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BUSINESS MEETINGS SUCK!
EAT LOCALS (15)
Director: Jason Flemyng
Screenplay: Danny King
Review: David Stephens
Any mention of a Brit horror/comedy will now forever draw comparisons to the great “Shaun of the Dead”. It was that rare instance where quintessential British humour carried itself around the world to make a much-loved cult movie. Since then - and well before “Shaun” actually – a strong and healthy underground of home-grown low-budget genre comedy still thrives. From stuff like “Strippers vs. Werewolves” to “Cryptic”, there’s plenty that will pop up on DVD/VOD unannounced or play on the festival circuit. “Eat Locals” is one such offering and notable for a few reasons. It’s the directorial debut of Jason Flemying, who is perhaps best known for roles in British films such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) and “Snatch” (2000). Flemying has also dabbled in horror with significant roles in “From Hell” (2001) and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003), where he played Jekyll/Hyde. The film is a vampire action/comedy/horror and features a great cast full of well-known character actors, including; Charlie Cox (now kicking it out of Central Park as “Daredevil” in the Netflix series), Freema Agyeman (“Doctor Who”, “Sense8”), Mackenzie Crook (“Pirates of the Caribbean” movies) and Eve Myles (“Torchwood”). After a screening at Frightfest and a short theatrical run, it’s now available on DVD/VOD in the UK. So YGROY prepares to dine out for the evening and catches the film…
As the opening credits run, a motley crew of differing folk congregate in a simple farmhouse kitchen, which is situated in a remote rural area. Led by an elder figure known simply as “The Duke” (Vincent Regan), they start to discuss “quotas”, “population increases”, and “territories”. This isn’t an undercover meeting of the UK Parliament though (they’d be trading insults like 5-year olds in a playground if it was…). This is actually a meeting of the 8 British vampire overlords, who negotiate relations and responsibilities every 50 years. Late to the “party” is MILF-ey Vanessa (Myles), who has brought the unsuspecting Sebastian (Billy Cook) with her. Some of the group has an interesting proposition for him, and one that could either go good or bad. Meanwhile, the vampiric group has no idea that a mysterious troop of military personnel are en-route to the farm, and that the night will end in bloodshed…
We’re not quite sure why “Eat Locals” has had so many damning reviews online, and attracted so much vitriol. A quick search on t’internet will reveal an unhealthy stack of one-star reviews and a fair amount of face-palms. As far as Brit horrors go, it’s certainly nowhere near the standard of “Shaun” or “Dog Soldiers”, and it’s definitely not a classic. But as far as low-budget horror/comedies go, it’s not that bad! There are plenty of shortfalls; you feel that more could have been done with the premise and most of the characters feel a little flat. But other than that it’s an okay venture into the genre that is entertaining enough and has a strong cast to paper over the main deficiencies. It even shows a bit of imagination and restraint in some areas that you might not expect. Did Flemying piss someone off in the industry? A lot of the smaller genre sites seem to have been a hell of a lot kinder…
Pushing that observation to one side… There are some issues with the film. A couple of – what would have been – major fights happen off-screen. What should be a lively martial-arts scene doesn’t quite work, and some explosion and vampire deaths look pretty shoddy. The character of Sebastian is actually a little annoying rather than endearing. But probably the biggest sticking-point is where the humour becomes that bit too slapstick and broad, and jars against the rest of the tone. Do we really need to see a chicken fly through the air with its arse on fire and squawking out a comedy “Bucuck!!”? We think not…
But aside from that, and a rather odd motive for a back-stabbing character (which does admittedly supply an amusing final twist), this is a nice piece of undemanding genre entertainment. Although we never really get enough details about the blood-sucking factions in the UK, it does allow for some knowing digs at the Brexit situation. Some of the leaders bemoan their relations with EU vampires, with another complaining that illegal immigrants are complicating the food chain. (“I’m not racist. I’ll kill anyone no matter where they’re from”). With one of the elder vamps adopting the persona of a Middle England OAP (Alice played by sit-com star Annette Crosbie), it gives the opportunity for “Daily Mail” jibes and commentary on that demographic. It also allows for totally British moments like the farm being named after “Thatcher”, a blast of the theme-tune from “The Great Escape”, and a devious plan that uses the film “Zulu” as a blueprint. Even a “Dad’s Army” catchphrase gets a call-out.
It also helps that you have character actors like Freeman and Crosbie playing up their parts. Myles and Regan are also good, but it’s Tony Curran as the dour and snarky Scottish vampire Boniface who has the most fun with his role. All are watchable though, despite being only thinly sketched in the story. The film works best when it concentrates on character interplay and nice barbed exchanges rather than slapstick. Seeing as it’s his first shoot, Flemying also shows a good cinematic eye for detail. There are some really good tracking shots, and seeing as nearly the entire timeframe is in darkness, it still stays visually striking for the most part.
Whilst some effects are a bit cheap-looking, the ones for the vampires are actually pretty effective. Eye-shine is used well instead of contact lenses, and it works. The lore is subtly changed as well, so the religious overtones are blurred, and they’re depicted as toothy-mouthed predators rather than seductive fang-biters. They also have no real super-powers, but are immortal and resilient to wounds. So guns are as useful to them as to anybody else. This leads to the knowing one-liner (also used as a strapline); “Vampires with machine guns. What’s not to love?”
It’s far from perfect, and isn’t as effortlessly enjoyable as similar horror “siege” movies like “Dog Soldiers” or “Cockneys vs. Zombies”. But it’s still eminently watchable with a great cast (who all seem to be enjoying themselves) and a decent concept providing some choice moments. We’re less than convinced that the promised “Eat Global” will ever materialise, but at least you can have a bit of fun with this. No 5-star dining, but it’s worth a chew…
DVD Extras: A good collection here. There’s a short intimate making-of feature & 6 video interviews with some of the cast and crew.
An inoffensive and fun Brit horror/comedy that benefits from the eclectic and charismatic cast. Sometimes the humour is a little too broad and it doesn’t fully exploit its promise. But there are some neat effects and touches on the well-worn horror tropes and Flemying shows a good cinematic eye for detail. Not quite a blood-sucking take on “Dog Soldiers”, but not a dog either. It doesn’t bite.
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