Monday, 19 October 2015

MAYHEM FILM FESTIVAL - AAAAAAAAH! review

Written and directed by Sightseers' Steve Oram, Aaaaaaaah! screened at this weekend's Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham and is now available on VOD.


Mourning the loss of his previous relationship, Smith (Steve Oram) sets out in search of a new companion, finding one in the home of Toyah Willcox and her daughter; but first, there's another alpha male who needs to be taken out of the picture in the form of Julian Rhind-Tutt's Ryan. Although at first it may sound like this is a family drama, this world is David Attenborough by way of Chris Morris, and character's have skipped an evolutionary step and can only communicate through ape-like grunts and grand displays of dominance.

Oram is perhaps best known for starring in and co-writing Ben Wheatley's film Sightseers, which had a great script full of witticisms and dark, well observed humour. It's fair to say that Aaaaaaaah! is something completely different to that. In fact, Aaaaaaaah! is completely different to anything that's ever been put on the big screen. For his directorial debut he's thrown out the rule book along with the script (apparently an 11th hour decision to bin the dialogue lead to this film's most defining characteristic) to deliver this surreal, bizarre and vulgar nightmare vision that will subvert expectations, to say the least.

Exhibiting animalistic behaviour, characters mark their territory by peeing on fridge doors and throwing sugar down Toyah's cleavage. Two of the characters are caught shoplifting by Noel Fielding's shopkeeper, leading to a disgusting but hilarious act that would have seen Oram locked up in the Tower of London a couple of hundred years ago. Aaaaaaaah! (always with 8a's, 1 h and an exclamation point) is fucking weird.

It brings to mind that audiovisual experiment where if you show an audience a scene of someone laughing, it's their instinct to laugh along with them. This is a curious film that generates a similar response, generating real audience interaction and vocalisation, either through laughter, approving (and disapproving) murmurs and even gasps of disgust. I wouldn't be surprised if some audience members let out a primal scream by the end of it. This is a film that should only be watched with a group of friends, if only so there'll be someone else to back up your story when you tell people what you've just seen.

With Oram's reputation high after the success of Sightseers and a cast filled with Mighty Boosh stars, it will certainly appeal to fans of a certain style of alternative comedy, but not many others. It's undeniably raw, with some amateurish filmmaking at times (there are numerous instances of the boom mike visible in reflections and shadows) and the unshakeable feeling that this premise would have been better suited to a short sketch.

Under any sort of close examination the world they occupy makes absolutely no sense, and any satirical targets give way to more absurdist humour, but the cast really do give it their all, with Toyah Willcox and Julian's Barrett and Rhind-Tutt all giving good grunt and embrace the physical challenges of their roles. However, try as I might, in attempting to accurately describe what Steve Oram's Aaaaaaaah! is, I'm struggling to find the words.

Verdict

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