Wednesday, 30 March 2011



I'll be honest: apart from the questionable delights of Shark Attack II, I don't know what kind of horror movie industry South Africa has. I know that back in the 80s there was trouble over something called Hellgate, shot there during the apartheid era (if memory serves, some people refused to work on it because of the location, and one of those people may have been FX legend Bob Keen). We don't get many South African films anyway, which is a shame because it's a beautiful country.

We have had The Unforgiving, though, and this might explain why we don't get them very often, because it's sadly not very good. It's a needlessly overcomplicated tale of revenge that seems in its early stages to riff on Saw, as a bloke wakes up in an abandoned building chained to a breeze block, and is periodically beaten unconscious by a wordless maniac in a gas mask. He would appear to be one of only two survivors of a local serial killer known as the Butcher Of Route 106, the other being a girl recovering from heroin addiction. But as the two are questioned by a police officer, it emerges that either, or both, might be lying....

It's all told in flashback from both points of view, intercut with their police interrogations, with a deliberate obfuscation of the timeline. Sadly, the whole film, even the dialogue scenes, is filmed in that damnable fast-shutter strobe style, hand held, with the result that it's not only narratively but visually difficult to follow. You almost end up shouting at the cinematographer to go and buy a tripod and to read the user's instruction manual for the camera, as some action sequences descend into the unwatchable. And between every scene is a seven-second blank space which a couple of times led me to wonder whether my TV had gone phut.

Certainly it's violent, although it appears to mainly consist of people being beaten unconscious, coming to covered in blood, and being beaten unconscious again. That's a plot line I could happily watch in Last Of The Summer Wine but not in a horror movie (although I did start to wonder how many times you could do this before they either died or suffered brain damage). At several points I lost all track of the narrative which was too convoluted for its own good and frankly I wasn't interested enough to bother to try and pick it up again (or maybe I'm just thick) and I didn't buy the maniac's rationale. Yes, it's low budget - two locations, four speaking parts - but it still needs to be better, and crucially better shot, than this. At just 75 minutes it's mercifully short, but in truth that's all it has going for it. Pity.



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