Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paul Davis talks The Body, Him Indoors and more at Grimmfest 2013


Davis has had a long association with the genre world, and has made the transition from horror journalist to filmmaker through graft, as opposed to privilege. A one-time writer for HorrorHound Magazine, it was an extensive article which he wrote on the subject of An American Werewolf In London that led to the creation of Beware The Moon: Remembering 'An American Werewolf in London', a 2009 documentary which he wrote and directed. The amalgamation of his journalistic skills, such as structure and investigative development, combined with a natural flair for cinematic style and individualism as a filmmaker, left him wanting to step behind the camera once again.

In between acting roles (Davis makes occasional appearances as monsters, ghouls and masked killers, due to his early dramatic training and foreboding stature), his next project, Him Indoors, evolved into a gleefully violent short film, which was released in 2012. The delightful premise of an agoraphobic serial killer (Reese Shearsmith), pestered by a bubbly, but somewhat irritating neighbour (Pollyanna McIntosh), was incredibly well received on the festival circuit and had audiences asking when we would be seeing more from the exciting young director.

Thankfully, Davis is back with The Body, another short which utilises a similarly unique and wry concept, with which he hones and showcases his abilities even further.

To the sumptuous opening bars of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (Op.20), a camera pans across the silhouettes of the central London skyline upon a winter's night. A gently sweeping steadicam undulates in rhythmical simpatico, as the grandiose and lavish surroundings are revealed. An expensive and exquisitely furnished apartment is sailed through with ghost-like delicacy, as a continuous shot (lasting over a minute) introduces an immaculately dressed man standing at the bathroom mirror. The Man (Alfie Allen, whose character name is suggested, and eluded to but never confirmed), cleans a pair of expensive leather gloves, the obsidian shimmer echoing the coldness of his demeanour. His face is marked with blood, with which he regards with nothing more than a contented smirk.

A body lies downstairs underneath the piano and, as the man prepares to attend to his essential duties, the door rings. Clutching a knife behind him with all the gait and confidence of Patrick Bateman (a reference echoed by a character later on in the film), he approaches the door to be greeted by a babysitter (Paula Gilbert) who is accompanying three children (wearing the iconic Silver Shamrock masks seen in Halloween III: Season of the Witch) who are taking part in the traditional game of 'Trick or Treat', The Man verbally disposes of them in a hilariously sardonic manner and then the fun really gets underway.

It's Halloween and all of the spooks are out on the town. So too, is our murderer, as he attempts to dispose of a body amongst the cover of the festival. After all, what better time to choose? It all seems to be going relatively well (despite the cumbersome weight of the corpse), until a group of well-meaning friends claim to recognise the protagonist and manage to curtail him of his required solitude.

He is cajoled by Alan (Christian Brassington), Terry (Ben Matthews) and their feline friend (Evie Wray) to a party held by Jack Gordon, who has chosen to spend his evening dressed as Herbert West (Re-Animator). Enamoured by the body, the partygoers swoon around the stiffening cadaver and the dapper psychopath, who makes no qualms in vocalising the true nature of his actions. In classic farcical terms, even when Allen does admit to the fact that he is a killer and that he is disposing of a corpse, everyone thinks it's all part of the act. As more people become involved and arrangements are made to meet up after the party, it looks as if the evening may not be going as easily as initially planned and that getting rid of this body might take a considerably greater amount of effort than was factored in from the beginning.

With a wit as sharp as the protagonist's blade, The Body is a testament to the amount which can be achieved within a 20 minute structure. Playful, gruesome and knowing of tone, this only serves to further accentuate the fact that Davis is destined to make high quality features. Easter Egg style references exist on the periphery of the film, without ever distracting from the story. Nice touches, such as the barmaid at the Halloween bash sporting the same makeup as the 'Great party isn't it?' character from The Shining, showcase the subtle permeation of Davis' encyclopaedic horror knowledge within the film.

With crisp, professional tonal work, warranting a special mention for Eben Bolter's exceptional cinematography (the camera, at times, glides through the London streets, providing a wonderful feeling of being a central part of the developments), as well as Houmam Abdallah's colour work. Colin J. Smith's visual effects, combined with John Schoonraad's (Rambo, Kick Ass) prosthetics team work wonderfully, with the gore held back until pivotal moments, and delivered with strength and capability when necessary. It was also a surprise to see that ex-Fall of Efrafa (the world's finest Watership Down based post hardcore band) frontman, and current Cryptozoologcal Artist Alex CF was also involved as an assistant art director. Davis makes the most of his crew to solidify a unique central idea and deliver it in a very disciplined and professional manner.

The original music in the short is provided by Osymyso, a London based DJ who has worked with Chris Morris (Jam, Four Lions) and Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaune of the Dead). This adds an extra facet of authenticity to the club segments, and the electro Munsters surf groove of the closing credits is as infectious as the laughter generated by the final scenes.

Hannah Tointon is delightful, and Allen is superb as the opportunistic psychopath. The Body is like a fabulous first act to a movie, which leaves a slight twinge of disappointment when it ends, for more is desired, nay, needed from this collective pool of fresh genre talent.

As it has just embarked on what will, undoubtedly, be a long and successful bout of festival screenings, make sure that you take up the opportunity to see The Body when it gets dragged through a city centre near you.



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