Our last bit of Raindance review coverage comes from a seemingly one-take British thriller about how some people can never run away from their secrets.
Ah, the one-take film an odd little form of filmmaking which rears its head every now and then. While previously they haven’t quite managed to maintain the illusion of the camera running for the whole adventure – Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope in particular literally zooms into black every now and then to end a take for instance – thanks to technological advances, it’s now getting harder and harder to see where the cuts are, with horror film The Silent House earlier this year being a particularly strong example of how to make everything flow seamlessly. Writer/director/editor David Bryant has a go with this ultra low-budget effort Victims, shot over three days for the princely sum of £1500, with the film having played at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal as well as others before hitting Raindance.
A man credited in the film as The Groom (John Bocelli) is kidnapped and bundled into a van on the day of his wedding. The two lead kidnappers Green (Sarah Coyle) and Blue (Andy Cresswell) inform him of why he’s been taken; they believe him to be a man who did some very bad things when he was a pre-teen and has now created a new life for himself, something The Groom strongly denies. As the film goes on in real-time, the parties go back and forth debating whether he is who he says he is and if he is or isn’t, how justified are the kidnappers in doing what they are doing in the first place?
The most interesting thing for me with Victims is that despite it being somewhat showy in its way of using this “one-take” approach, the film itself never really feels like a calling card. Other films of this ilk, such as the aforementioned The Silent House and also the recently released Kidnapped, both feel like they are works from directors who are trying to show off, trying to show that they can do something on a bigger scale if given the chance. That’s not to say that Bryant couldn’t, but Victims does justify the one-take, it never feels artificial and instead it does what films with this kind of experimentation in the filming should actually do, in that it constantly informs the story. I will say though that as with all films of this kind, the aspect of trying to spot where the cuts occur does distract at times and maybe takes away slightly from the impact of the story. That’s not really a fault of the filmmakers though, that’s just something that will always happen I think.
The central crux of the plot is also very well handled within the film. The “is he/isn’t he” aspect of the story is an involving one and is certainly effective in making your sympathies switch between different parties at different times. Other things do happen and other characters do get involved though and this is a good thing. The first half of the film takes place in a van and the verbal sparring is just starting to tire a little when there are plot developments, but it feels like David Bryant knows this by switching things up, resulting in a film where I genuinely couldn’t tell exactly how it was going to end throughout.
There are problems however. For me, some of the writing is a little blunt. The idea of “who is the real victim?” is a good one but some of the dialogue rather spells this out a little too clearly and the tendency to have Green sustain monologues telling us exactly what is in her head at that given time is not as effective as a lot of the other material in the film, and these are pieces which many higher-paid actors would struggle with and I feel if they had a bit more time, Sarah Coyle may have been able to iron out the creases and make the dialogue flow a little better. I did enjoy her constant “I know I’m right” position and just how strong her character is though, it’s a decent co-lead performance and all the better considering 99.9% of the role is played under a ski-mask. Dave Bocelli as The Groom was also very strong. Having to go through a wide range of emotions, he managed to convince throughout and never fell into the more histrionic holes which many actors in this role may have. Be he quiet, shouting, angry or crying, he gives solid material throughout.
Victims is an impressively staged and well handled Britflick, which while not being perfect remained a pretty damn striking effort throughout, with a gripping plot and some impressive technological attributes. It’s one which should play well on a big screen and is certainly worth a go for anyone looking for something hard-hitting.
Screens Fri 7th, 12:00