Dir. Christopher Smith, UK, 2006, 96 mins
Cast: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens
Review by Carol Allen
I was hoping this would turn out to be of the same ilk as the well judged, very British comedy horror movie Shaun of the Dead - a hope in which I was severely disappointed. As a story idea for that sort of movie it is promising. Seven colleagues from an armaments company in England are sent by their firm on one of those ghastly corporate team building weekends, where you have paint fights and do role playing exercises. For some reason, possibly to do with the film's funding, the exercise takes place in the company lodge in the middle of the Hungarian forest. And the supposed luxury lodge, when they find it, turns out to be a distinctly spooky dump, where, as is the custom in such movies, members of the group are picked off in various ways one by one by an unseen killer. It also has a good cast, including three serious actors – Stephens, McInnerney and Dyer - and some promising newcomers, including Babou Ceesay as McInnerney's assistant, but its attempts to shift and mix comedy and horror just don't work. It does have a few good moments of ironic wit, as when McInnerny, as the leader of the gang, comments that with representatives of British and American government on the board of the arms company “we are not going to do anything immoral” or when the idealistic, conflicted pacifist Jill (Claudie Blakley) puts forward her concept of “humane weapons”. Apart from that though the satirical potential latent in the fact that this is a company dealing in arms is largely ignored.
The early part of the film attempts humour, but it’s a bit juvenile and not fast, furious or inventive enough to be really funny. Much as I like Dyer as an actor, his character’s not only an unappealing, dope head slob, he’s unconvincing. I find it unlikely he’d be able to either smuggle into the country or acquire in Budapest the many and varied forms of drugs that he’s carrying. The man's a walking chemistry set! Stephens as the cynical and breathtakingly chauvinist salesman Harris gives the film a bit of style, but sadly we lose him fairly early on in the film and the “joke” of his death falls flat. When the killings start we are spared too much detail, but that's a merciful concession, which sadly doesn't last. Once the unseen killers really got down to business, it becomes a violence and gore fest – totally tasteless, trashy, nasty, sick and very unpleasant. I didn’t jump out of my skin once. I was just revolted. The music also is laid on with a trowel – crashing menace for would be scary bits, treacly for sentimental bits. Not great as a date movie but maybe some young men will enjoy it. Shaun of the Dead though it ain't.