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A formless film which sacrifices true horror for grand guignol trickery.
I was unaware of the work of English filmmaker Adam Mason before this movie and although this film was at times dull, the technical bravado does lift it out of the horror doldrums. Mason has in effect set up a single-shot movie, bookended by a chase intro and a blackly comic coda. Shot entirely on DV, with colours that are almost hallucinogenic in their shimmering, sun-drenched sumptuousness, the film is a free-form technically sophisticated piece of horror.
However it is this free-form structure of the work that is also its crippling weakness. After a relatively taut opening fifteen minutes that features some unremittingly grim physical violence and torture, made even more unsettling by the quirky authenticity of the roving digital camera, the movie settles down into the kind of tried and tested 'gross- out' elements that have been with the horror genre since the mid-60's. The introduction of a retarded pregnant woman (either an earlier victim, or some kind of feral woman-child) sees the hitherto chilling and brutal violence descend into a kind of show and tell grotesquerie reminiscent of Man Bites Dog.
The gleefully horrific opening, with its almost formless butchery and sadism (the gutting, the cleaning, the torture, the aftershave, the asthma treatment) set a suitably nightmarish and unhinged tone. As the movie progresses however, the lack of narrative proves problematic with the film revealing much more of its tricksy nature and becoming evermore repetitive and boring. The central character's obsessions with cleaning, consumption of fine wine, use of an asthma inhaler and carefully packaged equipment will point-up to the attentive viewer the final plot- reversal, but this ending ultimately is a failed destination not necessarily worth journeying toward.
Andrew Howard puts in a robust performance in the only clearly visible role. Frequently his character seems to be enjoying himself all too much, whilst the ending is effectively a psychological neutraliser (much like the Hostel franchise). The initial encounter with Howard's supposedly homicidal hillbilly is authentically terrifying and repulsive, but like the film quickly deteriorates into panto-style preening (half the point) and banal cliché.
Throughout the movie there is a relentless audio assault from a chauvinistic radio call-in, the queasily unsettling surf-rockabilly soundtrack and the garbled screams and howls that constitute the majority of the dialogue track. Much of the movie's most effective moments revolve around the repeated refrain of "I'm going to break you down", which prefaces the next round of repugnant humiliations. It's a fairly stylish horror, visually arresting and formally intriguing, but with all of the usual plot faults that make modern horror cinema frequently unrewarding.
Inside I'm Dancing (2004)
A briefly insightful look at the travails of independent living for the heavily disabled.
This all-too-predictable take on 'empowerment', sees James McAvoy play the reckless and effervescent Rory O'Shea, a young Dubliner afflicted with muscular dystrophy, that has left him a quadriplegic. Rory's abrasive cheekiness and capacity to understand Michael Connolly's (Steven Robertson) cerebral palsy hampered speech, awakens a desire in the latter for an independent life outside of the quiet and safe confines of Carrigmore, the Residential Care Home that he has become cocooned within.
The first half of this movie is actually rather funny, with moments of acutely observed social commentary, particularly aimed at those who choose to infantilise the heavily disabled. However, the second part descends into the kind of maudlin, sympathy-wringing melodrama that was a staple of BBC television dramas in the seventies and eighties. There seems an inability amongst filmmakers to actually present an authentically rounded disabled individual, although O'Donnell comes close here. However, as the movie becomes more focused upon the 'worthy' agenda at its heart there are some increasingly embarrassing sequences, usually involving applications to a government agency responsible for funding independent care in the community.
McAvoy and Garai are impressive in their roles as Rory and the live-in nanny/unrequited love-interest Siobhan, but the real star of the show is Robertson, who convinces utterly as Michael the severely disabled cerebral palsy sufferer. The oddest thing about this movie is that it populates its starring roles with Scottish and English actors, even though, at the time, none of them had particular star power.
Worth a viewing for Robertson's performance alone, but nowhere near as impressive a film as it initially promised.