Shiny Shelf

Grimm Up North 2010: 13 Hours, Slice, Chop, Primal and We Are What We Are

By Sarah Jane Vespertine on 24 November 2010

Saturday evening continued with yet another new British film – ‘13 Hours’, starring Tom Felton and Gemma Atkinson. Teens in a big old house being picked off by a vicious monster is nothing new, and this starts in the traditional way, with the usual stereotypes set up neatly with a bit of exposition and some impressive quantities of vodka drinking and spliff smoking.

Leaving the youngest brother asleep in the hayloft in a rather obvious set up for later, they head back to the big house, as a storm rages and the electricity fails…

The first encounter with the monster happens surprisingly swiftly, and is unexpectedly dark in nature. The level of gore is nicely handled, with much more implied than seen, and the location is used atmospherically and intelligently. The back-plotted tension between the characters is a tad heavy-handed, as are the dramatic acts of stupidity that are always a keynote of teen scream horror, but not in a profoundly annoying way, and there is at least an underlying logic to the unfolding drama.

This is a good quality addition to the genre, particularly for a Brit film and, considering the timescale and budget it was made within, it really is an outstanding achievement.

‘Slice’, from Thailand, was easily one of my standout films of the weekend. A young police officer is freed (surprisingly easily) from prison to track down a serial killer, after it turns out the killer may have links to a friend from his childhood.

The slow revelations of the incidents that have inspired each crime are as horrible as the crimes themselves, and the sad history of Nut, the childhood friend who may be the killer sways your sympathies at a beautifully constructed pace.

The cinematography is lovely, especially the use of colour. This is a powerful, engaging and occasionally shocking film. The final reveal and ending are beautiful and touching, and even if you unravel some clues before the protagonist, it’s no less satisfying when the final realisation hits. Excellent.

‘Chop’ is a Canadian film, and a nice change of tone after a long day of film-watching. It’s a very black comedy, with an excellent conceit.

After his car breaks down, Lance is offered a ride by a helpful passer by – who drugs, kidnaps and threatens him. As the plot unfolds, Lance has to discover the reason for the grudge this man bears against him, as more and more appalling things happen to him and his life begins to fall apart.

The audience are left as desperate as Lance to discover exactly what has driven this seemingly reasonable and pleasant stranger to undertake such an awful, gory (and frequently poetic) vengeance. Sympathies switch between the two leads as more is revealed about Lance’s past, and the ending is as dark and funny as it is painful – on many levels.

Occasionally wince-inducing, with a nice line in wry, dark humour, this is a clever idea made into a well-constructed and entertaining film.

My first film of Sunday was ‘Primal’, an Australian production involving yet another group of friends being killed one after another. Personally, I feel that if you’re going to set off for a distant and unexplored area of the Australian Outback with no means of contact with the outside world, and do things like go swimming naked at night in a dark and mysterious lagoon, then you can’t complain about ANY level of awful consequences. Even when they are as silly as this.

At one point it seems our ostensibly intelligent leads are not only without communication, but without even a knife between them. Luckily, someone remembers the machete which they have Left In The Car…

Not a dreadful film by any means, with some amusing dialogue and an occasional tongue-in-cheek moment that works. However, glaring holes in the plot, incidents that seem to have no relevance whatsoever and some poorly plotted scenes let this film down.

Nothing new and for that reason, ultimately disappointing.

‘We Are What We Are’ was the big festival finale, promoted as being the successor to ‘Let The Right One In’. I’m not sure the general public are ready to regard modern cannibals in the same darkly alluring light as they do ancient vampires, however.

There is no denying that this film is beautiful to watch, often engrossing, and wears its pointed societal metaphors with pride. However, with such dark and disturbing leads, it is difficult to feel a real connection with any of the characters, and I found myself watching it without actually being truly engaged by what was happening on screen. The drama never really reached the pitch it promised, and I came away feeling that perhaps with tighter direction it might have been so much more.

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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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