FrightFest VOD film review: AAAAAAAAH!
Committed primate performances9
Matthew Turner | On 30, Aug 2015
Director: Steve Oram
Cast: Steve Oram, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Toyah Wilcox, Tom Meeten, Lucy Honigman, Julian Barratt
Watch AAAAAAAAH! online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Xbox / Sky Store / Rakuten TV / Google Play / TheHorrorShow.tv
Having co-written and co-starred in the wonderful Sightseers, Steve Oram makes his directorial debut with this utterly bizarre comedy horror that blends social satire, surreal domestic fantasy, gross-out comedy and wince-inducing gore to winning effect. It’s one of the weirdest films you’ll see all year and is certain to garner a devoted cult following.
The central gimmick of the film is that there’s no dialogue and all the actors speak and behave like apes, only in an ordinary suburban setting. The plot centres on alpha male Smith (Oram) and his devoted beta sidekick Keith (Tom Meeten), who emerge from the woods and gate-crash a party where Smith’s eye is caught by Denise (Lucy Honigman), the daughter of Barabara (Toyah Wilcox).
Aggressively marking their territory during the party (mostly by pissing on the furniture), it isn’t long before Smith and Keith clash violently with Barabara’s partner Ryan (Julian Rhind-Tutt), a boorish washing machine repairman who had previously ousted Denise’s father Jupiter (Julian Barratt). The former alpha male of the house, Jupiter is now a pathetic figure who still lives in the back garden, being fed the occasional pity slice of Battenberg cake by Denise.
The superb cast fully commit to the conceit, delivering brilliantly physical performances. Oram is particularly good as the aggressive alpha, swaggering and sneering up a storm, while Meeten is very funny as his craven companion. Honigman is equally good as Denise and has surprisingly strong chemistry with Oram, while Wilcox is a treat as the capricious Barabara – a flashback showing Ryan wooing her over a broken washing machine is one of several comic highlights.
Shooting in a 4:3 aspect ratio (apparently for practical reasons), Oram’s direction is assured throughout, shifting seamlessly between genuinely shocking moments, gross-out comedy (there are certainly more prosthetic penises on display than in your average humans-behaving-like-apes movie) and surprising moments of tenderness. He also packs the film with delightfully strange details such as the TV shows the family watch, including a brilliantly weird cookery programme and a minimalist sitcom starring Tony Way and Oram’s Sightseers co-writer/co-star Alice Lowe).
The genius of the film lies in the painful familiarity of their primate behaviour, leaving you musing on the fact that maybe we’re not quite as far removed from apes as we thought we were. Either way, Oram’s obviously paid close attention to more than a few nature documentaries and mines the food-flinging, pooing, pissing and posturing moments for all they’re worth, getting both laughs and gasps of shock.
With a trim 79-minute running time that ensures that the concept doesn’t over-stay its welcome, this is a bracingly original, thought-provoking horror comedy that’s simultaneously darkly funny, genuinely shocking and surprisingly moving. Don’t miss it.
AAAAAAAAH! is one of the first films released on VOD through Icon and FrightFest’s new digital banner, FrightFest Presents. For more information on the other titles available from Monday 19th October, click here.