Friday, 18 March 2016

Devil Town

Director: Nick Barrett
Writer: Nick Barrett
Producer: Stephen Callo
Cast: Johnny Vivash, Matthew Hebden, Elina Alminas
Country: UK
Year of release: 2016
Reviewed from: Online screener

This 16-minute short is a well-written, well-directed, well-acted slice of British horror and well worth your time. Theatre/radio actor Matthew Hebden is Patrick, a corporate arsehole with a smartphone and no time for anyone around him. Johnny Vivash (The Fallow Field, Kung Fu Flid) is Driscoll, a homeless man who follows Patrick into a smart coffee shop and engages him in conversation.

For most of the running time this is a two-hander, with director Nick Barrett doing a good job of keeping the conversation flowing and our attention paid. Patrick airily tries to dismiss Driscoll and even offers him money to go away. But Driscoll has a secret that he wants Patrick to know. About what’s really happening in the city. His is a They Live-style paranoid delusion which Patrick casually dismisses with a reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

But of course, we have to wonder whether there is some truth behind Driscoll’s paranoia. Without giving anything away, I can reassure you that this does not lead to a simple “Ooh, he was right after all” twist. The story develops in its second half. And questions you will start wondering – like why has Driscoll singled out Patrick, and why has a posh coffee shop allowed a scruffy tramp to come in and sit down – will be answered.

The two leads both give absolutely terrific performances. Vivash brings real depth to a character who could have just been a drunken bum. And Hebden travels a hugely impressive emotional pathways from irritation to exasperation to tolerance to scorn to confusion to understanding to acceptance to realisation to, well, terror. Elina Alminas, who had bit-parts in Jupiter Ascending, Ex Machina and the live action Disney Cinderella, provides solid support as the waitress.

Fine cinematography by Marcos Avlonitis and Nick Barrett’s own atmospheric score combine to build a steadily increasing mood of uncertainty and doubt throughout the picture. Currently doing the festival rounds, this is a gripping, scary, clever film which I expect to read more about as word spreads.

MJS rating: A-

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