Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Director: Andrew Parkinson
16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 2.0
(PLEASE NOTE: All comments relate to the UK DVD put out under the 'Hard Gore' label. Other regions/releases may vary in content)
A quick question for our UK-based readers...do you remember those ads for Ronseal where the tagline was "Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin"?
Andrew Parkinson proves that making a film needn't cost an arm and a leg...just an arm
Well, the sleeve of my copy of 'Dead Creatures' says that it is "The 'Trainspotting' of Cannibal Movies", "Astonishing", and describes the style of director Andrew Parkinson as a "mix of Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and George Romero".
Now, normally upon reading such effusive praise, the patron of low budget horror will doubtlessly recoil as their boxcover bullshit-o-meter goes into overdrive. Yet it gives me great pleasure to announce that in this instance, the plaudits are entirely justified.
'Dead Creatures' is exactly what it purports to be, which is to say a socio-realistic take on a cannibal movie, and a damned good one at that. Personally, I'm not a great fan of socially realistic 'kitchen sink' or 'slice of life' films, nor the directors who make them (that's why I write a blog where the focus is firmly on way-out genre flicks), but I really enjoyed 'Dead Creatures'.
The storyline centres around an apparently normal group of young women who all have one thing in common...they are all afflicted by degenerative flesh-eating disease, the spread of which can seemingly only be staved off or slowed down by consuming human flesh. As such, they form a sort of loose support group for each other, the healthier ones caring for those who are further along or close to being too far gone.
Degenerative effects of the disease
The group ethos (and lifespan within) is explored by the adoption of a new member and the degenration, death and disposal of the oldest or most decomposed member. Everything is shot in a matter of fact style so as to render the bizarre almost mundane, and were it not for the frequent visual reminders, one could be forgiven for forgetting that it was a cannibal movie. Ultimately, it's a human story which one can quite easily view as being a metaphor for illness or addiction, which I'm sure is what most likely inspired the 'Trainspotting' comparison.
Has cannibalism ever looked more sedate or humane?
As if their condition wasn't bad enough, things are further complicated by the presence of a 'zombie hunter' who knows about the disease and is busying himself eradicating those who carry it with a pneumatic bolt gun (there's a great low budget cheat where they get maximum use out of an impaled prosthetic head). The shot composition in the scene where the hunter decides to give up the hunt and dispose of his weapon is fantastic, by the way...for me, the enduring image of the film.
About to get her brains pushed through her skull...
The production standard is very high, up there with a lot of the better drama output on British TV. If this cropped up on Channel 4 one night, you wouldn't bat an eyelid. It may be relatively low budget, but it doesn't broadcast the fact via technical ineptitude or trying to punch too far above the production's respective weight. It's evident that it's done by people who know what they're doing, rather than people who got Final Cut and After Effects for Christmas and feel duty bound to squeeze in every conceivable effect they know into the proceedings whether the scene or story merits it or otherwise.
US Cover (in association with Fangoria)
It may not be everybody's cup of tea with regards to what a cannibal film should be, and if you're looking for non-stop action and constant choreographed scares, then you might want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you're looking for a well-made, unsettling and unremittingly bleak horror experience, I would happily point you in the direction of 'Dead Creatures'.
As is customary with my reviews, I always remark on whether I consider something to be value for money. I took a gamble on this (99p off of Ebay, including postage...I'm a high roller, baby!) and it payed off in spades. In addition to the feature itself, there's a trailer, Making Of documentary, Outtakes, commentary track, Premiere featurette, and a short film called 'Sad Man' too, plus loads of the other additional gubbins. Having got all of this for 99p, I feel rather unclean, yet damned smug at the same time.
As to what I'd suggest you pay for it, I don't know...I get the impression this is a film people will either love or hate (the fact I was able to get it for 99p would surely attest to that in some fashion). If you see it floating about at a price you feel comfortable taking a gamble at, then my advice would be to have a punt. In closing, I should say that you certainly won't be seeing my copy popping up on Ebay anytime soon, 99p or otherwise. For me, it's a keeper...probably not something I'm going to watch as many times as Zombie Flesh Eaters or Suspiria, but still one I'm proud to have on the shelf.