Thursday, 31 August 2017

Countryside alliance: "Eat Locals"

The genre quickie Eat Locals - turned round by prolific producer Jonathan Sothcott for Jason Flemyng to direct on one location with a bunch of thesp pals - has a certain speed on its side: it's the first British film that can properly lay claim to being of the Brexit era, as denoted by its notionally political set-up. An octet of red-irised bloodsuckers - including such familiar faces as Freema Agyeman, Charlie Cox and cuddly Annette Crosbie from One Foot in the Grave, representing the Daily Mail readership - gather one evening at the clangingly named Thatcher's Farm to discuss the new world order; having done for one of their own (and Flemyng misses a trick here by failing to cast any one of the 6,000 recent RADA graduates who sound like David "Dave" Cameron), they start eyeing up fresh meat in the form of a passing Romany lad (Billy Cook), trying to complete the kill before the Army - who have them under surveillance, then under siege - move in conclusively.

With a smidgen of seriousness, any hint of the (genuinely horrific) paralysis and despair that gripped the nation in the wake of the referendum result, the film might have been something; as it is, it's no more than a throwaway exercise, a pocket-money job only ever intended to occupy the time between the serials that keep the roofs over cast and crew's heads. So it is we get, in no particular order: not terribly funny pratfalls, makeshift casting (Mackenzie Crook as a hard-bitten military commander!), bathetic references to more accomplished features, ironic use of David Essex, and hapless shifts in tone and perspective that suggests Flemyng and screenwriter Danny King haven't spent much time thinking their premise through. (I believe Flemyng intends for us to actually like his vamps by the time his jokey "You Have Been Watching" end credits roll, a task that may be beyond Remain and Leave voters.)

Along the way, Eat Locals burps up snickers and chuckles that might temporarily distract viewers when it reaches its natural home of the London Live channel's post-pub slot: a couple of potty-mouthed kids in the opening sequences are good, and Crosbie seems to be having as much fun going feral and wielding an automatic rifle as Richard Briers did in a similar role in 2012's Cockneys vs. Zombies. Yet we're clearly many, many leagues away from the state-of-the-nation address you'd hope our brighter writers and directors were now trying to get funded, and even the single location (a necessarily shuttered farmhouse) becomes a limitation rather than an advantage in Flemyng's hands: all those presumably long, wearying, chilly night shoots, and there's not a single interesting or striking shot in the whole movie.

Eat Locals opens in selected cinemas from Fri 8, ahead of its DVD release on October 30.    

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