Danielnothing's Blog

Lou Reed, Royal Albert Hall, London, 30th June 2008

Posted in Uncategorized by danielnothing on October 27, 2013

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

1972’s ‘Berlin’ occupies an odd, dramatic place in Lou Reed’s discography. Coming directly after the seedy, feelgood, Bowie/Ronson swagger of ‘Transformer’ (his first hit solo album after the misfire of 1970’s ‘Lou Reed’), it was badly received by a glam-addled audience expecting ‘Transformer 2’. In stark contrast to the previous album’s sweetly funky production, ‘Berlin’ opens with an ugly, analogue screech, which slowly and painfully resolves into a faded, fluttery vintage tape recording of a birthday party, before the heartbreaking title song claws its way to the front of the mix: I remember the first time I heard this opening as a 10-year-old picking illicitly through my sister’s tape collection, and it frankly scared the piss out of me. The rest of the album, with its alternately sweet, sincere, sarcastic and bleak ballads of love and drugs and sex and death didn’t exactly cheer me up either: in fact I’m pretty sure I hated every minute of it, all this depressing stuff about women having sex with soldiers, then slashing their wrists. But I immediately turned the tape and listened to it from scratch once it had finished. I  wasn’t  too smart as a kid, but I recognised quality when I heard it.

Cut to ahem, AHEEEHHHMM… years later and I’m standing outside the Royal Albert Hall listening to a small group of acoustic-guitarists pick and strum their way through the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Set Free’ (and get almost all the lyrics wrong). We are gathered here on a balmy summer’s evening in upmarket Kensington Gore for  a once-in-a-lifetime experience.: Reed with full band, chamber jazz orchestra and children’s choir offering up ‘Berlin’ in its entirety, in one of the most impressive concert venues in the world. Anticpation seems to colour the very air we are breathing. For once I feel relatively young as aging hipsters of every stripe and hue file into the building. I’m on the lookout for some major celebrities here tonight, but all I manage is the woman who used to play Peri in Doctor Who, and later (somewhat  more impressively) Annie Lennox. I think  I spot Christopher Hitchens, but it turns out to be just another rumpled, middle aged bloke in a badly pressed suit. Or maybe it’s him: who cares?

It’s an odd experience coming into the circle of the Royal Albert Hall and hearing formless (recorded) electric guitar echoing through that most hallowed of classical venues. This will be my first rock concert here. But then, is ‘Berlin’ strictly ‘rock’? Reed himself has compared it to the song cycles of Kurt Weill, and it has to be said, it’s maybe a good thing that Reed was forced to wait this long to perform it on the stage. It deserves a majesty and grandeur that Camden Dingwall’s would be hard-pressed to provide.

Only slightly late, and after a gushing but heartfelt intro from concert producer Hal Willner, Reed and his  band troop on with an 8 piece orchestra and a 12 strong children’s choir. The orchestra and choir are decked out in matching powder blue outfits (tuxedos for the adults, shiny robes for the kids, which put me in mind of Peter Pan, for some reason). Reed and his cohort, by contrast, look like each one of  them has just lost an audition to play the title role in The Bruce Springsteen Story, all bandanas and faded denim. Of Reed himself, I can’t help but be suspicious of someone who is fast approaching 70 years old, but still rocks the cap-sleeved T-shirt.. I’m wearing a black suit and shirt, for God’s sake, and I’m only in the audience. Reed looks like he was maybe interrupted while washing his car.

All of these sartorial concerns are immediately forgotten when the choir burst into a short snatch (unexpectedly)  of ‘Sad Song’, the album’s closing track. Is Reed screwing with us? Are we to get ‘Berlin’ backwards? The strategy pays off, since it wakes the audience up just enough for that familiar tape-hissing ‘Happy Birthday’ to slap us right in the chops, and that eerie, tragic solo piano to assert that, yes indeed, this will be exactly the debauchery you remember.

But not quite. For one thing, Reed’s voice has dropped several thousand registers since the early 70s, the bittersweet post-Velvets tenor  now a weighty , rumbling, bass-y thing. Coupled with his increasing tendency to leave entire verses blank, and cram all of the unsung lyrics into the following verse (Keith Cameron has said of his VU comeback tour that Reed regularly crossed the line between ‘Artistic Re-Interpretation’ and ‘Taking The Piss’) and the atmosphere becomes tenser still. However, he nails the key couplet  in the opener (‘It was very nice/ Aaaaawww babe, it was paradise’) so well, that I am surprised to find my eyes beginning to well up. This is going to be one gruelling night if I tear up every time he gets something right.

‘Berlin’ (the song) ends to awed silence: is it going to be like a classical concert where you’re not allowed to applaud until the very end? The band immediately launch into ‘Lady Day’ and its muscular deployment of band, horns, strings, choir and soulful female backing singers wakes everyone up a second time. It’s remarkable just how closely it hues to the album arrangement and sound, and the outro  (‘No no no/ Oooh Laaaaady Day…’) goes on seemingly forever, but that’s a good thing. At its finish the audience erupts. So, no, not very much like a classical concert then.
The rest of Side One (ask your parents) drifts by without a hitch, the fine brass section coming into its own on the Stax-meets-Benny Hill horn stabs of ‘How Do You Think It Feels’ and ‘Oh Jim’ : the latter  is startlingly good, from the spooky re-creation of the echoey opening drums, to Reed’s frenzied/forlorn acoustic outro.

As we head deeper and deeper into Side Two territory tension is stretched to snapping point: Side Two of ‘Berlin’ is generally considered to be the most callous and depressing sequence of songs ever to get a major label release ( yes, I am including the collected works of Leonard Cohen). As 16mm film of our two protagonists (‘Caroline’ and ‘Jim’) cavorting on a wintry beach and fondling/hitting  each other in stairwells  is projected over Julian Schnabel’s distressed living room set, a silvery-sounding acoustic guitar strikes up the intro to ‘The Kids’, Reed’s faux-country ballad of family breakdown as viewed through the eyes of a sneering ex-boyfriend. I begin to gaze worriedly at the children’s choir on stage: are they going to be asked, no, made to re-create the controversial taped screams  of children heard in the song’s upsetting  middle section? Thankfully no: the screams and anguished cries of ‘Mummy!’ are recordings, here looped into a weirdly hypnotic groove.

‘The Kids’ would easily be the most distressing song on any other album, but Reed had the balls to follow it up with ‘The Bed’, in which ‘Caroline’, having had her children ripped from her arms by social services does herself in with a razor ‘that odd and fateful night’. Hushed and dream-like, almost a lullaby, it’s an incredibly moving song in its vinyl incarnation: in this setting it knocks you flat on your ass. For one thing, the chorus (‘Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh/ What a feeling’) half-whispered on the record, is suddenly and forcefully barked out by a visibly emotional Reed: the audience physically jumps. For another, the children’s choir take up this chorus later in the song, lending it even more of a nursery quality, and causing tears once again to sting my eyes.

The audience sits once again in stunned silence as the Disney-soundtrack woodwind intro to ‘Sad Song’ emerges from the ether. This is a Big Finish number in the truest tradition of Hollywood musical (although it would be a rare musical indeed that ended with a lyric about breaking both a woman’s arms). Again, there’s something horribly moving (or movingly horrible) about this song’s lyrical combination of nostalgia, optimism and brutality. This is the moment everyone on stage has been waiting for, and they don’t disappoint. The kids’ choir alone  lift the song into a thing of transcendent beauty, but everyone is firing on all cylinders, and Reed’s bear-like growl actually seems better-suited to this one than his  youthful croon. Like ‘Lady Day’ this last song lasts an age, but you never actually WANT it to end.

 When it does finally finish the audience is on its feet  and when the applause dies down Reed takes an age introducing and thanking each individual member of band and crew: necessary , nice to see, but a little long-winded, especially as his speaking voice echoes mostly unintelligably arounfd the cavernous hall.

Much whooping and foot-stomping secure us a 3-song  encore (the exact same 3-song encore they’ve been doing all tour, so don’t feel special). ‘Satellite Of Love’ begins as a vocal workout for bassist Fernando Saunders, who, when he begins doing his best Whitney/Mariah wandering warble over it, earns a comically  stern look from Reed, who then proceeds to direct Saunders’ vocal meanderings with his finger. A comedy sketch? From Lou Reed? In the middle of ‘Satellite Of Love’? The same Lou Reed who’s been known to walk off stage when a punter coughs at the wrong moment? How times change….the finest bit of the song hasn’t even come yet, and guess what? It’s the children’s choir (or to give them their proper name, The New London Children’s Choir): it’s cute hearing them intone ‘Satellite’s gone up to the sky/ Things like that drive me out of my mind’, and they also do the ‘Bong, bong, bong’s (previously done on record of course by Dame David Bowie). When Lou finally steps up to the mic, he gets the evening’s biggest cheer, but even his vocal can’t compete with those little powder-blue cuties.

It really should have ended there, but a too-long, blues-bar jam workout of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Rock N’ Roll’ (never honestly a favorite of mine) and a forgettable (sorry, Lou) new song called ‘The Power Of The Heart’ wrap things up. Yet more foot-stomping, yet more thanks and congratulations. But it doesn’t matter. The hard edge has already been driven home, and I’ll remember this night for a long time…..

….and now it’s my eyes that fill with water.
 And I am much happier this way.

Advertisements

Film Review: FROZEN RIVER

Posted in Uncategorized by danielnothing on January 24, 2010

The very first image we see in Frozen River, the debut feature from Courtney Hunt, is a close-up shot of the self-same body of solid water, the St Lawrence River, New York State: a craggy expanse of thick, white ice stretching off into the middle distance. A vast, hulking presence in the centre of the movie, the river serves two purposes. It’s a metaphor for lives in stasis, things that were once free-flowing and lively, now slowed and made barren by a grim, forbidding north-eastern winter. It is also the very thing that makes the events of the plot possible, a unique gift from Mother Nature to those who traffic human beings from Quebec over the US/Canadian border. Such heady, ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter might be the perfect fit for an existential action movie, something a young Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford might fashion into a vehicle for them to learn about life and the futility of violence while chasing unscrupulous smugglers across the picturesque tundra. Frozen River is as far from that imaginary movie as one could get.

For one thing, our hero is a heroine, the incongruously named Ray Eddy, played by Melissa Leo (who you may remember from the excellent Homicide: Life on the Streets). We meet Ray in the direct aftermath of catastrophe: her gambling-addict husband has vanished with all their savings, leaving her to raise their two sons alone in a small trailer. Pushing 50 with her red hair turning grey, her fingernails bitten to the quick and her tattoos getting wrinkly and faded, she looks like someone on a collision course with something bad. Repo men are after her big-screen TV, her trailer and her self-respect, and her job working at a convenience store for a just-post-adolescent asshole who won’t promote her ain’t gonna cut her any big cheques any time soon. Happening across hubby’s abandoned car by chance leads her to the middle of nowhere and a caravan occupied by Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a surly, threatening Mohawk Indian woman who coerces Ray into driving her across the frozen St Lawrence for an illicit job that pays big money. Soon Ray and Lila are ferrying two illegal Chinese immigrants in the trunk of the car across the white wasteland for a few thousand bucks. Ray narrowly avoids being ripped off, and is soon home in time to pay the TV repossession men with a smile.

Gradually realising that fate has dealt her a way to pay off her debts and begin fashioning a better life for her and her children, she is soon back at Lila’s caravan asking for another job. And so an awkward, mistrustful partnership is formed, based on mutual need (Lila needs Ray’s car, Ray needs Lila’s experience and contacts). And Lila has her own reasons for doing this dangerous work, one which she wants kept secret from her new white partner. Meanwhile Ray’s restless, whiny older teenage son TJ (Charlie McDermott), sick of popcorn and juice every meal, has started his own little phone-phishing scam back at the trailer, and there’s a kindly but stern state trooper keeping his eye on the Eddy family’s comings and goings.

All of this may scream ‘earnest Sundance award winner’, and that would be a half-fair assessment, but Frozen River goes above and beyond the remit of a lot of films of it’s genre. For one thing, the sense of place is masterfully evoked, Reed Dawson Morano’s stark, unvarnished cinematography capturing both the beauty and the horror of wintry upstate New York flawlessly. For this is a film about nothing if not environment, and how it shapes people’s drives and relationships. Character study it may be, but it is also a genuinely involving drama (‘thriller’ may be going too far) in which every revelation, small or large, is important and involving .It holds the attention like few films I’ve seen recently and makes you care deeply for characters who are at first unappealing simply by spending a little time to get to know them: unlike other crime genre movies, there are no grand schemes or dreams of power and glory fuelling these people: .Ray wants a bigger trailer and some money to provide for her family, things she speaks of with the same quiet, wistful glow that some people have when talking about a dream home or the holiday of a lifetime: Lila wants a chance to be a mother to her infant, snatched from her by her dead husband’s family out of spite . Money is an ever-present motif, coins being meticulously counted out to pay for gas, or to be placed in the hands of kids on their way to school. The double-wide trailer, the big-screen TV, the Hot Wheels car set for Christmas, these modest acquisitions take on a special aura in this harshest of all economic realities.

Midway, the film dips briefly and unexpectedly into outright thriller (almost horror movie) territory, a midnight run on Christmas Eve becoming a frantic, frightening search in the icy darkness for a duffel bag with a very special cargo, the pace and lighting recalling the dryer, crueller work of the Coen Brothers, especially, Fargo or Blood Simple. Even here, with life and limb at stake (or in the final, fateful trip across the ice that forms the films’ climax) the film never gets hysterical or histrionic. The tightness in the chest we feel as we watch is the very same gut-wrench we feel when things are coming apart in front of us in life.

If the film has any flaws they are minor. A mid-movie flirtation with magic realism stays just this side of cloying, as does the somewhat too-neatly-tied ending, and some half-hearted, late-in-the-game gunplay feels like the sort of thing a studio might impose just to have gunfire in the movie’s trailer. But these are very minor quibbles. Leo and Upham are both outstanding, the chatty Leo all running eye make-up and barely concealed nervous tension, the terse Upham as icy and unfriendly as the frozen river they drive on.  Mainstream cinema itself being something of a barren wasteland for women who don’t conform to Jessica Alba’s youth or bland good looks, it’s great to see a performer of Leo’s pedigree getting to create a character from the ground up, and to see Upham’s unconventional frame and ethnicity occupying a central place in a film where neither aspect is patronised. This isn’t the stuff of Hollywood stars uglying up, dressing down and putting a hicksville twang into their accent to secure awards, this has the genuine heft of real lives observed, of people getting on with what they have to in order to keep going.

Film Review: Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Posted in Uncategorized by danielnothing on January 24, 2010

MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT

‘No one kills me until I say so’.

Mention the name Jacques Mesrine to French people of a certain age and you’ll get instant recognition, a nostalgic frisson comparable to a Brit’s reaction to the names Ronnie and Reggie Kray. He was a loose cannon whose exploits as an international man of violence left an indelible impression on the French psyche, as he rose from the ranks of Paris’ petty con artists and burglars to become France’s oft-declared Public Enemy Number 1. Like most career criminals, his life story was begging for the lavish, big-screen treatment, and that it gets in Jean-François Richet’s Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L’instinct de Mort in it’s original French release title), the first part in a duo of crime epics detailing the colourful life (and violent death) of a man largely unremembered by the world outside of France.

Opening with a gripping split-screen title sequence that would do Hitchcock or Argento proud, it takes you several moments to realise that the paunchy, sunken-eyed figure in a red roll-neck sweater, beard and permed wig moving gingerly down Paris back streets is in fact Mesrine himself, as portrayed by France’s premier movie bad boy Vincent Cassell. Moving effortlessly between big-budget action thrillers  like Dobermann to more cerebral (L’Appartement), gritty (La Haine) or controversial (Irriversible) fare, Cassell is the De Niro or Oldman of France, a whip-smart, rake-thin attention magnet: here he seems to have filled out and shrunk, become the last thing you’d notice on a crowded street. The whole title sequence turns out to be a tease anyway, since we quickly realise that it’s a flash-forward . We won’t see how this particular episode resolves until the second movie (although if you do the tiniest bit of homework, you’ll know how this story ends all too well).

Flashing back to Algeria in 1959, we glimpse the same man in  French military uniform in shaky, grainy footage of the torture of two suspected Arab terrorists. He’s lean, young, and quick to demonstrate brutality beyond even his superiors’ control. Back in France, Mesrine is every inch the moustachioed spiv, drinking gambling and whoring his way across Paris, a man to whom nothing is forbidden, everything is up for grabs. Coming under the influence of the shady ‘Guido’ (as embodied by the always welcome bulk of Gerard Depardieu) a nightclub owner, gangster and former member of the notorious O.A.S. (far-right French paramilitary organisation), Mesrine is earmarked as someone with a bright future in the underworld. In short order we witness our anti-hero burgle a palatial suburban mansion, using his smooth appearance and charm to escape with the loot, furiously berate and take leave of his mild-mannered father for ‘having no balls’. graphically murder an Arab pimp who has scarred his favourite whore, go to Spain, fall in love with a cute chica (Ludivine Sagnier), marry, have kids, rapidly mutate from loving husband and father to loathesome wife-beater, get jailed, get released, hook up with a sultry, shades-wearing partner (in both love and crime) Jeanne  (Cecile De France)….

As you can probably tell, the main thing that suffers in this whirlwind cram session of events is pacing. Cassell is endlessly watchable as the alternately charming and obnoxious Mesrine, but the desire to shoehorn in seemingly everything that happened to him (even if only briefly hinted at) relegates everyone else to the status of cameo. Sometimes this ultra-fast forward propulsion is cleverly handled (immediately after boasting about how easy his next bank job will be, we cut to him glumly entering prison), but more often than not it leaves you wanting to know and see and feel more of what he’s going through, moment-by-moment. There’s precious little time spent observing the man in his more reflective or  playful moods: his larger-than-life antics and self-invented persona fill the screen, daring you to judge.

The closest the film comes to exploring Mesrine’s inner life is a protracted sequence of solitary confinement in a Canadian jail, shot in nightmarishly wide angles in harsh light. Here we see him broken down into his consituent parts, literally and figuratively stripped, subjected to physical and psychological torture, humiliated. It’s an utterly gripping, extremely uncomfortable sequence to sit through (reminiscent at points of Steve McQueen’s  Hunger, not to mention the classic Papillon, which starred a very different man called Steve McQueen) and makes you hope that something of  greater substance and integrity will be on the other side, that the movie may tire of all this skilful hagiography and present us with a subtler portrait. Instead it sets up a thrilling prison break, and even more jaw-dropping prison attack, masterfully executed and captivating to witness, but more the slam-bang stuff of Bond movies as opposed to the thoughtful essence of biopic.

The essential problem with Killer Instinct (I can only speak for the first part of this epic duo, since I have not yet seen Public Enemy Number 1, the second part) is this dichotomy between exciting, crowd-pleasing heroics and the odd attempt at psychological realism: between Mesrine, the witty, charming anti-hero, and Mesrine the sadistic thug who enjoys violence and forces the mother of his children to swallow a gun-barrel. Goodfellas managed to overcome similar problems of attraction/repulsion by making it’s anti-hero Henry Hill a lot more anti than hero: we were involved with his story and could even empathise at certain points, but we were never allowed to escape the essential monstrousness of the man and the world he inhabited.. Here, we are often asked to overlook the less palatable aspects of Mesrine the woman-beating sadist and criminal opportunist, and embrace the handsome joker, the celebrity bank-robber whose arrival at a Quebec airport generates the sort of media frenzy that The Beatles were afforded.

Richet is a skilled, craftsmanlike director, Cassell is never less than electrifying and this is a highly involving and hugely enjoyable movie, but there is definitely a nagging sense of something being overlooked or withheld. We are repeatedly given Mesrine the Myth on a platter: Mesrine the Man remains elusive. Perhaps part two will illuminate more of the character with harsher, less forgiving light than is found here. Not a bad film by any means, but a frustrating one. To have nearly four hours to detail a man’s entire criminal career over decades, one would think (hope) that the film makers would indulge the legend  a little less, peek behind the curtain of the public enemy a little more.

Film Review:Doghouse

Posted in Uncategorized by danielnothing on January 24, 2010

The British  horror comedy. What do those words conjure in your mind’s eye? Harry H Corbett being seduced by a smoke-billowing Fenella Fielding, while Kenneth Williams shrieks ‘FRYING TONIGHT’? A naked David Naughton trying to steal balloons from a schoolboy in a London zoo? Overwhelmingly, I’d say that the first image that appears in most reader’s  minds would be a perturbed Simon Pegg, glancing sideways, telephone in hand, surrounded by dozens of mouldering zombies in the poster for Shaun Of The Dead, an  image as recognisable now as the spooky cracked space-egg of Alien, or the silhouetted priest of the Exorcist. SOTD was a true rarity, a hyped British movie that (nearly) lived up to its rep. Sure, it’s almost totally disposable, doesn’t bear repeat viewings, half the jokes die on their arse and it loves itself way too much, but it has at least four elements that Jake West’s Doghouse, doesn’t: characters you care about, the odd laugh-out-loud gag, a genuine sense of mounting dread, and….and this is the crucial one….originality. Doghouse possesses none of those things, and hews so closely to SOTD’s model (and even large segments of its plot), that one sniffs a quickie cash-in. A quickie cash-in that was so slow to put together, it’s arrived almost 5 years too late to capitalise. Poor, poor Doghouse, because without the goodwill of erstwhile Shaun groupies, this thing is deader in the water than Robert Maxwell.

Actually, it’s unfair to say that Doghouse has nothing to distinguish it from Shaun. You could say, the secret ingredient of the newer film is misogyny. In fact, I’m just going to say that, because it’s true. It may charitably be called ‘a horror film for the Nuts generation’. What it actually looks like is the sort of thing a disturbed teenager with no access to the outside world except Nuts, Loaded, Zoo and Bizarre magazines and the odd episode of Top Gear might scribble frantically in tiny writing on the walls of his cell. We are introduced to our ‘heroes’ one by one, dealing with their various squeezes and other halves as they leave to go on a weekend of rural debauchery  to get one of their number, a sad-sack Scouse divorcee portrayed by Stephen Graham, back in the game of BEING A MAAAAAAN!. The women (and one gay partner….right on! Until you realise you know he’s gay because he’s wearing a flowery shirt and smoking a cigarette in a conspicuously gay manner) are screeching harridans and ball-busters to a man, their fellas an ethnically diverse cliché club: Graham  repping for Liverpool, Noel Clarke (the black one), Emil Marwa (gay and Asian…two birds with one stone), a wealthy new age longhair (Keith Lee Castle), a Classic Comic Book Nerd (Lee Ingleby,) and on top of the old apples and pears, it’s the pearly king Danny Dyer himself, here taking his mouthy Cockney twat persona into new realms of unbearableness.

After the briefest of Guy Ritchie-lite intros,in which we establish which stereotype each of  our heroes conform to, and the depths of their laddishness and sexism, we meet the vaaaaarrry ssaaaaaaaxxxy laaaaadeh who is going to drive them to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (for some reason, the ideal choice for this reverse-stag weekend). Played by Christina Cole, she looks like she’s going to inject a bit of balanced female perspective to the footy n’ beer proceedings. As it turns out she doesn’t, but it’s nice to hope for 30 seconds that the six obnoxious twats we’ve just been introduced to won’t be the ONLY people we have to identify with for the rest of the movie.

Long story short, they arrive (past a couple of badly-mauled sheep carcasses) in the village of ‘Moodley’ to discover it tiny, deserted and covered in barely-perceived bloody handprints. Service at the local is terrible, unsurprisingly because the landlord’s dismembered corpse is behind the bar. In almost no time our gang are confronted by a twitching, hissing army of the undead who want their braaaaaaiiiinnnsss, and probably their soooooouuul as well. The curious thing is, every last one of the zombies (or ‘infected’’, or whatever it’s trendy to call,  zombies these days) is female: a blonde bride in a bedraggled wedding dress, a leather-clad hairdresser armed with a pair of scissors in each hand, an impressively-cleavaged  D & D enthusiast  wielding a broadsword. Even their sassy driver has started spewing black goo and turning all glassy-eyed and cannibal-y. Retreating from these increasingly desperate housewives into temporary shelter, they get the skinny from a soldier that they’ve rescued: biological warfare experiment to  turn genders against each other, yadda yadda. From this point on, the movie turns into a series of repetitive and insultingly non-frightening set-pieces, borrowing scenes and sub-plots from every other zombie movie you’ve ever seen, but giving it more than  just a hint of vicious sexism to make it ‘fresh’. The gang are attacked by every female stereotype too unsubtle for Benny Hill: a fox hunter in full riding gear, complete with crop, a lollipop lady, an old battleaxe on a zimmer frame… at one point Dyer is kidnapped and tied up by a zombie who’s distinguishing features are that she’s fat, dressed in a revealing nighty and apparently horny for some chirpy-cockney-geezer ass. It’s made to seem like we should be more disgusted somehow by her girth and revealing outfit, than by the fact that she saws off men’s finger and eats them with icing.

You  keep waiting for the double-bluff, the moment when you’re made aware that it’s all an elaborate parlour game, and it’s actually  ridiculous male cliches that are being lampooned as much as the women, but it never comes: the film makers actually seem to think that we should care about our six gormless heroes simply  because, well, they’re MEN innit?  The finale is indeed stomach-churning , but because of its naff, boys-will-be-boys sentimentality instead of the gore. I guess there are one or two genuine  chuckles  to be had, but much like it’s direct ancestor, Scooby Doo, the majority of it is just forced ,  corny  and worst of all non-frightening: when attacked by more than one female zombie, do exactly nothing, because they’ll all just start scratching each other’s eyes out over you, just like normal bloody women, eh fellas? Overall, the movie leaves a bitter taste in the mouth worse than all that black goop. If you only make it out to see one moronically sexist and embarrassing  Brit-horror movie this year….actually I wouldn’t bother seeing Lesbian Vampire Killers either, if I were you. Just rent a DVD of An American Werewolf in London, THAT manages to be damn funny AND damn scary, and best of all, not a Danny Dyer in sight.