Film Review: Inbred (2011)
Review by Keri O’Shea
Yorkshire – it’s an awesome place, honest. I have to say, I’ve lived here for about ten years altogether simply because I like it so much. I’ve never seen any hairy pork scratchings which gave me cause for concern, never been called a ‘soft Southern shite’ (not to my face, anyway) and certainly never heard an ‘Ee by gum’ (and apologies to anyone reading in America; all of this will mean absolutely nothing to you). I’ve never been menaced by suspicious, deformed locals either, come to think of it. Still, not everyone’s so lucky, at least in the world of Inbred…a movie marking the end of a ten-year hiatus for writer/director Alex Chandon. This is rather different fare as well, seeing as his last movie was the Dani Filth-centred movie Cradle of Fear. There are no Gothic stylings here whatsoever, Inbred being pitched somewhere between a backwoods splatterfest and a horror comedy.
In both its splatterfest and horror comedy capacities, the plot here is very simple. A group of young offenders, together with their support workers, are heading from the South of England into that terrifying terrain of which Londoners in particular whisper in terror – that which is named ‘outside London’. They’re heading Oop North actually, to the ex-mining community of Mortlake for a weekend of team-building activities (including, perplexingly, railway salvage i.e. stripping all the saleable metals out of disused trains. Beats building bridges out of toilet rolls I guess.) Along on this journey are lockpick extraordinaire Zeb, arsonist Tim, quiet cute girl Sam and gang member/chief arsehole Dwight. The introduction to these characters left me in no doubt whatsoever that I was not going to be asked to invest much in these kids and, true enough, I wasn’t, not really. There’s an odd opening sequence before we come to them, though: a ‘gory film within a gory film’, initially presented to us as the film we were about to see. Not so, though; the boys are merely watching Emily Booth’s inevitable cameo on a mobile phone. That’s the end of any structural tomfoolery, though. From here on in, you can just watch the tropes roll in: mobile phones are locked away (this being horror there’d not usually be a signal anyway), the group visits the local pub, the locals are scary, the bar snacks are …unusual, and then the trouble really starts. The people of Mortlake want to be entertained…
I think Chandon knows damn well he’s not reinventing the wheel here, so he throws himself and his cast into various bloody fates with gusto. Fair play, there are some imaginatively nasty and grisly sequences throughout Inbred which gorehounds will like – although they might kvetch a bit about the ratio of CGI to more hands-on splatter, because the ambition for novel effects often means some pretty obviously digitised grue. I know, it’s an obvious genre film fan moan, but it does affect investment in a lot of key scenes, as much as you can appreciate the thought behind it. The clichés are positively slathered on too including using the ‘small town people are dangerous ingrates’ schtick in the first place, and what you make of this depends on your tolerance. I’ve seen people getting into high outrage about it, which I didn’t, but I’d definitely recommend checking your lust for originality at the door, as well as your lust for feeling outraged, as you’ll have a far more fun time here if you do.
And I did have fun, don’t get me wrong. Perhaps I’m easily pleased, but the mere presence of a porn magazine with a variety of animal heads taped over the women’s faces made me laugh out loud, as did the ending of the film (which actually breaks away from expectation and gets one last Yorkshire stereotype in there!) That brings me to the major issue I had here, though: the somewhat uneasy way the film tries to move between comedy and peril. It didn’t quite hang together as a comedy because it was way too nasty, but then it didn’t quite work as a horror film because…well, because it has a sequence where there’s a porn magazine with a variety of animal head pictures taped into it, and similar such scenes. There’s a bit too much of a divide between the two ambitions. I noticed (and I know I’m by far not alone) a lot of similarities to the horror-tinged British comedy series The League of Gentlemen throughout the film, not just in the use of blackface during a circus-type show a la Papa Lazarou but in lots of other places: The League of Gentlemen did balance humour with horror, but it probably succeeded so massively because it did so with a very subtle approach. Inbred ramps up the gore and changes the equation. Horror comedy is trickier than it seems, maybe.
Inbred does a lot of things very right though: I thought Ollie Downey’s work as the director of photography was impressive, and the long shots of the Yorkshire countryside are, to be fair, bloody beautiful (ditto the shots of the locations used). Performances in the film, despite becoming unduly shouty at several points, were generally good, and Jo Hartley as care worker Kate was great, engaging and working wonders with the role she was given. Considering you’re probably not expected to like the kids all that much, they’re convincing, and if you think troubled teenagers don’t talk and act like that – actually, they do (and care worker Jeff’s well-meaning spiel about teamwork and so on is well-realised as well.)
So, Inbred is not a perfect film, fair enough, and aside from the novel methods of dispatch, you may have seen much of what it does elsewhere. That’s understood. But there’s still skill and charm in the mix too, and when I say ‘charm’ I refer to a sort of gleeful, mean-spirited sense of humour which I haven’t seen done quite like that before. Dare I say it, when some of my co-writers here were so scathing, but – I was entertained. That said, I recognised a few of the people in it, and there’s nothing more entertaining than seeing one of your friends cavorting around on screen in a pig’s head mask…bloody Yorkshire folk and their nepotism, eh?
The upcoming DVD/Blu ray release has a stack of extras, including a director’s diary, a making of Inbred featurette, a video diary from one of the location owners, the movie trailer and two deleted scenes.
Inbred is in cinemas on September 21st and on DVD/Blu Ray on 8th October 2012.