Director: Andrew John
Writer: Andrew John
Producer: Andrew John
Cast: Andrew John, Thomas Lee, Dean Greatbatch
Year of release: 2004
Reviewed from: screener VHS
At 38 minutes this is the longest picture yet from teenage filmmaker Andrew John, whose previous shorts include Dia de los Muertos and 100 Today, Dead Tomorrow. It was shot on video, it stars his mates and it was clearly filmed in and around his home.
And you know what? I really enjoyed this. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, it doesn’t try to reach beyond its grasp, and the two most common faults of amateur film-making - script and sound - both stand up to scrutiny. Granted, it doesn’t entirely make sense but it has convincing characters, entertaining and well-executed gore effects, an imaginative storyline and one brilliant moment which very nearly made me fall off my chair with laughter.
Writer/director/editor/cameraman/executive producer Andrew John stars as Jack, who lives with his older brother Harry (Thomas Lee, aka Tom Rutter, director of Full Moon Massacre) in a comfortable middle-class house. Both the actors and the characters are in their teens; there is no sign or mention of parents, although there is a car on the drive. It’s almost as if this is set in some sort of alternative world where parents don’t exist, which probably wasn’t the intention but is an interesting interpretation if you care to look at things that way.
Jack has daily counselling, for some unspecified reason, from a ‘councillor’ (sic) played by Dean Greatbatch as a porno-watching, money-grabbing bastard with no interest in Jack’s welfare whatsoever. When Jack comes home after being fleeced of thirty quid by this counsellor, he has his wallet stolen by a local yob, but he subsequently finds a Satanic notebook in which he decides to record his feelings. No sooner has he started doing this than he hears that Harry has been killed on his way to the shops (he is told over the phone!). Filled with guilt because Harry had asked him to go down the shops, he had refused and Harry had gone himself, Jack writes ‘Now he’s dead and it’s all my fault’ over and over again, eventually filling all 62 pages of the notebook.
Grieving hysterically in the back garden, Jack falls down a hole, perhaps an old well. I must admit that I didn’t understand this hole. At one point, Jack sees a demonic version of himself appear from it and on another occasion he falls through the hole into an alternative reality where his undead brother chases him with a pistol.
At heart, this is a revenge picture. When the lad who stole Jack’s wallet tries to burgle the house, Jack attacks him with a sledgehammer, then ties him to a chair and lays into him with electric drill and various knives, before literally ripping his guts out. For a no-budget movie, these gore effects are very well done. More importantly, they are shot and edited in such a way as to help disguise their cheapness, not foreground it.
Jack then goes looking for his counsellor, armed with a pistol (I don’t know where he found that). Bursting in on the porno-watching pervert, gun-toting Jack stands in front of him as the counsellor desperately tries to switch off the TV using the remote, leading to the funniest ‘Mexican stand-off’ I have ever seen. For this one scene alone, Andrew John is to be applauded. After a detour in the woods which I didn’t understand, the film culminates with Harry, the yob and the counsellor emerging from the hole as zombies to attack Jack in his own garden.
The director’s passion for film-making, his enthusiasm and his commitment all come across. This is a highly commendable effort from a very promising young filmmaker who could go on to do really great things - by the time he reaches his twenties! Tom Rutter provides the impressive splatter effects which are used just enough to impress without falling into gratuitous silliness. The acting is naturally somewhat variable but John does a great job once his character flips and Greatbatch clearly has a ball as the counsellor. I still don’t understand precisely where the notebook and the hole fit in, but they do at least serve to distinguish the story from a generic revenge fantasy.
MJS rating: B+
Review originally posted 13th December 2005.