Tuesday 14 June 2016

The Snarling (UK 2016: Dir Pablo Raybould)

'The funniest werewolf zom-com you'll never see' is hardly the catchiest promotional line for a film, but in the case of The Snarling, outside of seeing it on the festival circuit it's probably true. Pablo Raybould's debut movie is ragged round the edges, energetic and very funny in a gormless clowning around way. However it's also got rather a lot of uncleared product placement, which would have lorry-loads of lawyers baying for blood the moment the film came anywhere near a production deal.

The Snarling is also only ostensibly a horror film. Most of it is an extended cinematic paean to how rubbish blokes can be, with a rather tacked on werewolf plot and some police procedural stuff. But it is laugh out loud funny, if you're in the mood for unsophisticated comedy.

Greg Lupeen, 'star of over 17 films and the voice of chunky cut crisps', is the actor of the moment, here filming a zombie movie, complete with moaning extras and a harassed production crew. Lupeen's diva-ish ways and treatment of his colleagues is threatening the whole production, already plagued by the disappearance of one or two of the crew under strange circumstances.

The Bromsgrove Three Stooges
Elsewhere in town we meet Mike, Bob and Les, a Bromsgrove Three Stooges who spend most of their time propping up the bar in their local and indulging in the kind of banter that gives the word a bad name. Chief among these is twit-of-the-week Les, who we discover is a dead ringer for Lupeen, which comes in useful when the movie production team get tired of Greg's antics and engineer a quick swap with his lookalike. And it comes in extra handy when Lupeen is fatally incapacitated via a sausage and spotlight accident, and Les is moved to centre stage, with his compadres signing up as zombie extras.

Meanwhile the local police, who consist of a constantly-hungry Detective Inspector (Raybould himself) and his twerp of a sidekick Haskins, very slowly work out that the murders might be carried out by a werewolf. But who could it be? The range of possible suspects brings to mind the 1974 werewolf whodunnit The Beast Must Die, and that's just one of a number of films lampooned in The Snarling - it won't surprise readers that there are also very heavy copyright-infringement strength nods to John Landis's 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London. 

But it's the constant barrage of one liners that keep this one going, as well as the sprightly comic playing by Laurence Sanders, Ben Manning and Chris Simmons as the hapless trio of Les, Bob and Mike (with Sanders doubling up as Lupeen). Mention also should go to Pablo Raybould and Ste Johnston as the incompetent police team. Oddest casting is probably Julie (1983's House of the Long Shadows) Peasgood, showing up as a rather unconvincing ball busting producer and proving that being a friend of the director can have its uses. There's also a bit part for Julia Deakin as a reporter, in honour of her casting in Edgar Wright's 2004 movie Shaun of the Dead, another stylistic influence on this film.

I use this phrase a lot in reviewing, but The Snarling won't be for everyone. It's somewhat shambolically made, and some of the scenes go on far too long - I couldn't work out whether this was intentional in a Mike Myers way - and the relentless gaggery is also a bit exhausting. But you have to give it points for enthusiasm. Comedy horror is hard to get right, and if The Snarling is only remembered for a handful of decent setups then that's more than you can say of many movies that I've sat through recently. Finger in the car park, anyone?

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