FILM REVIEW: Hungerford

No art is original, so artists attempt to reinvent or reinterpret ideas with their own footprint or their own story. Hungerford is 19 year old Drew Casson’s attempt at combining the found footage cinema trope with ideas from horror and science fiction.

The central conceit begins with Casson himself, playing media student Cowen Rosewell, explaining to the camera through a hangover (although he looks far too healthy to be hung-over) that he is documenting his life for coursework. We’re introduced to his best friend, Adam, Adam’s sister, Philippa (who’s flat Cowen is crashing in) and their friend Kipper. Teen high-jinks ensues until there’s a huge explosion from the other side of town. A policeman explains that lightning has hit an old factory. A businessman also mentions the old factory. Old factory? Is this Scooby Doo?

Anyway, as Cowen attempts to get back together with an old girlfriend, the town begins to experience random acts of violence. There’s an odd reference to a can of deodorant – which turns out to be Chekov’s gun, almost. Adam is attacked by the postman. Now it gets interesting and we see that townsfolk have been turned into zombie-like creatures. Soon, Cowen’s old girlfriend, Adam and Philippa have been captured and it’s up to him and Kipper to save the day.

From the outset, I was somewhat sceptical about Hungerford. Firstly, while I understand the economics behind found-footage films, they rarely, if ever work. Especially horror films. Just drop the camera and run! It is such as hard conceit to pull off and there are almost always jarring moments. In this case, the use of two cameras is perplexing in terms of the ‘found-ness’. Also, some set pieces within the confines of a small space are clearly staged – the unavoidable result of this medium. On the plus side, there is some poor camera-work, shots that are slightly miss-framed, plenty of over-exposure and static effects whenever a ‘creature’ is near. All this adds to the attempt at authentic found footage. Most of it (climax excepted) takes place in bright daylight, which is refreshing for a horror film.

Casson knows his stuff. There are plenty of nods to other science fiction and horror stories. The wound in the back of the neck and what they reveal is suggestive of some stories from Dr Who, and films such as The Hidden, The Thing, The Puppet Masters and Alien amongst others.  There’s even a clear reference made to Shaun of the Dead. That’s also the problem. Most of this film has been seen before.

The acting is fine. It balances the line between too drama-school and naturalistic, which is credit to both actors and director, although I did wonder if the actors were just playing versions of themselves. There is a kitchen-sink realism to the fight scenes, which is a good touch. The dialogue is a bit hammy but the script is solid. There is a proper toll, which is what I like in a horror film, although why is it always the girl who is ‘sacrificed’ first? There is a little naivety in the depiction of the female characters (their emotions aren’t complex enough and their reactions are overly simplistic), and everyone seems to love Casson’s Cowen. The effects are decent enough, although the army chaps at the film’s climax looked a little bit past their best.

The second scepticism is that I’m not sure why this is called Hungerford, a name which is bound to stir a up a few passions. Sure, it is about violence and friends pulling together through that violence, but the name does seem unnecessarily provocative. I understand that it reflects small town England, but the film could have been more appropriately named.

This is a brave attempt at a new take on sci-fi zombie through fresh young eyes (and a clear talent for the future) which has some nice touches. At the end of the day, it feels like a compilation or mash-up of Casson’s favourite films. There’s not enough in this as a film to take Hungerford to the next level.

Rating: 2/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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