OK, as you probably know, from time to time I get upcoming directors asking me to publicise their works and I’m always happy to try and help struggling independent filmmakers wherever I can.
So when I was recently contacted by Barry Hancher to review his new short film “Leon’s Broken Mind”, I happily agreed. He did warn me in advance it was a bit “shocking”, but it wasn’t until I received the disc, I would find out just what sort of shock I was about to get.
A few things to clear up before launching into my review, I am usually pretty lenient when it comes to casting my critical eye over these short independent features, as the film makers are working with limited means and are just trying to showcase what they can do, in the hopes of going onto bigger and better productions. It’s certainly not fair to compare them to mainstream Hollywood fair, so I do try and see past any short comings that these films may have
Sadly, upon viewing this, I found I was unable to be as lenient as I normally am (for reasons that will soon become clear). Indeed, the original version of the review that I typed up was so scathing that I initially decided against publishing it. However, (for reasons I won’t bore you with) I eventually decided to try and tone it down and publish it anyway.
So, at the risk of offending the director and entire production crew, here we go….
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around some chap with learning difficulties, who starts getting flashbacks about this old guy, who apparently abused him as a child.
This causes him to freak out and go on a rape and killing spree, first he bites the head off his pet hamster and kills a dog, before moving onto people. The first one being a tramp, which he clubs to death with a brick, before attacking some pregnant girl with a knife.
So far, so good.
The film however then rapidly goes downhill, as we are treated to a scene of him jerking himself off whilst he watches some horror movie, which was most definitely NOT simulated. Yup, the actor actually gets “it” out and genuinely pleasures himself in front of the camera, which I don’t think anyone really needed to see.
Then, we are treated to a scene of him abducting a mentally handicapped bloke in a wheelchair from outside his house, who he then tips onto his living room floor and proceeds to sodomise. And just so that the viewer was left in no doubt as to what was going on, the director decided to include a graphic close up penetration shot of someone actually being “cornholed” (to coin a phrase).
At this point I reached for the stop button, not that I really needed to as I think my DVD player was about to projectile vomit the disc back out anyway. Which sort of left me wondering just what was the director trying to achieve here. Does he want people to see his film, or have them reaching for the off switch because they’re so grossed out?
When the film first started I thought they were just trying to ape the plot of “Tony - London Serial Killer” or something like that, but as the film progressed I got the impression that the crew must have got drunk one evening and thought it would be a good idea to do their own version of “A Serbian Film” set in Kidderminster (that’s a town just outside of Birmingham for those not up on their geography).
There were a number of problems I had with the movie, the guy in the wheelchair for starters. When we first see him he’s just sat outside the front of his house late one evening, which sort of makes you wonder why he was left out there at that time of night on his own?. Then when he gets abducted the next day, again he’s just sat outside his house. HAD HE JUST BEEN LEFT OUT THERE ALL NIGHT?????
It was also kind of difficult to take the abduction scene seriously as the wheelchair guy kinda reminded me of Timmy from “South Park”. I know it’s unfair to criticise the acting in these sorts of features, but the whole scene was almost laughably bad, before it descended into a gross out, with the inclusion of the aforementioned penetration shots during the assault.
I still have no idea how the film ended as I stopped watching at this point and have no desire to watch further, even though the film’s only about 25mins long and had only about 5mins left to run.
It occurred to me the film makers were simply trying to make a name for themselves by doing something they considered shocking and controversial. However, when the viewer’s instinct is to reach for the off switch because they’re so revolted by what the characters are doing on screen, I think they clearly went about this the wrong way.
Scenes like this might work for accomplished directors like Lars Von Trier who’s films are regarded as “art”, but horror film fans are a whole different demographic. Nobody I know of wants to see some overweight Brummie actor jerking himself off in front of the camera, or sodomising another actor in graphic close up, in what's supposed to be a "horror" film (these scenes could have been made similarly shocking had they just been simulated, and not shown for real).
Anyway, that’s my two-penneth (and I dear say I am now well and truly off the directors Christmas card list this year). So to close this review I’ll simply say that in short, “I hated it” and that I sincerely hope the film makers learn from their mistakes when coming up with their next project.
Notes about the director. Barry Hancher is a horror director based in Worcestershire, UK. His website can be found at www.whiteravenfilms.co.uk