Just when it seems that the batteries have finally run out on the found footage genre, along comes a film that reinvigorates this much maligned genre. Shopping Tour, from the famous Russian film critic Mikhail Brashinsky, takes a wry look at the slow influx of Western commercialisation of the Russian way of thinking, while taking a sideways pop at the so called perfect way of life offered to the people of Finland.
A mother and her son are on an organised shopping trip from Russia to Finland, both are reeling from the death of the father of the family. Their relationship, much like that between Russia and the rest of the world,is strained at the best they are constantly chipping away at each other, always uneasy in each others company, it is clear that there has been a lot of water under the bridge between them. They keep secrets, she secretly smokes, he slinks of and drinks beer. The source of the strained relationship is never fully disclosed, could it be the secret life of the mother, that is merely alluded to, a life from which it seems the father rescued her from. It is never fully explained, which really doesn't matter as this isn't the focus of the film.
When the tour bus reaches a brand new shopping centre that promises all of the shiny things that our Russians, according to this film, so desperately desire all at discount prices, we soon find out the real price that the Russians will have to pay is a far greater one than money alone.
For this is a special night, as part of the Finnish Midsummer festivities it is the night when all Finnish people must consume the flesh of an alien. So it is that long until a clean up in aisle three is needed as the staff of the shopping mall start to munch on the trapped Russians.
The mother and son escape, but they have no idea what has just happened, they are so confused and shocked they even think that they might have been attacked by a group of vampires. Even after another attack in a roadside diner they are still not aware of what is really happening. So when they meet a couple of Finish Police officers they think they are saved.
Sadly they aren't and they soon find themselves locked up in jail awaiting the arrival of the captain and his friends who will take the pair on a special picnic. It is here that they find out what is really going on thanks the occupant of the cell next to them. The unseen prisoner is an Algerian imprisoned after his wife, who had managed to hide him from the yearly feasts has died. Now alone he has also fallen pray to the hungry Fins. The unnamed Algerian serves a a bit of light comic relief and the films main exposition point. It is here that we also learn that there is a get out clause for any foreigner who finds themselves trapped in Finland, whereby any foreigner who eats the flesh of a native Fin, they become unsavoury to the rest of the population. It really is a case of eat or be eaten.
The mother and son are then taken to nice sunny spot for a bit of a picnic, pity they are the entree, and pudding. It is here that we are introduced to the Captain, who with a gloriously over the top speech informs us why Finland is the greatest country in the world. In fact the Fins are so happy it is not uncommon for them to commit suicide from the sheer power of happiness and the warm glow inside.
They escape and find themselves holding out for the final hours of the day to go by, it is here that they face the ultimate moral choice.
Shopping Tour is triumph of film making and story telling, for once the trappings of the found footage genre helps the film to make rather than hinders it, even when the film breaks the conventions and limitations of presenting a film that has been recorded from a first person perspective on a mobile phone, with a long telephoto zoom out shout, there isn't a sense of breakdown of the narrative. This shot emphasises the feeling of disenfranchisement and capitalistic burn out. This film takes a wonderful look at the obsession of materialistic game, not since Dawn of The Dead has a horror film been so full of subtext and cutting swipes at our Western way of life. Abled by sublime performances from all of the main cast Shopping Tour provides a frank and honest look at human greed and national fanaticism. The mix of social and political commentary,horror and comedy is perfect, this is a film that will shock you as much as it entertains you and opens your eyes to some broad stroke viewpoints.
Yes the film is full of shaky cam shots, but the budgetary restraints of the film for once help to invest the viewer in the experience, and unlike other more recent examples, yes I am talking to you Hooked Up, has you rooting for the protagonists rather than hoping that they die a quick death. Once you are invested in this film you will be entranced by its brutal honest and simplistic execution.
To paraphrase a famous UK shop's advertising strap, "this is not just a horror film, it is film with added value"
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