UK Release Date: 1st September 2017
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Jason Flemyng
Writer: Danny King
Starring: Billy Cook, Eve Myles, Robert Portal, Charlie Cox, Freema Agyeman, Tony Curran, Mackenzie Crook, Annette Crosbie
Synopsis: A coven of vampires bring in a young man for their annual meeting, but find themselves under siege in a farmhouse when a team of vampire hunters arrive on the scene.
The vampire sub-genre is one of the most versatile facets of the horror canon, from the Expressionist chills of Nosferatu and the sexually-charged camp of the Hammer Dracula films, right through to the dark romance of the Twilight saga and the overblown gore of the Blade trilogy. Bloodsuckers have proven malleable on the big screen and actor Jason Flemyng‘s directorial debut Eat Locals takes the mythos in an entirely different direction. It combines the blood and chaos of a vampire movie with the esoteric political wrangling of a rowdy countryside parish council meeting.
Sebastian (Billy Cook) thinks his luck is in when he meets attractive older woman Vanessa (Eve Myles), who invites him to a secluded Hertfordshire farmhouse. Unfortunately for him, he has been brought into a coven of vampires, led by Henry (Charlie Cox), who are in the midst of a bureaucratic meeting where they discuss territories and feeding. The differing personalities of the creatures, from menacing veteran Boniface (Tony Curran) to more idealistic youngster Angel (Freema Agyeman), make the negotiations tough, but their night gets even tougher when Colonel Bingham (Robert Portal) shows up with a team of vampire hunters.
As a directorial debut, Eat Locals succeeds by virtue of its willingness to simply throw everything at the screen in the hope that some of it sticks. Thankfully for Flemyng, a lot of the ideas from Wild Bill screenwriter Danny King do work and there’s a sense that the film’s society is genuinely interesting. The early scenes, in which we see the coven indulge in bureaucratic squabbling and difficult negotiations, are very well-realised and it’s almost a shame that the film can’t find as much time for these elements once the action starts.
Eat Locals is a briskly-paced movie, but that is as often to its detriment as it is in its favour. It’s certainly true that the script’s high gag rate helps keep the laughs coming, but the action gets going a little too quickly for the central dynamics between characters to be fully explored. The council meeting discussions are tense, witty and a sharp twist on the vampire dynamic, but things become much more ordinary when the blood starts to flow. Character motivations are soon tossed to one side, with the vampire hunter threat very sketchily-defined. As a result, it feels like a toothless onslaught against a coven that definitely has bite.
The performances, though, are a joy. Daredevil actor Charlie Cox has a brilliant deadpan charisma and Freema Agyeman is enjoyable as well. The pick of the vampires is the grumpy Tony Curran, who refuses to fall in line with the more diplomatic ideas of his fellow bloodsuckers. When the fangs start to fly, we really do want many of these characters to survive and the deaths have weight when the bodies start to fall, thanks to the likeable work from all involved and King’s smart writing.
It’s certainly the case that Eat Locals falls apart somewhat in the third act, but there’s something lovable about the way it rides to its conclusion on a magic carpet of raucous insanity. The action is frenetic and unfocused, but it’s also inventive and funny, with a really irreverent sense of humour and an unusual sensibility when it comes to depicting vampires. Jason Flemyng’s debut might not be the most accomplished piece of work on a cinematic level, but it is something that’s rare when it comes to this sub-genre – an original take on the vampire. And there’s not a sparkly face in sight.
Pop or Poop?
Jason Flemyng marks his directorial arrival with a chaotic, but enjoyable vampire romp. There are strong performances from an array of British comedy actors and the parochial setting provides plenty of charm in amongst the arterial spray and bizarre vampire politics. That strange sense of bloodsucker politics is not quite fleshed out enough and it would have been welcome for the film to spend a little more time exploring this unusual society. As a different take on vampirism, though, this is to be savoured like a particularly tasty bite of human flesh.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.