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Scarred (2005)
Director: Steve Looker

review by Paul Higson

If we are missing something in 2005 it is the turkey film. That must in this instant sound ominous to the makers of the film under review. Recently I saw a low-budget American film named Near Death and half an hour in was thinking, 'this is the worst porn film I have ever seen', on the grounds that 'there isn't any sex in it, for starters.' Then I remember that it wasn't some half-arsed, genre-scuffing sex film but an erstwhile endeavour into gore flick territory. Its unfettered ineptitude and brash CGI fumbling should have rewarded the viewer with great abject mirth but the bloody thing fails. What gives? I parted with 50 pence on an ex-rental copy of Veronica Sloan's Prison Of The Dead and implore you to leave it on the shelf at half the price. I say ex-rental, I suspect it was actually stolen from one video store's sales shelf and then sold a corner away to a games shop. Idiots united to bring Prison Of The Dead to us. Its foul unforgivable crime is being awful without amusing us. The dog that had its jaw tugged to create the word 'sausages' told more of a story than this and Quasimodo kicked in the teeth more intelligible. It lied to me from its sleeve that it was 90-minutes long when it was a quarter short of that. Mind you, with that handy fast-forward button I succeeded in bringing it in under an hour. Avoid the film and campaign against the director.

The turkeys that gobbled the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, have been replaced by blander fare. The 1990s had so few true turkeys and those that came took themselves ever so seriously or crashed from an expensive height. Think Jane March looking nothing like a boy in dumb thriller The Colour Of Night, Patsy Kensit and the Aussie psycho-thriller silliness of Tunnel Vision, try to forget the immense stupidity of Emerich's Independence Day and how about that pile of wank that was Braveheart. Genuine turkeys. It would help if so many stupid people didn't buy into some of these films. If there is a place the 21st century British horror film might yet rule it could be in the dominion of the astonishing, fascinatingly bad flicker: Kannibal, Alien Blood, The Fall Of The Louse Of Usher, Cradle Of Fear, movies that will have you screaming, 'what the fuck are these clots doing?'

So where does Steve Looker's Scarred fit into this? It doesn't. Well, nearly, but not quite. It has a number of the requirements. Films are spilling out of every town and village at the moment and even the good films have difficulty drawing attention. Scarred underperforms on every level. The script is below par, the performances poor, the effects basic and the one interior set construction flimsy. There is the germ of a good idea in here, but it too is underdeveloped. What might have been perceived a postmodern play becomes sheer confusion.

On the 'anniversary' of the paintball massacre at Devil's Mount deep in the Greater Manchester woods, the father (Stiv Hill) of a girl, Jen (Rebecca Scales), unaccounted for in the aftermath continues his search for her. The police have failed to locate her. He discovers a bloodied and dishevelled youth (Neville Millar) who relates an experience he and his friend (Shiv Nagpal) had been subjected to. Involved was a girl they had initially rescued and she fits the missing girl's description. The police and doctors meanwhile fuss over a mussed up lad in a hospital bed, his features obscured under the bandage wrappings. The scenario at the centre of the horror show revolves in and around the 'Blood Shed', a hut in the middle of the country from which the girl and the two lads are under siege to horror-masked murderers. A neat twist in the tale is the report from the survivor that though the killers always catch up with their prey, if it has been a good pursuit or a certain boundary point has been reached or the whim to do so has taken them, then they will bring them back to the Blood Shed to run and run again, until the day they fail to entertain their tormentors and death by mutilation is the award. The Blood Shed is as basic a set construction as it gets. The last time I saw a cardboard set design like this was on Microwave Massacre. Actually, there was quite a bit of cardboard in my own short film but shorts are excluded from criticism, they should serve as the learning ground.

The filler dialogue and 'spook you' games between the Millar and Nagpal irks terribly, becoming incredibly tiresome. Typically, the characters are filmmakers scouting for locations with a script in their backpack, finished the night before. Please! Wes Craven took 20 years before he painted himself into that particular industry corner... think outside the field for Christ's sake. Sure, all brat filmmakers make 'film' films. Let's hope they have gotten it out of their system. The country lanes look great on camera, but making the chosen stretch of road quadruple and expand on their amble results in those sought after bloopers. Like the painted 'Go Slow' sign every few yards. Well done on the remoteness. An impressive aerial shot over the wooded area looks great, but the honest director admits in the commentary that it was stock footage and American. Still, it is blended in very well. The acting is am-dram, and the killer's body language sometimes pre-empts the words that he is about to emit, not quite an advanced mime but on the way to it. He clearly has the lines in his head before delivery and his body is pulling them through. In his last scenes he bursts into a contradictory babble, blather that is so over the top that it's surprising he doesn't say it from orbit. He boils in an embarrassingly amateur savagery. I did find myself laughing and I did appreciate it for that, but the groans and guffaws elsewhere weren't quite so welcome. The weather is damp at the paintball site, fine a little later for the Blood Shed exteriors and for the interiors a wind is heard. The Blood Shed is located in an out in the middle of nowhere field but during some of the action a car zips past on the road in the background. These are the kinds of blunders we seek. This is what turkeys are made of. The timeframe is baffling. What is the mentioned anniversary? It implies a year on, and yet not so clearly the case? There is a run on the gore, but heads and hands are removed too easily. And where are those police? They're not in Miles Platting, they're not here, where the hell do the Manchester Constabulary patrol?

This is a first feature film. The important thing is completing that first feature film. Reel Vision have premises on Broadway in Urmston and have short films and a documentary re-telling of a murder titled Scotchman's Stump before this film. The DVD includes director and co-producer commentaries and a bonus making of short called How To Make A Low Budget Film. The latter is a mistake. They mean to supplement their talent by educating others in the making of movies, but there are others with far more success in this field, and active able experience to put towards it, particularly guerrilla film educator Chris Jones. The steps and rules provided are of little use to anyone wishing to make a film, as they will know this already. The examples they should be providing are the more personal discoveries that have come out of the filmmaking process, the tradesman's secrets, the barmy and eccentric findings and observations. Instead they chuck in lad-like behind the scenes behaviour, none of it hardcore or amusing. They possess the love of film and a love of filmmaking, but love isn't proof of talent. Still, my father liked it, so may do others.
Scarred

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