Stars: Jo Hartley, James Doherty and Seamus O'Neill
|This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon V in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.|
The Holding is a British response to The Stepfather; Inbred to gory backwoods American films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, as well as earlier British responses such as Eden Lake, which shares an actor, James Burrows. The Holding is set in the Peak District, centered around the holding of the title; Inbred is set on the North York Moors, outside of Thirsk, where co-writer Paul Shrimpton lives. Incidentally, both the film's writers have connections to short films shown at the previous FearFest in 2010; Shrimpton directed Teleportal, while Chandon did effects work on Neon Killer. Those similarities aside, they're very different films. The Holding has a lot of depth in its approach, which is told from a notably feminist perspective; Inbred doesn't give a monkey's about depth. The Holding gets brutal on occasion, through violence, but it relies on a tense atmosphere; Inbred gets brutal as often as it can, through able use of gore effects.
What's more, Inbred is a comedy, though it doesn't play particularly for laughs and those that it finds are dark indeed, as befits an influence from the cult sketch show The League of Gentlemen. Gore effects aside, which are a Chandon specialty, it's the black humour and local flavour that is most successful. Derek Adamson, mayor of Thirsk, objected to the picture, saying that, 'We don't want that sort of publicity... it's quite probable that people will think the characters in the film are like real Thirsk people and that is not a good impression.' Chandon responded that this gift of free publicity was 'integral to the whole Inbred machine'. In truth, the characters are surprisingly good. Yes, the locals we meet are clearly extrapolated into overdone horror conventions and the script is happy to embrace stereotypes, including an actual ferret down the trousers scene, but they're well rooted in Yorkshire reality and surreality, and I ought to know, given that I grew up there.
Jeff is in charge; he's the stereotypical social worker who wants to be everyone's friend and see everything in a positive light. 'A little ramshackle,' is how he describes Ravenswood, when they're all bitching about the damage and the dust. Kate is a little more in touch, both with the kids and reality. Much of what she achieves is through her not being Jeff. 'Rules are meant to be broken,' she tells him, though he has difficulty understanding the concept. The most obvious of their four charges is Dwight, the stereotypical obnoxious loudmouth. 'Is he always such a prick?' Kate asks. 'Yep,' says Jeff, and Dwight goes on to prove it. Zeb is his black sidekick, who plays along with him as Dwight Lite. Sam is the girl who doesn't talk much, but builds a connection with skinhead Tim, a pyro who tried to burn down his school. These kids share a mistrust of authority, but there's little attempt made to build a theme around their lack of connection to society.
There's much more attempt to build character into the village of Mortlake and I wonder how close Shrimpton based some of his observations. As with all Yorkshire villages, this one is centered on a local pub, the Dirty Hole, built in 1582 and feeling all too true to life as a dark place full of locals playing dominoes. There's no food. 'We don't cater to that crowd,' says Jim, the landlord, who is a treat of a character for Seamus O'Neill, a Yorkshireman himself who has just the right tone. When he tells Kate, 'We don't serve Coke, miss,' it sounds just like the old classic, 'You ain't from around here, are you?' that begins so many westerns. Here's where we start to feel the meaning of the title, as Sam gets hassled by an apparent retard with a love for carrots. He's Gris, Jim's son, and while we were given hints through gaps in the hedges on the way into town, it's Gris who soon sparks the touchpaper to the plot in an intriguing graveyard where train carriages go to die.
Once things get serious, as we know they surely will, O'Neill adds a surreal second role. He's still playing Jim, but he's playing Jim in blackface and hosting a twisted set of variety performances in a barn. It's clearly rooted in music hall, but music hall was never quite like this. The audience are terrible, a stereotypical set of inbred retards cracking rocks together, and the naked organist is a blatant steal from Monty Python's Flying Circus, but Jim is a priceless host and the performances he introduces are clear opportunities for Chandon's effects folk to provide innovative gore shots and for Shrimpton to neatly subvert the down to earth Yorkshire mindset into something horrific. These folk don't just call a spade a bloody shovel, they have an innovative use for it to boot. How would you use a muckspreader as a horror prop? If your ideas are as outrageous as the ones put to use here, you should be making pictures with Alex Chandon.
Chandon clearly knows what he has here and has no pretensions of grandeur. He throws in a set of easily delineated characters to chip away at, but it's beyond obvious that he's never on their side. We don't need to know who survives until the end credits, we know from moment one that he's firmly on the side of the warped locals and he doesn't care how warped they get. In fact, the more warped the better, which works when they're solid characters like Jim but fails entirely when they have nothing to do except leer at the outsiders or wave a chainsaw about. It's an irony that every major actor in this film gives a good showing, but the people who made it don't care about any of their characters, just Jim, the one who makes it possible for this film to happen. I enjoyed Inbred twice, because of the dark humour and inventiveness, but I doubt I'll come back to it again because there's no heart below the gore to give it any deeper value.