Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review: Eat Local

Eat Local
Cert: 18 / 94 mins / Dir. Jason Flemyng / Trailer

And so on a mild Saturday evening in the heart of London's glittering West End, high on the adrenaline of three back-to-back movies and executing what I can only describe as An Uncharacteristically High Level Of Consumer Persistence, your humble correspondent managed to snag a last minute seat in the sold-out screening of the final film in the British Independent Film Festival programme. The feature was Eat Local, written by Danny King and directed by Tom from off of Lock, Stock.

In a remote farmhouse in one of England's southern counties, eight ancient vampire lords meet to discuss the borders between their territories and ensure their general survival. But all is not well inside the house, as the powerful traditionally do not like to share power. And all is worse outside the house as a military strike-team assembles with a view to bagging some prey of their own…

Now my initial thought, before the lights were properly dimmed, was 'aren't festival audiences badly behaved?'. Phones out, shouting across the room, laughing, and one particular patron located a couple of rows behind me who, through the combination of body odour and a more herbal essence, smelled like he'd been smoking weed whilst zorbing for ten hours straight. After a brief introductory speech, the film began and pretty much every name appearing on-screen through the titles elicited a whoop, holler or cheer. It was at that point of course that I realised - festival or otherwise - I was effectively watching the film with the cast and crew*1. Whether this communally heightened sense of engagement let to me enjoying Eat Local more than I would have under civilian conditions, is hard to say. But I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

As a seasoned actor with a solid reputation and wide professional circle, Jason Flemyng has assembled an impressive array of performers*2 to appear in his directorial debut. Eve Myles, Annette Crosbie, Freema Agyeman, Charlie Cox, Vincent Regan, Tony Curran, Jordan Long and relative newcomer Billy Cook lead the charge, with Ruth Jones, Dexter Fletcher*3, McKenzie Crook and Robert Portal (among many others) supporting in smaller roles. For a film which takes place almost entirely at night and in basically two locations, it's heavily populated, but the script is light enough to keep things moving briskly.

So as you might expect, there's an above-average amount of humour in the film, with deadpan, sarcasm and blood-dripping farce all intertwining throughout. And while things stay 'playful' without straying into silly territory, it maybe feels a little too arch for its own good. We never delve too deeply into the particular vampire-mechanics of this outing, although there's enough backstory provided to bring the audience up to speed with the weapons which can and can't be used against them. Because the weapons are the other focus here, when the characters aren't bickering with each other. I mentioned Lock, Stock at the beginning because there's a clear tonal homage here to Guy Richie's classic (and a visual one in the scene where Annette Crosbie lets loose with some heavy weaponry - obviously a comic moment, but nowhere near as overplayed as it would be in many another film). And it works well, but the whole film has that overtly Indie™ quality which might cause it to age poorly. Time will tell.

The best line comes courtesy of Tony Curran's Caledonian vampire, Peter:
"Ah'm no a racist. I'll kill anybody, no matter where they're from. Doesnae bother me…"

Not necessarily a smart film but well-constructed and consistently funny and engaging, my only real issue with Eat Local is that if features Freema Agyeman with fangs, a plaid shirt and an assault rifle: and no-one thought to tell me about this sooner…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Dog Soldiers.

And I must confess that I say that as someone who watched Dog Soldiers at the cinema and loved it and bought it on DVD the day it came out then didn't watch it for a long time then revisited the film a couple of years ago and was horrified with how clunky and amateurish the whole thing is despite being a solid concept at its core and still containing many things I love. I'm not saying Eat Local will be awful in ten years' time. Although by then I can't imagine many people will care. This is rather good, and I think conceptually it's on the same page as Dog Soldiers.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
As much as I enjoyed it in the cinema, the natural home for Eat Local is on DVD at around midnight with friends and booze.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
With relatively low aims other than being a coherent and fun vampire caper, yes.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not particularly, then again it's not really meant to change the world. This is Jason Flemyng trying his hand at directing a genre piece and largely succeeding. I look forward to his next project very much.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Oh, yes.
Sticks out like a sore thumb, but it's proudly in there so I approve

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: So many to choose from here, but let's go with this film starring Annette Crosbie, who appeared in 1968's Mrs Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter as did Drewe 'Red Leader From The Battle Of Yavin' Henley.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 This was confirmed during the after-film speech by the director himself, in which he asked any audience members with no connection to the film to raise their hands, and me and about nine other people in the sold-out auditorium duly identified ourselves. I hasten to add that I never felt unwelcome or like an imposter in the room, but there was the definite air of arriving late to a party and being three drinks behind everyone else. [ BACK ]

*2 More accurately of course, casting director Lucinda Syson has assembled the performers. Although given how many of Flemyng's former co-stars from across the years appear, I'm fairly certain that he was instrumental to some extent ;) [ BACK ]

*3 That's right, Spike From Off Of Press Gang. I met him on Saturday as well. Not even at this screening, I'd just harassed him earlier in Fopp Records, off Cambridge Circus. He was doing that thing of wearing earphones despite not listening to anything in a bid to stop people talking to you. Even though that clearly didn't work in my case. He's lovely. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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