July 3, 2011

Heartless  (Blue-ray Review)

Director: Philip Ridley | Runtime: 114 minutes

By Dan Collacott

British cinema seems to have a unhealthy fascination with gang culture and hoodies, from Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood and Adulthood, to Eden Lake, Harry Brown and Shank to name just a few. As if gangs of knife wielding teenagers with hoodies and ill-fitting trousers weren’t scary enough, directors and writers are now delighting in making them even more messed up!

But before Attack the Block brought gangs cussing and happy slapping their way into the horror genre, Philip Ridley’s Heartless had already ramped up the fear factor to grave new heights.

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a young photographer with a heart shaped birthmark-covering part of his face and body. Haunted by his affliction and the demons that stalk him, Jamie is given the opportunity to change his life. But in order to make his dreams come true he has to make a pact with the mysterious Papa B (Joseph Mawie). But this new life comes at bloody and murderous cost!

The film’s tone is dark and tragic but thankfully doesn’t lean too heavily on the ‘beauty is skin deep’ riff.  You will find it impossible not to empathise with Jamie’s unfortunate character and his struggle to be normal, whilst the feral hoodies who torment and tear the soul from his life - add an element of suspense and fear to proceedings.

The film is beautifully shot with an excellent supporting cast featuring Noel Clarke, Luke Treadway and even a cameo from Brit veteran Timothy Spall. The screenplay violently twists reality and perception, providing a fractured supernatural perspective on gang culture. But to dismiss this film as just a low budget horror would do it a great injustice, it has a surprisingly touching heart to it and plenty of different layers and ideas to delve through. Granted the plot has a formulaic 'pact with the devil' type core and some of the sentimentality is a bit misplaced amongst the wealth of ideas, but the overall concept is original and the film very moving and engaging.

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