FILM REVIEW: Eat Locals

Vampires have been given the short end of the stake recently (no apologies for bad puns) within the celluloid world, ever since the abomination that defiled cinema screens called Twilight was hurled at our faces, unabashedly and without remorse – like a bloated hippo merrily squirting its faeces all over your living room and fanning the shit furiously with its demented windscreen wiper of a tail.

Ah yes, Tween schlock The Twilight Saga; cultivating young, impressionable minds with warm, fuzzy, prepubescent themes about abstinence, the duality of wo(man) and perhaps other things such as bestiality or necrophilia; what with the heroine of the piece, Bella – ruefully contemplating losing her virginity to a sparkly bat or a steroid-looking dog.

All over the course of three films. Yay.

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I think that’s my main gripe with Vampire movies from the last decade; instead of having the slightly aloof, Christopher Lee bloodsucker type from the 60’s and 70’s, all bloodshot eyes and Machiavellian nature, our impression of them has been diluted over time, similarly to the way your frugal nan poured a baby’s nail equivalent of Robinson’s Orange and Pineapple squash drink when you went to visit her on a Sunday afternoon and then filled the rest of the pint glass with tepid, lime scale-ridden water. Vampires have become the laughing stock of the monster world, sent to stand and face the corner to think about what they’ve done.

Contemporary vampires nowadays either come across as sexless wimps (Twilight), with feelings and emotions or debauched, ab-riddled, chisel jawed sex machines (True Blood/Vampire Diaries). Perhaps it’s this reason that Jason Flemyng, in his directorial debut, takes the movie monster that has consequently grown less vicious and frightening as time has passed to bring us ‘Eat Locals,’ a dark comedy set mostly within a quiet countryside farmhouse in Britain. Like Freddy Kruger in any film after the original A Nightmare in Elm Street, the direction that Eat Locals careens towards is the notion that the monsters should be…tongue-in-cheek funny.

Does it work?

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For some parts, yes…but it misses the mark with a lot of things. In a quiet countryside farmhouse, Britain’s vampires gather for their once-every-fifty years meeting to discuss territories, disputes and the food population. Around the table are: all-rounded and placating Henry (Charlie Cox – Daredevil), the famished and young Angel (Freema Agyeman Sense8) stereotypical bastard Peter Boniface (Tony Curran) elderly Alice (Annette Crosbie – One Foot in The Grave), the leader of the group, The Duke (Vincent Regan) and cougar Vanessa (Eve Myles – Dr. Who, Torchwood). Vanessa has brought a young East London lad called Sebastian (Billy Cook – The Hooligan Factory) to the meeting, under false pretences. He thinks he’s about to have a lustful night of passion, however what she’s planning on sucking isn’t what he thinks. There’s a vacancy in the Vampire council and with his Romanov heritage, he’s a prime candidate to fill the spot. When council politics causes them to reject Sebastian, he makes a mad dash for the exit, only to find that the farmhouse has been surrounded by a group of SAS soldiers intent of eliminating the vampire threat from the face of the earth.

So to pitch the film, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a tagline proclaiming this to be the equivalent of Assault on Precinct 13 meets Dog Soldiers. As an actor, Flemyng has obviously paid attention on set and delivers a solid film from a technical perspective. The core group involved are talented actors and sell the fact that they’re hundreds of years old, begrudgingly meeting to discuss bloodsucking tactics. There’s an underlying feeling that these undead creatures have stayed alive and undetected from the human race for so long because they’ve been smart and canny and there’s a real sense that when the soldiers come knocking at the door we’ll get to see a whole can of vampire whoopass opened for our viewing pleasure.

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But unfortunately it never really materialises. Apart from one segment when Angel tears into the throat of a soldier and feasts on him, you never really get to see much of the group’s supernatural attributes in action. They simply pick up machine guns from fallen enemies and shoot back at the remaining soldiers based in the woods. A moment that on paper may have looked great comes off as weak in the finished version; the elderly Alice slow-motion walking out the front door to level the woods Predator Style with a massive gun feels lame as the muzzle shots are clearly tacked on in post-production – there’s not even the slightest recoil from the gun as she fires it! If you look back at Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels when the exact same scenario is played out and you can see the difference.

I have high hopes for Flemyng as a director – there’s definitely a mischievous signature running throughout Eat Locals, and as a debut it’s fine to see the rough edges at the corners – hopefully future endeavours will have these corners sanded down to gleam.  The biggest problem of the film is the pace. Subplots involving the owners of the farmyard and characters are introduced far too late in the film to have any impact, and in one baffling instance a main character decides to spontaneously combust as if the actor needed to be onset somewhere else and a hastily decided end for the character was written into the script. Half an hour could have been trimmed from the final cut in order to keep the tempo invigorating and fresh, but instead we’re subjected to slapstick elements involving flaming chickens flying through the country night and an out-of-place fight scene.

Overall, Eat Locals has its faults, but as an independent debut it’s a noble effort and much better than Twilight.

God, I hate Twilight.

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Review by Anthony Self

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