amazon yoke. Needless to say, they’re all wankers. They are ushered onto a swanky, 4 seated private jet, and have to relinquish their mobile phones for the duration of the flight, as it will invalidate the “game” that they’ll be playing as in flight entertainment. The game involves an animated alligator asking each participant probing questions about themselves. The questions get more and more personal and the characters are revealed as shallow, two-faced, callous, lying tools, whose online personae differ somewhat from the visceral, banal realities. Sound familiar? These insights into their personalities are gleaned from their internet usage, particularly on the All2gether.com site. Oh my, but it makes you think, dunt it? Every click you make is stored somewhere. Everything you’ve ever said to someone online, every picture you’ve posted, every jazz video you’ve watched, and how many times etc and so forth. It’s all there. At some stage Dave, who’s a real shit, mentions in passing the Data Protection Act. That won’t help you here, friend! Not a bit of it. There are WAYS. We’re not privy to the ways, but we understand that there are ways.

It turns out that the game isn’t for benefit of the website, and that there’s something more sinister at work. The characters are plotted against each other, the tiny fuselage becomes claustrophobic, and dangerous, as (not so) random punters from the characters friend lists are tortured and murdered on the screens, in blurry, pixilised, bad youtube-like footage, every time one of the punters fails to comply with the game’s rules. The players must now question how far they are willing to go in order to save what they can.

The idea is close to hackneyed at this stage, random strangers with a shared, if unbeknownst, past, trapped in a confined space, Saw did it, Cube, others too. Panic Button goes just beyond the boundaries in that it’s a thoroughly modern film, one that obviously couldn’t have been made even ten years ago, and for a movie featuring the Internets, it isn’t quite as bumbling as the ones that have gone before. Computers don’t control the weather, passwords don’t appear in huge, blinking red letters on the screen, a misplaced keystroke does not blow up the Taj Mahal. We’re entering an age where the filmmakers are conversant with the average laptop and also our internet usage and online selves; the flippant way no one ever reads the Terms and Conditions, or chooses to ignore them, the casual bullying or outright lies, the complicity of watching morally ambiguous videos online. If you’re caught watching child pornography, you’re a nonce, and likely to be in front of the beak, and yet one can watch all the beheadings one wants, without becoming a murderer. Oh, it’s a curious conundrum.

The movie is essentially one set, a couple of rooms, a handful of actors. Although computers are at its very core, it doesn’t bore us to death with CGI or demons or any of that guff. It doesn’t even need gore, no iron maidens, no having to shit out your guts to get a key out of your spleen which you need to open a safe to a tire iron that you use to smash your own teeth out with in order to kill a random stranger with a molar before your skeleton turns to lava in 37 seconds because you were depressed in 1985 and don’t appreciate the beauty of life. It works rather well, playing on the horror of dealing with your privacy settings on Facebook rather than the horror of dealing with, oh I don’t know, a fucking vampire. The idea that every vapid pronouncement and status update that you’ve ever entered is stored somewhere is terrifying enough, thank you.

You see, who needs a budget, especially when making a horrorslashthriller movie. After all, the fear is all in the head, it’s suggestion that creates the terror. That, a hockey mask and an incredibly sharp knife. These are things that John Carpenter knows intrinsically, and we love him for it. Way back in the day he could invoke horror out of so very little, and it now seems a shame that he was ever given budgets, so much so, that he doesn’t even do his own music any more. The Ward is set in 1966, presumably for the medieval psychiatry practices such as ECT, which wouldn’t fly in the modern day, and starts when out hero, Kristin, is admitted to North Bend (imagine all the “around the bend” jokes) asylum after being caught, red handed, burning a house down with a confused, semi beatified look on her face. It’s good that we’re not going to have to deal with the usual “why am I here, I’m not crazy!” asylum crap, because it’s pretty clear that she is mentalised. They put Kristin in The Ward, populated by four young, firm, bobby soxed, plastic beauties. A sorority ward. A ward, it would seem, constructed solely with the inevitable shower scene in mind. And yet Kristin wants to escape. Escape, because the ward is haunted by the ghost of a past inmate who disappeared mysteriously, a skinny wraith with a condom over her head who’s picking off these nubile young things one…by…one.

And so it goes. It’s hardly original, and the denouement comes at you like a freight train, with a maladroit inevitability. Carpenter still uses all the old tropes to get you going, a head appearing here and there, lingering shots of empty corridors and the like. It could have been so much worse with a less assured hand at the helm, and at least it isn’t just a run of the mill gore-flick, with an evermore dastardly demise for each of the characters; a vivisection, being forced to eat your own mother, death by a thousand pokes of a finger, whatever is cool these days. Old Johnny C doesn’t need to be so gauche. The greatest horrors are all upstairs. We’ll imagine the worst just by seeing someone carted off on a gurney, thrashing and screaming or an electrical storm strobing the room and a power cut will have us shoving our mickeys into our bodies in fear if done correctly.

Much of what passes for horror in the modern cinema could, and should, learn from the simplicity that Carpenter used to such presentimental effect in his early days. In The Fog, a couple of shadows moving about in a grey mist, with that spooky, apprehensive music that used to be the hallmark of his films scared the bejayses out of me when I saw it first. Perhaps audiences are too sophisticated these days, and expect more than a rubber hand to experience terror. They need to see an exposed ribcage. They need to see our protagonists suffer and die to be absolutely sure that it’s happened, and in as gory a way as possible. In fact, that’s not sophistication at all, rather a lack of it. But Carpenter can only go so far, perhaps a better, less clichéd script could have helped, perhaps he’s just out of touch. The ghost in this yarn just isn’t scary, and the set up is ludicrously facile, the tension seemingly just one failed escape attempt after another. Too many far too obvious questions are raised in the viewers mind, too many cracks in the veneer that the reveal can’t disguise. It’s a silly, derivative film.

One may be of the mind that the muse has left our venerable Mister Carpenter, were it not for the fact that Ghost of Mars pretty conclusively proved that a number of years ago. Not a resounding return to form, just a kind of dull, by the numbers showcase for some blonde bint called Amber Heard who’s probably going to be the next briefly big thing and get to be Josh Hartnett’s love interest in a failed film noir rip off where it’s always raining and there’s a character called Scoot who used to box but is now kind of dumb, and she manipulates Scoot into attempting to kill Josh and she does all the publicity interview barefoot, with her legs crossed, saying shit like; “oh it’s great to work with Josh, he’s just SO talented”, which we all know just isn’t true because he’s a hammer faced goon with evil slits for eyes. Meanwhile John Carpenter will thumb his wad and wonder just where it all went wrong.

Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #07 – Blood Creek & My Best Enemy

Acthung! Mein Gott in Himmel! Aieeeeeeeeeeee! For you, ze war is over, Tommy. Will Blood Creek and My Best Enemy sate our need for Nazis?

Ah, the Nazis. They offer us so much. You literally could not make this shit up. Debonair and sadistic, clad in their Hugo Boss uniforms, snapping riding crops off the backsides of wenches, torturing prisoners, smoking with a practiced aloofness, armed with the coolest gun on earth: the Luger. Then there’s the whole killing and genocide, the questionable manifesto, the trail of destruction. They’re cinematic gold. Every aspect of cinema can have a Nazi angle. Obviously they work well in war movies, and spy ones for that matter, but there’s the whole dirty sex aspect, the stories of survival and human spirit, the occasional hero, all the rest of it.

And of course, Hitler’s love and fascination with the occult. That’s good for the occasional film, and if you thought that Spielberg pretty much said it all in Indiana Jones you were wrong, there’s much more frivolity to explore in Blood Creek.

It’s 1936 and Dr. Wirth, played by Michael Fassbender, who’s Irish when he’s good, but is German in this movie, turns up at a farm in West Virginia, to an ex pat German family, the Wollners, who, due to the fact that there’s a depression on and need the money, have agreed to put him up while he studies some rune stones in the area. He explains that long before Columbus landed in American soil, the Aryan Vikings did, and the proof is in these rune stones that they’ve left dotted about the place. The Wollners found such a stone when they were building their barn, and have it in the basement of said barn. It becomes apparent that Wirth is creepily obsessed with the stone, and , duhn duhn duhn! All is not what it seems.

So far, so where are the guns, the cattle-trains, the Messerschmitt Bf109es? Where, in short, is the cool shit? Perhaps the answer lies in the right now, as Evan, who is to be our protagonist, is grappling with the disappearance of his older brother and war hero, Victor. There’s some character exposition in the dialogue with his unwell father, played by Gerard McSorley, coughing and hacking and still clearly reeling from having been in Trapped, and it’s clear that the missing son is the preferred one, even though it’s Evan who’s been there, man, to take care of him, man, and all that shit that’s pretty honestly superfluous. Anyhoo, guess who turns up, only Victor, all scarred and angry and out for revenge and stuff. He gets his bro to get the guns, and the pair of them head off in a canoe, down the titular Creek no doubt, all riled up and with some killing on their mind. Lawks! The very farm that Victor was imprisoned and tortured on is none other than the Wollner’s farm from earlier on when the film was all sepia-toned and what have you. Jiminy! And what’s more, the Wollner’s are still there, nary a day older. Crikey!

Fassbender, the occultist Nazi, has stopped them in time, so that they can forage for hapless wanderers for him that he can then drink their blood. They are trapped here by this weird monster, who they have in turn trapped with some hieroglyphics they’ve scrawled on the wall, thus forbidding him entry to their farm house, or egress from the farmstead. How like a German monster to follow the rules to the letter. A scrap ensues, and our heroes take refuge in the farmhouse, with an angry, mummified Nazi going all Munich putsch on them outside.

Joel Schumacher, author of this film, has been around for a while, and has made a lot of films at this stage, a number of which gobble about and get agitated around Christmas time. Having made the Lost Boys back in the mists of time, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d dealt with the whole vampire schtick, but perhaps he’s gone senile and has forgotten. After all, there’s ample evidence of senility here. There’s a touching lack of care in the whole thing, a kind of haphazard b-movie milieu, with its gratuitous swastikas, the idea of the Reich living still in a basement in Hicksville (and other places too), the all too easy allegory of Nazi as Vampire and special effects that were done up on a ZX Spectrum over a weekend. An undead horse who sticks his head through the kitchen window to take a nibble at one of the characters is a particular highlight. It’s magnificently silly, but using Joel’s nous at pacing a film, just about raises it above minor schlock. The studio ditched this movie pretty much as soon as it was made, and it could be considered an ignominious blip on the cv of Schumacher, were it not for the fact he made Phone Booth, The Number 23, Batman Forever and the rest. This isn’t, by quite the chalk, his worst movie. But it could well be his daftest.

My Best Enemy is an Austrian movie, and one might think as they have created the top Nazi, surely they can plumb the depths of their hidden basements and come up with the best Nazi film. Alas, no. The year is 1938 in pre Anschluss Vienna, and Victor Kaufmann is a well-to-do art gallery owner, who welcomes back his friend and brother from another mother, Rudi, on his return from having been away working in Germany these last few years. They booze, exchange stories and act like long lost buddies, but it’s all a ruse. Rudi is now an SS officer, and Victor is of course a Jew, but one with an original Michelangelo drawing secreted somewhere in his house. Rudi, the fink, rips off his erstwhile mate and his family, taking what he believes to be the Michelangelo and as an added bonus, gets promoted. Once the Germans roll into town, vague promises of exit visas are forgotten and the Kaufmann family are carted off to a camp, leaving Rudi with his feet under their table and his mickey in Victor’s girlfriend. Sweet deal.

Five years later, and the drawing is revealed as a fake. With Il Duce due a visit to Berlin in a week to feast his fat eyes on it, Rudi is charged with retrieving the original. This is where it gets silly and becomes a caper movie. The central premise is riddled with holes, for when Rudi gets Victor from a camp in Poland, which were never as fun as they sounded, in order to escort him to a vault in Switzerland, Victor is ruddier and fatter looking than he was 5 years previously. He has all his own teeth and an extra chin. It necessarily facilitates the farce, as he and Rudi exchange identities after a plane crash, but it’s ridiculous. Obviously someone who had been starved for half a decade would not look like an SS Officer, one who it seems has spent the entire war lounging about in Vienna eating wurst and wading around in his own crapulence. Not to mention the fact that as the Krauts try to ascertain which of the two chums is telling the truth, who is Jew and who is Hun, they forget all about the Blutgruppentätowierung, a SS officer blood group tattoo, which went some way to identifying the fuckers after the war. Or indeed the prisoners similar, if utterly different, tattoo.

These are among many, many other oversights, but you’ll have to forgive them to get into this, and maybe not be such a pedantic, callous prick. The film continues in this high farce mode for quite some time, and there’s a general lightheartedness to it all, cartoonish soldiers who have to destroy a chair a Jew sat on, a few extra twists here and there, a general lack of gravity, which isn’t the usual way of things when there’s a guy in some grubby striped pyjamas in the room. Where’s the angst, the crying, the recriminations? Where’s the guy with no teeth wailing because he had to eat his own wives foot? There’s not much, because it’s a twisty comedy drama, that ultimately may have worked better if it didn’t use mass genocide as a handy plot device, but how and ever, isn’t it time we all moved on? ISN’T IT? Well, someone try telling that to Fassbender.

Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #06 – Retreat & Trapped

An airbourne virus threatens humanity, apparently, in Retreat, and an IRA bomb maker gets Trapped in an outrageous web of slurry.

Cork-elf Cillian Murphy and his wife Thandie Newton en route to a remote island off Scotland to sort out their problems. It’s clear that they have problems, by the puss on Thandie. She excels at puss. As the boat that brought them to this, ahem, Retreat, motors back off to the mainland, the two characters are alone, the only souls on this barren, windy island. It’s a oft repeated trope, that couple who want to sort stuff out, or get over some tragedy in their lives, head away somewhere remote, for contemplation and to re-find each other, and their shit gets fucked up by an interloper and that’s when they discover that they were never out of love, et cetera. So in the beginning, it all goes according to plan, the generator packs in, Thandie ignores her husbands entries to take wind battered walks along the coast and one wonders why they would bother being together at all.

Thandie’s had a miscarriage, see, and this is the well of humanity that’s supposed to give these characters a depth, a pathos, a grieving. It doesn’t really, to be honest. It’s a fairly facile device, and it would have been far more affecting if they were just happy, or having a holiday for the crack, or brought a bag of yips with them. Anything but the subtle heart wrenching, almost imperceptible (but so obvious) distance of a couple who Want Different Things. The I’m-not-ready-yet versus the biological clock. A man wrote this script, by the way. Their dull reverie, however, is insulted by the arrival of our interloper, a mysterious stranger, battered and bloodied, washed up on the shore. He’s in military garb and armed. When they try to contact the mainland to report this anomaly, there’s no response. How curious.

Jack, the stranger, played by Billy Elliot, acted by Jamie Bell and impersonating Billy Zane in Dead Calm, awakens, makes sure we all know he’s not a ballet dancing poof any more, and unravels his story via his barely audible hard-man mumble. There’s a pandemic virus attacking the world, with ebola like symptoms. People begin to cough up their own lungs within hours, and there’s no cure. They must batten down the hatches, as it were, cover the windows in plastic bags, hammer down the doors, break up the furniture to keep out other people who will try to come there, and who will be carrying the virus. It’s all a bit far fetched, but Cillian buys it. So much so that he returns the gun that himself and Thandie had taken from Jack earlier. Thus begins the siege, our three heroes, captive by an unseen, possibly unreal malevolence outside. Thus begins the “suspense”. Except there’s not much in the way of suspense. It’s a clever idea, and the end redeems it for me, as each revelation during the dénouement serves as a minor twist, but the characters are poorly drawn, without a great deal of depth. The whole miscarriage, strained relationship thing is a burden. It’s just a way of creating an implicit conflict, rather than exploring one in the script. In 28 Days Later, another Cillian versus the virus picture, the characters are likewise mere ciphers, but that’s hardly noticeable as the action and adversaries stack up. Here, in a three hander, there’s no such luxury. Luckily the actors elevate the whole thing, lending a gravitas to the words that isn’t apparently there. And Jamie Bell really wants you to know he’s no dancing poof.

A decent flick, tries to be all Knife In The Water and fails, but has a intriguing central idea and some good performances. Not bad for a debut effort, undoubtedly Carl Tibbets will be handed a budget and get to gorge himself on daft ideas like Neil Marshall did, and we’ll be left wondering what if, what if….

Trapped was released in 2008 under a different name (Anton, according to IMDB), but is only getting its DVD release now, probably on humanitarian grounds, to spare us poor saps who grab the first thing that catches their eye. Lets praise the filmmakers for having the gumption to do all that’s involved in getting a movie from page to screen, and then to little screen, particularly in a shit country such as Ireland. However, this movie would have been much better served if they’d actually edited what was on the page before running around wielding cameras like a teenager might his tumescent cock; aimlessly and selfishly, high on the action they believed they’d concocted.

Anton, our protagonist, returns to Cavan after a while on the seas. His wife has been dutifully sitting around all that time waiting for him, and his bessie mate, Brendan, a scrawny, red haired firebrand, can’t wait for them to renew their machismo man-love. But all is not well in the land, as this is Cavan in 1972, and the troubles from up north in the wake of Bloody Sunday, cause the two men to sign up to the “organisation” to offer their services as bomb makers and petty criminals. It all goes wrong and they end up in jail, after being grassed up by Anton’s marvellously hirsute brother. Anton eventually, ridiculously, gets himself transferred to a jail-for-mentals, and escapes from there after some severe beatings are handed down to the guards in the white jackets, sitting in their tiny office watching television. We presume at this point that they were the only guards in the entire jail-for-mentals complex, and that whoever is left in the building forgets to mention to anyone in the outside world that a dangerous criminal, who’s just brained a hospital employee with his own truncheon, is on the run, thus easing Anton’s transfer to the continent, and onward to Paris. Yeah, he’s lucky like that. Like when he finds a gun in a toilet in a building somewhere, for no apparent reason, or when the cops give up looking for him because it appears they’ve failed to notice the building has another storey.

Trapped is awful, unfortunately. It would be churlish and unnecessary to start eviscerating the minutiae, so here goes: the lead actor, who is also the writer, is more wooden than the forest moon of Endor, who uses his eyebrows to convey any emotion he happens to be mangling at any given point. He’s not alone in this. All the cast are similarly poor, even veteran hack Gerard McSorley, but it’s not entirely their fault. The words they have to utter are laced with cliché, cumbersome and prosaic. Characters all have the same voice, reuse verbal tics. Minor characters appear for a second on screen and then later turn up as major players. The editing is poor, the cast often caught putting on their game faces. The music is hackneyed and obvious. Characters move about with a consummate ease, traversing nations without impediment. Ludicrous plot twist is heaped upon ludicrous plot twist. The motivation that drives Anton to do any of the things he does in the entire movie are conspicuous by their absence, other than returning home to rescue his missus from a situation he’s created. He’s also utterly unsympathetic, basically an emotionally stunted, self serving moron, whose every decision just exacerbates his debacle. The Troubles are oddly peripheral, used just as an excuse it seems to present guns, and the opportunity to use them, to the characters. It doesn’t seem to be a political film, but then it’s so all over the kip that that might be its overriding intention, it’s kind of hard to tell.

When the plot twists itself up in its own preposterous entrails, Trapped enters its own. As it becomes more silly, it becomes unwittingly hilarious, accidentally surreal. I laughed longer and harder than I have done at any recent comedy, particularly when our protagonists end up at some hippie party in Paris. The key to getting into this film is, therefore, to get toasted. Nicely toasted. I had some grass that I nicked from my brother and it saved the evening for me. Probably ruined his, however, when he discovered he had none left. But it could have been worse, he could have had to watch this whilst entirely sober. Shudder.

Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #05 – Insidious & A Film With Me In It

This week is Insidious, which is supposed to be a haunted house yoke, and A Film With Me In It, which is “deadpan” as the cover repeatedly tells me.

Insidious, eh? You’re really setting your self up with a name like that. One suspects that if the film isn’t any good, references to the only insidious thing on display being the producer’s voracious appetite for money over plot will abound, but lets hope it doesn’t get to that. In the first act we’re introduced to our perfect American family in their desirably huge house. But all is not as it seems. Things go moving around when they shouldn’t, the children complain about the cold, doors open, shifty, shapeless entities are espied at windows and all that stuff. For a while there, it moves along at a nice pace, a sort of Paranormal Activity with actual actors and a budget. Then one of the hitherto perfect children, curiosity piqued, finds himself in a coma having ventured into the attic and seen something he shouldn’t have. Months pass, and the kid is still out cold, stationed on a hospital bed in his room. The Mom (Rose Byrne who was in 28 Weeks Later) is still feeling haunted, and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson who is in everything these days) spends all night at work to get away from his ever blathering wife. But he cracks, and in a move away from the usual ghost-gaff fare, they move house. It’s like phoning up a supernatural helpdesk, a sort of turn it off and on again routine. Have you tried sorcerer’s garlic? Yes? Have you tried a priest? Yes. Have you tried moving house? Yes, yes we have, and we’re still haunted. Ah, so it’s not the house, after all. It must be someone IN the household? But who? I’m sorry sir, your haunting insurance only covers actual abodes. Thank you, call again.

Well, it’s pretty obvious, really, and after a solid start the movie nose dives. Some comedy ghost hunters come into the house with wands and dials and add some kind of comic relief that’s neither comic or relieving. They also bring some revelations, and after a conflab it transpires that the kid in the coma is actually stuck in some astral plane bollocks and needs to be rescued. So then it becomes the end of Aliens. The race against time to rescue the kid, a hero’s journey. But the worst is yet to come; the haunting was initiated, not by some wandering revenant malevolence or some earth-bound bad vibes, but a (yawn) demon. A demon who has amassed a cabal of ghosts to come onto our physical plane and haunt our protagonists as if they were ghouls for hire? Sirs, you do the very notion of ghosts wrong. At least in 13 Ghosts (if you haven’t seen it, keep it that way) the ghosts were being kept against their will, but here the ghosts are goons sent to bully, and it all renders the haunting, the good bit of the film, utterly meaningless, explained away in the most facile, unsatisfactory way: a demon did it.

Ghosts are a simple but engaging concoction when considered as lost souls, echoes with unfinished business or, in the Japanese oeuvre, malevolent fuckers who wish only to hurt. Better still are the ghosts who don’t even know that they are dead or ghosts who are trying to tell us of some impending disaster or some nefarious skulduggery that has past, or just sadly trying to make contact with what remains of the corporeal world. What’s not interesting is ghosts who haunt for hire, with no emotional or even circumstantial association with the house or people in question, ghosts who are essentially mercenaries for some scrofulous demon. Insidious goes from the drab, cosy homeliness, where a scare is jolting not just because it’s unexpected, but because it’s in the hearth of home, a place where one should feel safe, to some dry ice laced, slightly pulsating image of a demon’s hell. As Sartre noted, hell is other people, in this case hell is the producers and their voracious appetite for money over plot. Oh. We got there in the end.

I won’t ruin the twist. I think this movie is worth checking out for the dichotomy of emotions you will feel, from the skin tinglingly delicious creepiness of being stalked by a ghost to the leaching of a scare story into some kind of What Dreams May Come homage.

A Film With Me In It doesn’t actually have me in it, despite being filmed entirely around the corner from me. I must have been away that week, I’m sure I would have noticed. Back in the nineties Mark Doherty, who stars in and also wrote the flick, used to sit on the armchair with Barry Murphy in Couched, which was actually pretty funny for something that came out of Montrose. Doherty’s character, also called Mark, is an out of work actor, and a bit of a loser, who lives in a basement flat that’s falling to pieces with his girlfriend and paraplegic brother. His girlfriend is the omnipresent Amy Hubermann, and we are supposed to believe that this beautiful young woman would be living in this kind of squalor with Mark, who looks old enough to be her granddad. She clearly has this revelation too, and decides enough is enough, packs her bags and leaves. Things couldn’t get much worse for Mark, could they? Oh yes they could, and do, and a series of unfortunate accidents leaves a couple of people dead. At this point Mark’s BFF Pierce, played by Dylan Moran, gasps “this is farce!”, and he’s right, but once he’s said it, it’s out there, and we don’t have to worry about questioning the authenticity of such a run of poor luck any more. Phew.

Seeing as Pierce is a director and writer, it falls on him to concoct a way out of this mess for them, but people keep knocking on the door and accidents keep happening and the bodies accrue. The ongoing exposition is the Film With Me In It trick, whereby the pals imagine that they are making this unbelievable sequence of events into a much more palatable screenplay that will satisfy an audience’s desire to have their disbelief suspended, and thus convince the authorities. We the audience are in on the gag. The gag being that it’s a daft premise, and it knows it is, and the real pay off is the goofy, droll chemistry between the two leads. Moran’s muted mania and slurred cynicism is the only trick he has, so I suppose, if you cast him, that’s clearly what you’re after. I’d like to see him play someone who wasn’t a perfidious alcoholic deadbeat misanthrope with delusions of grandeur, just once. Doherty is also pretty comfortable in his semi-comatose sonority, ambling amiably from one disaster to next, seeming to get over the unfortunate demise of those around with of a narcissistic passiveness. Between the two of them, there’s not a lot of “acting” going on.

It’s pretty funny, if not punch yourself in crotch hilarious, but then, I don’t think that’s ever the point. If it tried to go for the big gags, it would miss, and fail, but the sauntering pace of the film never needs to call upon the uber-jape, and it’s better for it. With the self referential dénouement and title, the film certainly thinks it’s pretty clever, and it’s given itself an suit of armour against criticism with the fact that it is a farce, and no, it couldn’t really happen, which makes it a welcome break from worrying about a zombie apocalypse which, as you already know, is definitely going to happen.

Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #04 – Monsters & Stakeland

This time out we’re going on some post-apocalyptic road movies with Monsters and StakeLand.

You had me at post apocalyptic, honestly. I’ll forgive most things for a bit of P.A., it’s where I believe we’re all heading. Monsters, however, isn’t necessarily post apocalyptic. I’m not sure there’s even a suggestion of impending apocalypse. I’m not sure of anything, any more.

6 years ago NASA, after finally discovering alien life, “accidentally” dropped a load of said critters whilst flying over Mexico, causing the northern half of the country to be quarantined behind a massive wall. The creatures in question appear to be giant octopi, who enjoy breaking through the cordon and giving puny humans the occasional shoeing. This gives the testosterone junkies of the US army grand excuse for firing off their guns and going all “fuck yeah!” and such.

Andrew is a photographer who works for a publication, Samantha is the daughter of the owner of said publication, and after she’s injured in a minor skirmish with an octopus, he’s co-opted into escorting her to the coast so that she can get the ferry home. I’m not clear on why she’s there, or why, being the daughter of some tycoon, she can’t afford to fly home, even if it means taking a longer route. And from what we observe, it doesn’t look like these alien octopi can jump 50,000 feet into the air, but how and ever. Andrew does his job, taking her to the ferry terminal, and helping her buy a ticket for 5,000 dollars. Then he rather conveniently gets roaring drunk and sleeps with some hussy who runs off with all the passports (he has hers, for some reason) and tickets and shit (but not the money or his camera, it would seem) and they are forced by circumstance to head through, rather than around, the “infected zone.” Eek. Here be monsters.

Not least among the monsters are the two main characters. To save money on scripting, so it could be funnelled into creating some hideous, marauding aliens, the two chaps make up most of their dialogue as they go on. The chemistry is non existent, and frankly they’ve nothing to say. This isn’t like Before Sunrise with some malevolent giant squids in the background, it’s vacuity masquerading as a burgeoning relationship. Perhaps it’s the shared trauma of surviving the infected area that brings them together, perhaps it’s a facile plot device to cover the utter lack of story.

It’s a road movie, which is apparently this week’s theme, with no road. Instead they travel down a river and are out acted by the spectacular scenery. Here and there relics of human inhabitation remain, spookily rendered empty buildings, fallen aeroplanes, stricken boats and the rest, and during the blessed silence they manage to create an actual atmosphere.

When America appears, on the other side of a wall that makes the Great one in China look like a privet hedge (take that China!), it’s in a state of Katrina-like eboulement. Our two lead bromides encounter some of the aliens up close and they appear to be making cooing, loving noises at one another. Aliens can love! Maybe we can too! Or maybe, as we have nary an insight into what they’re actually saying they’re talking about how they like to fuck shit up and don’t humans taste so yummy. The point is obvious, who are the real monsters here? The army, with their ordnance and guns and destructive air strikes, the ferry man with his unsympathetic ear, the photographer who wants a picture of a dead girl for the magazine, the overbearing father, the government who sat by while southern states were destroyed by Hurricane Kat.. Sorry, giant CGI octopi or, ultimately, the producers of this wafer-thin brain avoider.

In Stakeland, the USA has actually, blessedly, collapsed. There’s no government and the country is overrun with, sigh, vampires. Vampires are the most boring of cinematic nemeses. They sit around in velvet suits making catty comments and sipping vitae from wine glasses, before using their various super powers to hunt the puny human, flying like a bat, Herculean strength and speed, an affected insouciance as they drain your neck of blood. They’re aspirational, and you can’t base an apocalypse around that. Everyone wants to be a vampire. Like werewolves, how dull are they? They get to fulfil all their, and our, basest, bloodiest urges. Imagine been given the freedom to strip naked and run around the park for a weekend, to attack some sweater and bobby sock wearing co-ed students as they saunter home, to lick your own balls and eat nothing by steak tartar? How is that an affliction? Oh no, it appears I’m a werewolf, you may think, until your slam dunk improves beyond compare and your hearing is so attuned you can hear when they put the reduced stickers on the meat in Tesco and get there before everyone else. Frankly, that would be some life, with the added boon of being able to go out in the sunshine. No wonder vampires hate them so much. But as a driver for the apocalypse, they’re both shit.

The be all and end all of the apocalypse, is the zombie. No body wants to be a zombie, they are dullards, they shuffle (they must always shuffle, a running zombie is a chimera, a device, a lie), they groan. You think you can escape them easily enough, but there are so many. They encompass the grinding inevitability of life, they are the inexorable encroachment of death. They shamble around the streets, stumbling in and out of shops, needing to feed for reasons they can never fathom, forever lost and confused, not knowing why they are there. They feed on both our pity and revulsion simultaneously, because the zombie is us. Human and brittle, changing, deteriorating with every passing day doing the same old shit. So Stakeland, and the title is a give away here, fails on this count. However, the vampires aren’t the debonair types we’re used to, ancient, politicked, callous wankers, but a kind of zombie/vamp hybrid. After all, a proper vampire wouldn’t make just anyone into a vampire, would they? So it appears to have been more of a virus, but we won’t split hairs.

Our protagonists meet as the young lad, Martin, and his family are trying to make a break for it as society collapses around them. In another improbable twist, knowing that the land is filthy with vamps, he legs it out of the garage to chase after the dog (the fucking dog!) and when he comes back, everyone is mangled. Mister, the vampire killer, happens upon the scene, and saves the day, but not after the sickening thump of Martin’s infant sibling’s exsanguinated corpse being dropped from a rafter by some prick of a vampire.

Killing a child in such away is shocking, of course, but it mirrors, if not wholly riffs upon, a scene in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. A scene which was left out of the final film, thank god, where the Man and the Boy come across a baby roasting on a spit. This is relevant because Stakeland seems to have borrowed, or in legalese, “ripped off”, much of the atmosphere of The Road, and our two heroes, a man and a boy, set off on trip, via the road, in search of a haven, a place called New Eden, located up north in Canada (vampires don’t like the cold, see, they’re “cold blooded”. They’re fucking dead! They’re cold everything-ed!) and encounter various evilness along the way. In The Road our heroes are heading south, rather than north, so PHEW.

With music that sounds like early Godspeed being all moody in the background, and a vast empty wilderness on either side of the road they travel, interrupted by structures and establishments that have been left abandoned, emptiness and desolation are created quite naturally, and are occasionally punctuated by explosions of violence. That’s how to do it, create the tension via the medium of boredom, the stultifying dullness of a post-society world. Along the way they encounter some settlements, some crazy bastards, some rapists, Kelly McGillis from Top Gun as a nun and manage to assemble a rag tag crew of wary travellers who all want to get to New Eden too. It seems predictable up to this point, and it almost is, but for the redemption of the end, which, for me, took a tiny turn away from the norm of the boss fight at the end of a level. It’s bleak and harsh, but there’s hope, even if that hope is tempered by the rumours of vamps having overrun this New Eden gaff. Which is pretty much how we like our hope in post apocalypse world.

This is how to make a small budget horror. Firstly use the environment, and secondly, do less. Long sweeping shots and less gibbering politics (I’m looking at you, Outcast), idleness and silence interjected by violence, not the other way around. For a vampire flick, which I’m generally against, this isn’t bad, but at times it can feel as if the whole vampire schtick was added to appeal to zeitgeist. As a post apocalypse flick, it works too. It loses points for Martin’s superfluous voiceover, not least because his voice can’t really convey the gravely gravitas that you know this kind of narration needs, or because there was some other film about going along a road in a shit world that had a voiceover too. What was that again?

Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #02 – Attack The Block & Outcast

This week we’ll be having a goo at contempary British “horror” movies, and contemplating the massive fine we incurred on last weeks films when we left them in a bag for two days and couldn’t find them.

Joe Cornish used to be funny. I use the past tense, because after watching Attack the Block, it’s clear that hilarity is no longer his forte. Same goes for “the people that brought you Shaun of the Dead” as the cover grandly proclaims. They used to be funny. Nick Frost, he had a thing, but that thing is longer funny, unless his new thing is to be decidedly unfunny, in which case, he’s doing well. It makes one reconsider the entire canon of these people, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and the rest, as they’ve been involved in nothing but cinematic arsestains since. Were they just lucky with Spaced, flawed but charming, and Shaun of The Dead? Everything that made Shaun of the Dead work is missing in this movie. There’s no pathos, no sympathy, and crucially no zombies, just some midgets in insideout parka jackets with glow in the dark Dracula teeth in. But, as this is Cornish’s debut film, he can only go upwards.

Anyhoo, the guff: Our protagonist is called Moses, and will be he who leads his people out of the darkness here. They live in a tower called Wyndam tower. They’re surrounded by other places with names like Ballard, Huxley, Moore and the rest. Do you see what they’ve done here? Seriously, Joe, you don’t have to spell out every little thing. We don’t need some young one half way through pointing at Moses and telling him that he brought these things here and everything he touches gets killed. It’s all too obvious. One wonders as to the statement gangs of hoodies, and their loyalty to their block. Are they are essentially good kids who put on their accents just to fit? That they’re honourably territorial and will do whatever is required of them to protect the neighbourhood? Or that they apparently live in a 20 floor tower block with about 12 other people? Recent pictures of like-apparelled scoundrels from similar estates throwing debris and making off with 42″ plasma screens seem way off the mark. Questions also arise over the authenticity of the squalor of Cornish’s chosen block when it appears the lifts actually work.

The plot is as straightforward as the great ones are (dead come to life, attack living for whatever reason, young guy inherits family business from dad, kills brother, etc); essentially what happens is a load of meteorites fall down on this small part of Lahndahn Thaan, and contained within are these blood thirsty parkas with the silly teeth. They mean to kill and feast and do those kinds of things for whatever reason. Moses has been introduced to us at this stage, having just mugged Jodie Whittaker (who’s not unreasonably hot at all) at knife point. He and his cronies then kill an alien. Is there some kind of message about inherent xenophobia in this? Fear the unknown, be it of alien origin or from another block. Are the creatures black because of the spectre of black on black crime that afflicts London’s inner city, or because the Police, or Feds, wear black? Or, and this seems most likely, are they without feature because this is the best the filmmakers could think up after a few weeks in front of a flip chart and a few thousand mochachinos?

There’s all this clunky baggage attached, and all too obvious nods and homages to frankly better movies, for this thing to ever take off on its own. The language used by the kids could be amusing if it were intelligible, or not suffused with anti-socialism. It may actually take an alien invasion to rehabilitate the reputation of London’s inner city yoof, but certainly Cornish hasn’t done it here. He’s clearly an outsider, fascinated by the nuance of an organic vernacular, evolving right underneath the noses of middle-class England, a new language and culture; like suddenly finding the anthropological bonanza of a lost tribe hidden within the bulge of some Amazonian forest, who suddenly stick a shiv between your ribs and make off with your phone.

The premise is as old as movies itself, protagonists trapped by unknown aggressors, etc. but it only every works if the protagonists aren’t utter shits. Where’s the conflict? Where’s the love? And having some upper class stoner zoology student on hand to explain what’s going on as we progress is a little reductive. There was potential here, in so far as the siege movie only ever moves house, rather than circumstance, and the block may have worked as a venue for some battles. But it turns out the block was too big and unwieldy, a bit like Cornish’s ideas.

Speaking of front of DVD box guff, how about “the best British horror since The Descent”? That’s what Outcast promises, and, inevitably, fails to deliver on by some hundreds of miles. The Descent was good, the action, and horror, came in short, energetic bursts of barely seen enemies amid the utterly terrifying in it’s own right claustrophobia of the caves. There’s nothing like this here. It’s a dull story; some magic wielding travellers are hunting down someone, and James Nesbitt is to be their tool of death. Nesbitt has traded in his twinkly eyed Irish ragamuffin role for the lank haired, quick fisted, alcoholic role. Well, as long as it’s a cliché, eh James? These punters, who are all powerful with the spells and shit, live in a halting site, which begs the question, couldn’t they magic up a nicer pad? Couldn’t they magic up some hot water and a bar of soap? Anyway, somewhere some magic got out of hand, and now the boy must die, so Nesbitt, and his chum, set off to Scotland in search of their quarry.

Now, a halting site is one thing, but it’s better than the grim housing estate the boy and his mother, Kate Dickie, are living on. Again, if his ma can use her magic to bewilder minor civil servants, as she clearly can, why doesn’t she use it to get some nicer digs? Or a better haircut for her son? But I digress. Having just moved in, the boy, Fergal, meets his next door neighbour, Petronella, and, within seconds, they’re profoundly in love. So much so that he’s revealing the family skeletons to her and she’s planning to run away with him before they’ve even swapped juices. Meanwhile a terrifying beast is killing some minor characters, including Petronella’s best mate, whom she manages to forget about pretty quickly, once she confirms that nay wan saw her that morning.

Magic, it seems, is all about the cosmic Barclays. When a naked Fergal stands at a mirror, Petronella has a shufty in her cot next door, and a naked Nesbit and a naked Dickie have some trans-temporal-plane wank-off over the embers of a fire. There’s a real Onanisticly indulgent sense to the entire film, other than the non-climax of its dénouement. In a word, it’s wanky.

Actually, Shaft is the word I’ve invented for it, as it’s both Shite and Daft simultaneously. Worse than that, however, is the fact that it’s really fucking boring, and who gives a shit? Here’s some magic none of the producers of this hock considered, the ability to get these two hours back so that I can creosote the fence or something far more engaging.