Monday, April 28, 2014

Dead Frequency – review

Director: Rob Burrows

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

I feel incredibly mean. Dead Frequency is an independent movie (with all the issues that can carry with it) and director Rob Burrows was specific in mentioning that it was a comedy and not a horror, when he made the screener, which I had asked for, available to me.

Now, personally I would not be too concerned that a vampire film is a comedy rather than a horror – after all there are plenty of vampire comedies out there, ranging from hilarious to atrocious. I would, of course, have to bear in mind that comedy is very subjective and – as such – what tickles one person does not tickle another. Dead Frequency did not tickle me at all, I’m afraid.

Stephen Mason as Sam
The film is set in Newcastle – something I liked – and starts off in a radio station as night DJ Sam (Stephen Mason) is holding a dial in, where a woman (in London) is telling him about pigeons in the loft. She has phoned in because he and she share a trait she won’t mention. Meanwhile new station manager Diane (Faye Ormston) is getting ready for work. She complains to boyfriend Roger (George Collings) that there is something wrong with the kids in the station. He would seem to be a loan shark (though he is simply described as a debt collector later).

Sam and Emily
Wayne (Robin Bayne), a radio technician, complains about staying behind and covering some of the day shift – the sun gives him a headache. Sam and friend Emily (Michaela Marshall) are reminded about a meeting with Diane, but they leave anyway. When they get to the building that they (and Wayne) all live in Emily suggests to Sam that he spend the day with her. He refuses and she states she knows he loves her. It ends with him in his room sobbing and smashing an empty bottle as she walks the streets of Newcastle barefoot in the rain.

Jenny and Kevin
Here is one of the problems. The reactions seemed too extreme and overtly angst filled and the montage over a ballad felt out of place within something billed as a comedy (there is another ballad scene later and both could do with complete expulsion from the movie). Even if you wanted to keep these scenes in we don’t know enough about the characters to actually care at this point. The film less builds and more implants a love triangle between Emily, Sam and Sam’s ex-wife Jenny (Cheryl Moody). However it is clear that everyone, including Jenny’s new husband Kevin (Simon Hodgson), already know each other’s denied feelings and it seems somewhat pointless.

chow time
Anyway, Dianne is a complete neurotic, it seems, but she is also part of a hunter organisation (that acts like an arm of the police) and is undercover trying to expose Wayne, Sam and Emily as vampires. Jenny is also a vampire – apparently Kevin is not but is aware of their nature. Things take a turn for the worse when Emily loses control and chows on Dianne, turning her into a vampire – and a horny alcoholic apparently. There is slapstick humour en route with Roger and his heavies, who are unable to physically best Wayne or Emily. It wasn’t very funny (or particularly convincing within the fight choreography - when we actually see a fight).

Here lies the hub of the problem. The acting, in the main, was amateurish – a group of hoodies planning an attack on an old lady displayed some of the worse dialogue delivery I have heard in a long time. The trouble, of course, is that comedy is often about timing and that is a specific skillset that I didn’t really see. I did think Stephen Mason came across as very personable – especially in the DJ scenes – and Cheryl Moody wasn’t too bad either. The story seemed shoehorned into place, rather than organically building. The idea of a group of vampires living in plain sight, assimilated into society but still hunted works (even if it seems a tad Being Human). However they were never properly hunted and the film, when it winds to its conclusion, felt more like a prologue than a feature.

seductive powers at work
The vampires are blood drinkers and flesh eaters – they tend to eat raw cow’s liver and, occasionally, suckle a rat. The attack on Diane, it seemed, wasn’t guaranteed to turn her. They are apparently very strong, can move super quick, have seductive mesmeric powers and other powers were hinted at. They are apparently endangered by silver bullets, fire and mobs – but not sunlight, as mentioned earlier. The vampirism took a long time to emerge in film and when it did we got a one minute scene of a lodger who was human obviously knowing that Jenny is a vampire and Sam’s worry about this but nothing done with the character or scene. Like the caller at the head of the film (who I assume was a vampire in London) she is simply forgotten and that was sloppy within the script.

Diane and Wayne
There was a potential here and I desperately wanted to like the film. But its comedy was unfunny (though that is subjective), its pathos misplaced, the ballad scenes stomach churning (quite frankly) and opportunities were missed. 2 out of 10 but note a re-edit that simply removes the ballads and the hoodies scenes would probably up the mark.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: