Lamentable comedy horror hybrid with comically wooden performances from Winstones Ray and Jaime.
Ray Winstone is not the sort of man you want to upset. Partly because he’s a brilliant and highly respected actor and partly because he could knock you out just by looking at you. Criticising a person's child is probably the quickest way of getting on their bad side, so the following words are typed with some trepidation. But here goes: Jaime Winstone cannot act.
Not if the lamentable Elfie Hopkins is anything to go by. It’s a comedy horror hybrid about a family of cannibals, so a certain degree of camp acting is part of the pleasure. But Ms Winstone, who essays the eponymous heroine, delivers every line with a dreary, single-note intonation. Her father must be aware of the problem – he’s an executive producer with a cameo role in the film.
Elfie Hopkins is a surly, permanently stoned teenager who lives in a quiet Welsh village with her father and much-to-be-pitied stepmother. When the Gammons – a cheap British knock-off of the Addams Family – move in next door, Elfie is initially charmed by them. But when local people start disappearing, Elfie turns amateur sleuth. With the help of her wildly clichéd, geek-boy best friend (Aneurin Barnard), she discovers that the Gammons are eating the neighbours.
It’s not just Winstone Jr who gives a comically wooden performance. All of the characters are hammed up to the point that many of the scenes descend into an unintentional pantomime. Only Rupert Evans manages to be genuinely compelling as the dangerously seductive Gammon father. Aneurin Barnard was electrifying as a young David Bailey in the recent BBC drama We’ll Take Manhattan, though here he is instantly forgettable.
It’s Ryan Andrews’ first feature film and he’s piled it high with cinematic references. He aims to evoke the provincial charm of Miss Marple, the deliciously ironic dialogue of Brick and the blood-splattered thrills of a gaudy B-horror. You so want him to pull it off, but most of the time you’d just rather watch the movies he’s been watching.
You catch glimpses of the film that Andrews was trying to make. There’s a scene where Mr Gammon is tenderly slicing up a corpse, with the severed head propped beside him and the children snacking on the dead girl’s fingers. An eerie waltz that sounds just like the Midsomer Murders theme tune is playing in the background, and for that small moment the film hits exactly the right note: dark and silly and disturbing all at once. Maybe next time Andrews will manage to formulate an entire melody.
The poster might be hysterically bad but this could be a delightfully dark humoured cult movie.
There are moments when even the actors seem embarrassed to be there.
Bad performances are quite endearing from a distance.