Do you remember that running joke in the Austin Powers films where a series of connecting scenes would begin and end with a synonym for genitalia? Sure, it was mildly funny and catered towards a certain audience but Myers was smart enough to not overuse it and make sure it existed as a self contained gag. The fact that this running joke is used to link together almost every scene of new British comedy horror (emphasis on the “comedy”) The Snarling is a good indicator of what audiences can expect to find in this film, along with a smattering of inoffensive gay jokes, an abundance of puns and a treasure trove of dad humour.
Set in the desolate woodland of the West Midlands, The Snarling follows three friends, Les, Mike and Bob, as their sleepy lives are interrupted by the arrival of a zombie film shoot. As Les is continually mistaken for the lead actor on set, a series of grisly animal killings rock the local township whilst the inept authorities attempt to piece everything together and prevent any more deaths. The film doesn’t ever portray itself as high brow filmmaking and wears its influences on its blood soaked sleeve, but unfortunately enthusiasm and self awareness don’t necessarily make for a good, or even average film.
Anyone who has seen the Cornetto Trilogy will immediately recognise the knock-on effect Edgar Wright’s visual motifs on full display throughout The Snarling. From the banter-filled dialogue between post-adolescent males through to the controlled chaos of the editing style, it has the essence of a parody film, one that parrots established classics like Shaun of the Dead without coming anywhere close to the style and hypnotic energy that more polished films of that ilk provide. Of course, Pablo Raybould’s film is attempting to re-create this energy on a mere fraction of the budget that even those independent features had to work with so one cannot be too critical in this regard.
Of course, when the schoolyard humour comes as thick and fast as an eighties comedy on cocaine, some are bound to hit home occasionally. The little worthwhile material that is given to Ste Johnston, admirably hamming everything up as the clueless but well-meaning policeman Haskins as he continually deals with severed limbs and his equally hapless sergeant, come across well, whilst the final fate of the monster is a rare touch of intelligent screenwriting in an otherwise pale imitation. Nevertheless, if your sense of humour finds you drawn towards crass wordplay and playful references, there’s no doubt Raybould’s film will have you laughing out loud, as many did in the cinema during this particular festival screening.
When a film is so eager to make people laugh, it can sometimes be even more of a shame when those jokes don’t quite work. This particular comedy could benefit more by leaving its influences behind and easing off a little bit on the humour in order to create an effective atmosphere. Horror parody is difficult to achieve at the best of times (giallo love-letter The Editor is a good example of this done adequately) but when you imitate a titan of this genre so closely, comparisons are inevitably going to be less than complimentary. There is honour in such micro-budget filmmaking and the filmmakers should be proud of their achievements here but that doesn’t excuse the fact that The Snarling, is an overwritten, occasionally banal, disappointment.
The Snarling screened at Derby QUAD on Thursday 5th May 2016 as part of Derby Film Festival in conjunction with Fantastique. More information on the festival and QUAD can be found here. More information on Fantastique can be found here