Sunday, 20 January 2013

Bigger and Badder

Director: Richard Wantuch
Writer: Richard Wantuch
Producers: Laura Carter, Paul Banner
Cast: Phil Hemming, Sam Knight, Greg Hobbs
Country: UK
Year of release: 2013
Reviewed from: online screener

There really haven’t been many British werewolf films, have there? Curse of the Werewolf, obviously. And the less-seen Legend of the Werewolf. The Beast Must Die. Dog Soldiers of course. A couple of Amicus anthology segments. After that you’re into stuff like Thomas Lee Rutter’s amateur feature Full Moon Massacre or the slightly odd Lycanthropy, a werewolf film with no werewolves in it.

Well, here comes Bigger and Badder, a 20-minute short which effectively combines the lycanthropic with another, significantly more prolific genre: geezer gangsters.

The nub of this film is an interrogation. Gang boss Trevor Deacon (Phil Hemming, who played Fred West on TV!) wants to know from first-time drugs courier Peter Hood (Sam Knight) what precisely happened to the package of white stuff that he was supposed to deliver. The man who should have received it, Denny Sharp (Greg Hobbs: Mrs Meitlemeihr, The Porcelain Man) has turned up dead by a canal. So who has the drugs?

Tied to a chair, Hood recounts how he met Sharp in a pub as arranged and the bizarre events that happened after a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat (Larry Rew: who was in Avatar and an Underworld sequel, and narrates cryptozoology documentaries) came into the bar, apparently known to barman Alan Fletcher (RSC thesp Christopher Harvey). We see this in flashback, and how the attempted package hand-over in the gents is interrupted in a savage, unexpected manner. Since a significant portion of the film’s running time takes place within the confines of a toilet stall, this might perhaps make a great supporting film for festival screenings of Stalled. (Other BHR titles with toilet scenes include Lighthouse and The Big Finish. I’m sure there are a few others.)

Writer-director Richard Wantuch does a grand job of mixing the realistically nasty with the supernatural and structures his tale in an interesting manner. There are really two flashbacks and it’s up to us (and indeed, Trevor Deacon) to decide which is true, or at least closest to the truth. I also liked the nice fairy-tale touch that Peter Hood is first seen in a red hoodie (and his name too, which has only just occurred to me).

A rather awesome werewolf prosthetic was designed but is barely glimpsed, giving us just enough to see that whatever is going on is not just a gangland hit. The ending, while not the surprise twist that it seems to think it is (Trevor Deacon may not work it out but you will) is not a let-down either. Overall, Bigger and Badder is a satisfying film: an original and clever idea, professionally produced. This will make a fine calling card for Wantuch (who has made various previous shorts) and new prodco Plaural Films. It’s certainly a fine entry in the still-too-slender British werewolf catalogue.

Special make-up effects are credited to Steve Bosworth of HobbyFX and Neil Stevens of N2FX. Bosworth, who provided the teeth and ears apparently, previously worked on the webseries Vampirism Bites and Gabriel Cushing vs the Zombie Vampires

MJS rating: B+

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