Shiny Shelf

Grimm Up North 2010: Evil in the Time of Heroes, The Pack, Amer.

By Sarah Jane Vespertine on 17 November 2010

I went in to see ‘Evil in the Time of Heroes’ without any great expectations. Ancient Greeks and zombies, with Billy Zane in a cameo as an immortal philosophising warrior-priest? Well, it’s not something you see every day.

The opening is indeed focused on a group of Ancient Greeks camping out on the hillside, who are unexpectedly attacked by zombies. But then, we cut to modern Athens, and a man impaled on a length of pipe through his chest. I sensed plot improvement. Turns out he was killed fighting the zombies who have unexpectedly taken over the city, and now he finds he’s alive again. He doesn’t know why, but sets off to find the mismatched gang of companions thrown together by adversity he was with, up until the whole dying thing.

We then meet his friends – on the run in a city full of hungry zombies. They crash through the barriers of the sports stadium, and some nice aerial shots show us the stadium filling up behind them with millions of zombies, as the four of them link arms in the middle of the ground…

The way they escape from this is cheeky, audacious even – funny, and cleverly done. From this point, the tone of the film is set.

Our immortal lead would seem to be the reincarnation of one of the original Ancient Greeks, destined to save the world from the zombies every time they re-emerge every couple of millennia. The film cuts back to the Ancient Greeks fighting every so often, just to remind us this happened before, and there’s an element of tension as the rest of the world realises what’s going on and decides to bomb Athens to oblivion, after a prolonged countdown.

Some semblance of clarity in a plot with more tangled strands than a jumper knitted by a team of hyperactive kittens is achieved by frequent time and date pop ups. Half the time, you still have no idea what’s going on, but at least you know when it’s happening. Luckily, what’s happening is more fun than you expected, and that makes it all ok.

It’s possible that a good editor could make this film into an absolute stormer, but in some ways its joy is in its flaws. Zombies! Madness! Flashback to more of the same! Romance! Death! Not death after all! More zombies!

A lot more fun than anticipated, and well worth watching. An unexpected delight.

‘The Pack’ (‘La Muete’) is a French film, and starts with punky Charlotte driving down empty country roads towards a new life, all her worldly goods packed into her old car. After an unnerving encounter with some mouthy bikers, she impulsively decides to pick up an attractive male hitchhiker. Unfortunately they run into the bikers again at an isolated truckstop, but are saved by the proprietress, who seems to be a cross between Tubbs and Mrs Trunchbull.

Then Max the hitcher disappears into thin air after going to the bathroom…

Really, we all know that picking up hitchhikers is never going to end well. Charlotte’s investigation into Max’s disappearance ends with her locked in a cage, potential food for a freaky gang of mutant dead miners.

This is a dark, bleak, atmospheric film with some nicely freaky monsters – even if they aren’t the werewolves the title might lead you to think. However, it’s also nothing new. I was disappointed by ‘The Pack’ which has some nice elements, but ultimately little tension and no real scares.

Ah, and then, there was ‘Amer’.

People use words to describe ‘Amer’ like giallo, existential, surreal, and profound; when perhaps more usefully, one could say shite.

I have to say, I didn’t like ‘Amer’. I watched it, promising myself that something would happen soon. Something dark and avant garde…

It never did.

We follow the lead character as she moves through three phases of her life. Her childhood in a dark and cloying Mediterranean house is interestingly weird, but then she gets older. Now, we move onto lingering and overly clever shots of a girl who, whilst attractive, isn’t doing much of interest. Although we do almost get to see up her skirt quite a lot.

Throughout the film, sounds dominate to an unreal extent. This is interesting, but distracting. Colours are also enhanced, with whole sections in blue, green or red. There are moments of intriguing, disturbing beauty, and occasionally ‘Amer’ even verges on becoming a great film, but then it wanders off again into pointlessness.

Substance and image ride langorously, decadently over content whilst ‘Amer’ tries its best to be surreal – but really, it’s just empty. Overlong, self-indulgent and dull, watching ‘Amer’ is like watching someone else’s drug trip; what might seem profound to them is actually just irritating to everyone else.

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By Sarah Jane Vespertine

Sarah Jane Vespertine is a writer, occasional poet and freelance thinker. You can follow her on Twitter at

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