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Monday, 23 July 2012

Employee of the Month (2011)

Director: Olivier Beguin
Stars: Catriona MacColl and Manu Moser
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
If I hadn't seen Folklore, this short Swiss comedy might have played better. As it is, I can't avoid the comparisons and, while it's not a bad little short, it loses out on all fronts except a single key one: it was made first. Like Folklore, it's a set of skits focused around a diverse group of mythical creatures being interviewed by someone working for an agency dedicated to helping them. This time out, it's the BRPML, or Bureau de Reconversion pour Mythes et Légendes. Yes, it's in French and it means that the agency provides counselors to help find suitable jobs for the supernatural. Like Folklore, some of the actors are better than others, but all are capable and most of them find a moment or two to shine. Like Folklore, there's no real attempt to have these creatures interact, instead allowing them to build their characters on their own. Unlike Folklore, however, its laughs are wildly inconsistent. There's funny stuff here, but you have to endure to get to it.

For a start, the names aren't particularly imaginative. Folklore wasn't entirely immune from that problem but its vampire was called MaryLane Heth rather than Vlad Pitt and it didn't stoop as low as having a character called Bob Zombie. British actress Catriona MacColl, who makes far more films in French than she does in English, is capable as the counselor tasked with dealing with all these characters, though her part is little more than a prop for them to work off. They all manage that well, but when we cut away to see their exploits in previous jobs, the cringe factor sets in. A few of the ideas are great, but most are tired and obvious. For every great idea, like having the zombie man a suicide hotline, there are a half dozen bad ones. How long did it take to come up with a vampire having problems in a French restaurant because of all the garlic? And why would anyone think that his being a lifeguard would be a bright idea, pun not intended?

Folklore was consistently funny, in a very dry British sense, and as much as the supernatural folk worked off the interviewers, the interviewers worked right back off them. Here, the counselor has little to do, so much so that she ends up repeating jokes in a short film. The imagination is solid but the writing is mostly cheap, surprising given that the co-writers have each done better work. Director Olivier Beguin also wrote Dead Bones, featuring Ken Foree, which wasn't high art but was still far more consistent than this. His co-writer Colin Vettier also wrote 36ème sous-sol, not a particularly surprising film but a well written one nonetheless. It didn't have to put a ghost in a Hawaiian shirt to make up for a lack of substance. Folklore was so brimming with character that I found it impossible to pick a favourite. Whenever I picked one, I wanted to switch it to another. Here it's tough for the opposite reason: I couldn't pick one to begin with.

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