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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Shrove Tuesday (2009)

Director: Lee Andrew Matthews
Stars: Jayde Newman, Mark Newman, Gina Newman, Jeffrey Prewer, Alison Cochran, Poppy Matthews and Peter Dean
This film was an official selection at the 3rd Phoenix Fear Film Fest in Tempe in 2010. Here's an index to my reviews of 2010 films.
A long short film, Shrove Tuesday is fascinating viewing but it's also wildly inconsistent. Less a horror movie and more a fairy tale in the vein of the Brothers Grimm, it opens like a Punch and Judy show in rhyme. Its plot is as simple as a colourful warning for children to be careful when walking through the woods. There isn't much more than that as far as the story goes: Pancake Marion is a mythical boogeyman with a brief moment of sympathy that's promptly ignored: a child burned alive by villagers for being evil. She emerged to bite off their heads and become a myth, kept away only by an enchanted flower. If you pick that flower in Marionwood, you'll be promptly killed, like the drunken yokel who opens up the live action part of the film. To avoid horrible death, simply don't pick flowers. Naturally that's what people do in this film, but that's about it. We don't need to know anything more. Cue the fire and blood and gore and mayhem.

So the story is cute but hardly essential. What makes the film interesting is the visual style that it employs, which is highly unusual. A good part of it is rapid fire editing, common enough today as distraction, but there's a huge amount of effects too, as a real mixed media thing. A lot of CGI sits alongside modelwork and traditional animation. Much of it is live action, but with surprisingly few lines for anyone and even there it's often played out like a comic book, with a succession of freeze frames frozen in turn, often at stark anglesm and then zoomed into. This is only the most obvious, but the angles and effects are all reminiscent of print based design too. Much of the point seems to be to aim for mood rather than story and it succeeds best in some neatly framed cinematic images with great lighting, poetically shot in the Jean Rollin style. So there's much to watch and enjoy, with the mindset and feel of a Tiger Lillies song.

Unfortunately it's not consistent. Some of it is gorgeous, moody and effective, but some of it is also obviously and painfully cheap. I'm still not sure whether that's deliberate or not but it does cause us to wonder. Even the few characters are inconsistent. The one we see most of is a young girl obviously set up to be Little Purple Riding Hood, literally skipping through the forest to take something to her grandmother, setting us up for an admittedly gruesome fairy tale for kids. Yet before this we've got past the yokel at the beginning, who is rude and crude, even when talking drunkenly to Mr Worm and Mistress Bunny Rabbit. It's hard to picture the intended audience. Even the mayhem varies between highly stylised violence that wouldn't be out of place in that Punch and Judy style opening and outrageous gore that totally wouldn't. For a film that seems to revel in being everything at once, it's something to enjoy a few times but still be confused by.

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