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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 2. Crabtree Films.

Patrol MenLet’s start by saying that I know how hard it is to make a film in Britain. Financing from public funding bodies is often given out more on the basis of personal connections rather than talent or interesting ideas, private funding is even harder to obtain and genre films are still sneered at to a large extent. Shooting on a zero budget, with cash scraped together from various sources, favours called in and a largely unpaid cast and crew comes with it’s own issues. So to complete a feature film and get it released – that’s an achievement itself. I’m happy to cut people a bit of slack when they’ve struggled to make their movie.

None of that alters the fact that if a film is crap, it’s crap, whether it cost $10,000 or $100 million. And while you might indulge a student film’s amateur-hour style at private screenings, festivals etc, when the film is a commercial release you have to judge it with the same critical eye as you would anything else.

And so we come to Patrol Men, definitely at the no-budget end of things. A film apparently made by a pair of students (of whom more later) for a pittance, this is the story of a small British island where life is still run on feudal grounds, with the Mayor (Jonathon Hanslon) controlling the population with the Patrol Men of the title – a group of sinister figures in gasmasks who enforce a strict curfew on the residents. The excuse for this is the alleged murderer who is loose on the island, and who we see in an impressively moody opening sequence murdering what the credits refer to as a ‘topless chick’. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and it's all downhill from hereon in..

Schoolgirl Alex (Chloe Van Hardin) decides to investigate the story further after rebellious outsider Jess (Josh Golga) vanishes, and teams up with ridiculously foul-mouthed and angry token black youth Okie (Anthony Abuah) to find out the truth behind the legend and awaken the islanders to what is really going on.

Patrol Men Not that you’ll really give a damn how any of that turns out. The story grinds along slowly, and the acting ranges from poor to really poor, not helped by some painfully forced dialogue and one-dimensional characters. A sub-plot involving an off-island investigator and the local schoolteacher is crow-barred in and then thrown aside for no good reason, and Abuah – who seems to communicate mostly in variations of ‘fuck’ – is as unappealing a hero character as you’ll ever see. Van Hardin tries, but for the most part gives a flat, one-dimensional performance, though she's Award material compared to the guy playing her father. Only Hanslon, as the despotic Mayor, comes close to a full-blooded bit of acting.

Technically, the film is poor – the sound is all over the place, which is often the problem with amateur films, but increasingly less excusable given modern technology, and while I’d like to think the wobbly camerawork is a stylistic affectation, I suspect otherwise. The main problem though, is the pacing – or lack of it. This is a very slow film, and when things do happen, they are botched – the uprising against the Patrol men at the end is cringeworthy. And just why the soundtrack needs so many whiney songs is anyone’s guess.

It’s a shame, because there are some decent ideas – albeit ones that are cribbed from other movies like The Wicker Man and The Crazies – and the title characters are pretty sinister. But any interesting concepts here are buried beneath the shoddiness of the final film.

The only extra here is an interview with / by the two directors, David Campion and Ben Simpson, who come across as giggling indieboy hipsters and have a rambling chat about the apparently rubbish home movies that they’d previously made. If this is a step up, fair enough. But I’d suggest they have a lot to learn before they should be releasing films for the unsuspecting to buy while shopping in Asda.





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