Ginger Nuts of Horror
It’s about a million degrees outside (slight exaggeration) but I don’t care as I slip into my Tuxedo for the film premiere of K-Shop. I’m excited to see this Sweeney Todd inspired film set in a Kebab Shop ever since my lawyer sent me the trailer and made the introductions to the filmmakers. This, I thought having watched the trailer, is my kind of film. Or at least the trailer was my kind of film.
Before I go into the film itself, just a point I would like to point out: If you are organising your own film premiere and make it black tie - at least have the decency to get all of the people involved in the film to show up in such attire. Having people swan around in jeans etc just annoys those who stuck to the rules. But that’s by the by and this is a film review not a lesson in etiquette.
So - was K-Shop any good? The simple answer is “no” but that would be unfair to the filmmakers. There is clear talent involved in this project. Dan Pringle directs with a solid eye for sure but he also wrote the project and - according to the credits - edited the movie too. Had he given the film to someone else to edit they might have seen the glaring issue with the film and that was the pacing and even the trailer itself. To understand what I mean, though, you need to know what the film is about so here (taken from IMDB) is the blurb:
K-Shop is a gritty urban Sweeney Todd inspired horror set in a British Kebab Shop plagued by binge drinking culture. After his father is killed in an altercation with drunken thugs, Salah's fate is sealed in a fight with an angry customer. With a dead body on his hands the novice kebab shop owner turns vigilante disposing of the body in the one place he knows best...the kebabs. Salah watches gullible customers devour the new flesh kebabs and seizes the opportunity to seek revenge on abusive drunken binge drinkers, killing off those he deems punishable.
On IMDB the film is billed as a thriller and - having watched it - I can say that it does fall into the thriller market quite well. The trailer does not show K-Shop to be a thriller. The trailer shows us a horror film. The two markets are completely different. I went expecting a horror (having seen the trailer) and got a thriller which, due to pacing issues, I found frustrating and dull. What makes it more frustrating is that this could have been rectified a long time before any of us got to see the film. For instance, there is a long drawn out scene whereby Salah follows a drug dealer (sub plot: he decides to stop killing drunken folk and go after the town’s crime lord instead zzzzzzzz). They have a fight, the dealer gets away and runs into a hotel. Salah decides to follow him. Now, just before he kicks the guy’s door down, the hotel manager warns him not to. She then invites him to her office, cracks open a drink and they chat. We find out she served in the forces and can speak Turkish and blah blah blah. On two other occasions she shows up in the film for a chat but she is a bland character, the scenes are dull and they serve zero purpose to the film. Oh - and to be pedantic - if you do keep the scenes in, at least sort the grammar out in the subtitled scenes. It isn’t “dont” it’s “don’t”. Cut all of this out and you’d be left with a film that was closer to one and a half hours instead of the overly long running time of 2 hours. The pacing would also be better too. Honestly I can see zero point of her being in the film and - chatting with others as we left - I wasn’t the only one. And whilst you’re there with the scissors, making those cuts, trim some of the excessive footage of people vomiting in the streets, pissing against walls, fucking and getting into fights. We get it - there’s a binge-drinking problem. No need to ram it down our throats every five minutes as though to justify the character’s actions.
Another small gripe for me was each section of the film having little numbered title sequences. For example the screen would go black and a title would pop up saying 1. A hero born (not actual title). But, for some reason, each section is something weird like “1.2” or “7.1” - again, this is just me being fussy but what’s wrong with “1” and “2” and onwards and upwards?
Anyway, like I said earlier, it isn’t all bad. Dan’s directing is great. Given half the chance I would work with him, letting him loose with confidence on projects of my own. His writing isn’t bad, it just needs tightening up, there are some great black comedy moments and he’s done well to sell the film - no doubt helped by the tight trailer although I’m not sure if that will come back and bite him on the butt at some point as more horror fans (such as myself) go to watch the film only to come away miffed that they didn’t actually get much horror. With regards to the horror itself - there isn’t much of it at all. There are a few deaths but none of them are as brutal as the first one. Now, before I go any further, I just want to point out I hate gore for the sake of it but - by the time the first death occurs - I am expecting a proper horror film and it has been set up beautifully with the story. Story, along with gore, makes a horror film (if you’re making one of those horrors, but we all know you don’t necessarily need gore to make a horror). If you have a horror with zero plot and buckets of gore it gets boring. Anyway, like I said, the story had been set up and now we were having some gore. At this point, I didn’t realise it was a thriller. So, I saw the first death and thought, ‘Ooh we have something special here.’ The effects were amazing for an independent film and people around me were looking away as the body was getting turned into a kebab. I just laughed. I love this sort of reaction from the audience. But… this was as bad as it was going to get. The other scenes were over quickly with more or less the same techniques used. Nothing new was brought to the table, so to speak, and worse than that - they weren’t as good as the first one. It all felt a bit of a let down much like Eli Roth’s Green Inferno. For those who haven’t seen that, one of the characters gets a brutal death, at the hands of the cannibals, early on in the film and the rest - boring in comparison. Go back a few years to Roth’s Hostel and we built up to the climatic gore as opposed to showing everyone right at the start just to get it out of the way with. It’s not a great way of keeping an audience interested.
Moving onto the acting. For an independent film with a bunch of people I’ve never heard of before, it was okay. The lead bad guy (played by Scot Williams) was a proper asshole, as he should have been, and for the most part Ziad Abaza did a good job playing the Kebab shop owner although, on more than one occasion, he did ham it up a bit too much. Kebab shop… Ham it up… Get it? Oh whatever. At times he reminded me of Christian Bale playing Patrick Bateman from American Psycho but not in a good way. Remember the crazed phone call of Patrick to his lawyer stating that he just had to kill a lot of people? The emotion, the insanity… He nailed it. Here we have Ziad making a pretend phone call to the police having committed his first murder. We don’t have emotion, we don’t have insanity - we have dodgy, almost laughable (not in a good way) acting. When it got to the end of the film I couldn’t give a monkeys what happened to his character but is that Ziad’s fault? No - that would be down to the writing. It’s a shame because - when his father died - I did actually care about the main character. I just got turned off from him as the film dragged on and not because he was a mental case (you have to be mental to cut people up, right?). I cared what happened to Michael Douglas in Falling Down and he was murdering people. I cared what happened to Robert De Niro in Heat and - take the inspiration of the film - I even cared what happened to Sweeney Todd! The point being, you can have bad guys in films and still have an audience warm to them with good, solid writing and strong performances.
I am disappointed with the film for many reasons but I am impressed with how well put together it was for an independent movie, like I said earlier. There is clear talent involved and - with a good edit - this film could be something really good. Without the edit though, I think it’s a bit of a mess. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, it’s overly long and they’re in danger of marketing it to the wrong crowd and yet - I find myself rooting for them. It’s great that they’ve made the film, it’s great they got it financed through various private investors and I am honestly happy that Dan Pringle has seen his dream through to the end. I hope that my view point of the film is in the minority and I wish them nothing but the best but - for me - I was a frustrated movie-goer.
Extreme Horror Author