Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme


The entertainment industry mock-documentary seems to be a new category of British low-budget horror. Writer-director Ozgur Uyanik is following Pat Higgins’ rock-and-pop Antichrist picture THE DEVIL’S MUSIC, but ahead of Ross Birkbeck’s SHOWREEL (which features one of Uyanik’s actors, Lorna Beckett) and Guy Decker and Gavin Boynter’s just-a-trailer-so-far NITRATE. Though not horror movies, Simon Ubsdell’s THAT DEADWOOD FEELING and Mark Withers’ BARE NAKED TALENT also use the format, which suggests that there are a lot of exasperated film industry types (like the runner protagonist of RESURRECTING “THE STREETWALKER” boiling over with anecdotes, resentments, bright ideas and canny notions to borrow offices as locations, take advantage of available equipment and hope the results cut together into something which tells a story rather than strings together in-references.

The set-up is that Marcus (Tom Shaw) has agreed to film a documentary which will follow his schoolfriend James Parker (James Powell) from minion to auteur, but is around while a bad situation gets worse and James falls under the spell of the unfinished, perhaps-cursed film he is trying to retrieve from obscurity as a career move. Working as a coffee-fetcher, script-reader and photocopier-operator in the office of producer Mike Lowrie (a very convincing Hugh Armstrong), James comes across the surviving footage from “The Street Walker”, a horror movie abandoned in 1985. It turns out that the director died shortly after Mike invested in the film and the cans have been gathering dust ever since. Spouting his philosophy that ‘you’ve got to go for what you want to go for, do what you want to do … before some big fucker comes along with a hammer and hits you on the head,’ James works hard to get Mike to sign off on allowing him to finish the film. He also goes into a personal spiral, kicked out of his upper-middle-class parents’ home for not getting a proper job and settling down, and bridling in the office under the sharp tongue of development exec Trish Thistle (Lorna Beckett), who always calls him ‘shitface’ and complains about his ineptitude at the menial tasks he plainly believes are now beneath him. So, it’s obviously going to end in tears when Mike advances James a budget to shoot a new ending for “The Street Walker” but puts Trish in charge as a producer.

RESURRECTING “THE STREETWALKER” opens like one of the many documentaries made in recent years about the video nasties kerfuffle of the 1980s, presenting familiar titles, headlines and posters. This is to explain why “The Street Walker” was such a doomed venture at the time, though Uyanik fudges things a bit by making the unfinished film in black and white so there’s a contrast with the in-colour verité and talking heads stuff. It’s just about believable that this could be the unknown British version of MANIAC or THE DRILLER KILLER, though we don’t get the gore effects that would have been mandatory for a proper video nasty. Black and white suggests artistic aspirations (MAN BITES DOG? THE ADDICTION?) rather than low-budget, since 1985 had already seen the beginnings of shot-on-video horror (in the UK, SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN). The ‘plot’ of “The Street Walker” is that a thuggish, Michael Elphick lookalike killer with no name (Gwilym Lloyd) picks up girls (who get to wear an assortment of retro clothes and hairstyles), drugs them, ties them up and kills them. He meets a girl who seems nice, but she stands him up when they arrange to have a date – and the film runs out before anything like an end. Uyanik doesn’t take the obvious course of revealing that the footage consists of snuff movies, though James (and Marcus, come to that) show surprisingly little interest in tracking down the cast and crew to find out their stories. However, James comes to believe someone died on the set of “The Street Walker” and the reshoot is troubled by what seems to be more than bad luck. Filming the vital scene is nearly a disaster when the cast and crew are locked in as a fire breaks out, and the actress cast in the key role later dies of an apparently random asthma attack. James gets more out of control, and pointedly begins to harangue Marcus as he sees that the documentary he hoped would be a triumphant DVD extra about how he overcame the odds to become a filmmaker is more likely to be one of those gripping accounts of a floundering freak ruining his life while failing to make anything (cf: AMERICAN MOVIE, OVERNIGHT).

It’s clear from early on where RESURRECTING “THE STREETWALKER”” is going, which makes the closing scenes less horrific or affecting than they might be. Mentioning the Manson murders, in connection with the ‘snuff’ legend, and that a certain character is pregnant is an especial tipoff. In this, Uyanik’s film works less well than THE DEVIL’S MUSIC – which has surprises as well as shocks. However, it has much going for it, especially in performance and character. Acting is usually the most problematic area of scraped-together-through-favours films, but Parker is a compelling lead, sympathetic in his movie brat commitment but subtly offputting in the way he treats everyone around him. His rants against the constraints imposed by his family and lowly job are authentically rebellious, but tinged with a sulky sense of entitlement that shows he’s an incipiently dangerous posh bloke. Hugh Armstrong, the cannibal from DEATH LINE, is so credible as a Wardour Street denizen that I thought he was a real film industry figure playing himself in a fictional context (lots of mock-docs have people do this) and I’d probably met him some time. We only get hints about the intent of the original auteur of "The Street Walker", and possibilities that the film’s sinister influence persists. Even in his paranoid frenzies, James doesn’t really consider that someone apart from his snippy boss might not want the film finished though it’s as likely that his shoot was sabotaged (and his star killed) by people who want the project to stay dead. This angle makes it a potent addition to the list of ‘cursed movie’ films (THE HILLS RUN RED, CUT, SLAUGHTER STUDIOS, CIGAREETE BURNS).

Kim Newman

 

Directed by Ozgur Uyanik

English language / UK / 2009 / 80 Mins / Colour / Rated 18

Region 2 / PAL
Anamorphic widescreen Feature Aspect Ratio: Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Stereo

Special Features
Deleted Scenes
Test Footage
Cast & Crew Interviews
Audio Commentary

A Kaleidoscope Entertainment DVD release

Region 2 DVD (UK)

Release date 28th June, 2010

RESURRECTING “THE STREETWALKER”

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