Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Directed By Neil Oseman
Running Time: 98 mins
BBFC Rating: 12
There are times when you sit down and watch a low budget independent movie on DVD and then begin to ask yourself questions like 'Why the hell didn't I watch/know about this sooner?'. Soul Searcher is one of those movies.
Indeed, upon viewing it my joy at discovering what must surely qualify as one of the UK's best kept secrets was tempered only by the nagging feeling that I must be terminally out of the loop to have missed this both at the time of release and at any point between then and now. What the hell have I been playing at?
The story centres around good-natured loser Joe Fallow, who works the night shift driving a street sweeper whilst eternally trying to work up the courage to ask out his unrequited love, Heather.
One night on his rounds, he witnesses a fight that will change his life forever. Now, with the surge of alcohol-fuelled violence that goes on at night inbinge-drinking Britain, you would be forgiven for thinking that this may not seem like such a remarkable event, but this fight involves none other than a Grim Reaper and a supernatural entity, which puts it in a totally different league to two beered-up muppets beating each other up outside the kebab shop.
Thankful for Joe's assistance in defeating his assailant, the Reaper offers Joe the opportunity to ditch his mundane life and instead become the Reaper's replacement, and our tale of supernatural arse-kicking begins in earnest, because in addition to having to dispatch the recently deceased, it seems that all manner of strange creatures from the Other Side are popping up in the land of the living. Who is breaching the walls between Hades and humanity, and more importantly, why? It falls to Joe and his friends to find out and stop them before the barriers are brought down completely and Hell is unleashed on Earth!
Soul Searcher is a difficult film to classify, but I'd probably tag it a supernatural action film if pushed. The cover blurb from The Guardian has it as a 'fantasy action movie', which is just as accurate. It really does have a little bit of everything going for it. There are some very well done martial arts sequences (choreographed by Simon Wyndham of The Silencer and Insiders fame) which are staged and executed better than some I've seen in dedicated fight flicks, but it's not a martial arts movie per se. It's also not a horror movie in the traditional sense either, so if you want to see buckets of blood sprayed on the walls, you'd be advised to look elsewhere.
Hey Joe...whereyou going with that scythe in your hands?
Essentially, Soul Searcher is just a very good movie which eschews the use of ultra-violence because it doesn't really need it. The storyline is intelligent, with the central premise being Joe's struggle between the woman he wants and his duty as a Reaper (which, paradoxically enough, is the same conundrum that also drives the villain of the piece), and the performances are well done and believable.
There's also an interesting variety of special effects in play, from the ghost trails to various infernal creatures, and the overall production design is a great lesson in how to create atmosphere with just a few lights and some gels. Also, the climactic final sequence aboard the train really ups the ante, and adds a much bigger budget feel to the proceedings.
Best of all, Oseman admirably resists the temptation to puss-out and take the easy road with a feelgood Hollywood-style happy ending and instead opts for one that is sad but makes absolute sense in relation to the storyline. Bravo, sir, bravo.
The single disc is positively rammed full of extras as well: Feature-length 'Making Of' documentary, two commentaries, various specific technical featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, Easter Eggs and a whole lot more besides.
So, as is always customary in my reviews, it is time to tap into my inner curmudgeonly miser and ask the eternal question: Is it worth the money? I paid the princely sum (princely by my usual standards, that is) of £2.99 for it on Ebay, postage included, and I feel as if I have not only robbed the seller, but probably somehow anally raped him in the process as well. At that price, Soul Searcher represents a bargain of the highest order, and one that you would do well to take up should you see it offered. My copy was put out by the now-defunct Blackhorse Entertainment, so like many other titles under that aegis, availability (and thus price) can vary massively. Forewarned is forearmed and all that jazz...
Cover for the American release
Looking at it now, I'm beginning to wonder whether the relative obscurity of this flick (at least to me) is due in part to the fact that it is a certificate 12 as opposed to a 15 or 18, that perhaps buyers at all levels had it pigeonholed as a horror film and then said to themselves 'How good can it be if it's only a 12?'. Well, let me be the first to correct that misguided assumption and say it's damned good, and succeeds in being interesting, engaging and above all else thoroughly charming without the uses of excessive gore or nudity (not that I have anything in particular against gore and nudity, you understand). It's certainly not a kids' film by any stretch of the imagination, that's for sure.
Anyway, you know about it now, so you've no excuse. My advice would be to grab yourself a copy and join me in the brotherhood of forehead slapping and 'Why the hell didn't I know about this sooner?' exclamation. After Soul Searcher, it's going to be almost a relief to pick up a film on my 'To Do' list and have it be average or disappointing. Then I won't feel quite as out of touch as I did when I watched Soul Searcher.