The Living And The Dead DVD review

Jenny checks out a psychological horror film that's short on horror but big on emotional impact...

Poignant, moving...and a bit confusing.

The thought of a horror film involving Trigger from Only Fools And Horses didn’t fill me with anticipation – or rather it did, but anticipating all the wrong things. I’d make some more jokes about Delboy, Peckham et al but it would be a waste of words. Let’s put it the only way I can think of: this film is extraordinary.

The basic premise is that down-on-his-luck Lord Brocklebank goes off to London on the search of money to pay for treatment for his terminally-ill wife; leaving her with his mentally ill adult son, James, and the promise of a nurse looking after her. James, however, decides that he would be better off doing that job and locks everyone out of the house. Completely unable to care for himself, let alone anyone else, he gradually becomes more panicked and delusional until both of their lives are at risk.

I read in another review that this film was one of the very few that managed to induce the same effect as suffering a personal tragedy. Having also read that Creep was scary I have never been one for believing anything in quotation marks.

But it was absolutely spot-on. I could see what was coming a mile off (the plot is hardly challenging) and yet after thirty minutes I had tears rolling down my face. The sheer frustration at watching such misguided incompetence, and yet knowing that you don’t have to be a psychiatry out-patient to act in just the same way, is as sharp as the knives being waved around. But if you’re expecting an entertaining, silly, man-in-scary-mask-hiding-in-dark-corners slasher flick, you’re not going to find it here.

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There are some moments which are, sadly, frustrating for other reasons. There is an overriding sense that Simon Rumley has perhaps watched a little too much of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting – not that the films are obviously referenced, but certain parts have an aura of, “Ooh, are we back in 1996?”.

The music and camera work used to signify James’s thought processes are completely out of place and should never have made the final edit. And while the confusion of not quite knowing what’s just happened nods to the likes of A Tale of Two Sisters, I wasn’t entirely happy that it was ‘good’ writing as opposed to just ‘confusing’. The sequence with the operating table was, frankly, pretty unlikely.

However, any comparison with Two Sisters can only be a good thing, and I didn’t want to go back and re-watch any of it for fear of crying again. Yes, there’s a bit of gore. There are even men in dark corners. But horror? Not in the way we think of the genre now.

4 stars

The Living And The Dead is released on 19th May 2008, rrp £9.99.


4 out of 5