Sunday, 6 March 2016

Aaaaaaaah!

In a world dominated by reboots, remakes, sequels and comic book adaptations, it’s difficult to find something fresh, different and new. Finding something fresh is one thing, but finding something we’ve never seen before is a near-impossible task. Well, Steve Oram – co-writer/actor, Sightseers – has brought us just that with the simply titled Aaaaaaaah!


Out now on DVD & Blu-ray, Aaaaaaaah! is a remarkably original piece of work. Taking place in contemporary London, the film shows what life would be like if humans behaved like wild apes – living in a modern society. So despite living in houses, wearing clothes and having technology, these ape-like humans don’t speak one word of English – they simply grunt and screech at one another. And yet, despite not having any ‘dialogue’ as such, we can follow the film’s bizarre narrative. Steve Oram and Tom Meeten play Smith and Keith, whose paths cross with a family of other humanoid apes led by Ryan (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and Barabara (Toyah Willcox). Ryan is the alpha male of the group, having banished the former leader Jupiter (Julian Barratt) to the garden. One thing leads to another, and a battle for dominance begins. All this with no dialogue. Crazy, right? This shows how good the cast are in their roles, driving the narrative entirely with their body language and grunts. Bravo. 


The notion of human-monkeys living in houses and apartments, owning technology and visiting shops does provide the opportunity for comic observation and satire – in the same way George A. Romero’s social satire-filled Dawn of the Dead held a mirror to us and our consumerism. And while you can easily read into the film for these messages yourself, director and writer Oram denies any intent to make these messages – instead citing filmmakers like John Waters as influences for this bizarre work. Alongside the often nightmarish visuals of ape-like humans, presented in a very cheap looking 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is an equally quirky score by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. This is a pull factor enough for some people, I’m sure!

Aaaaaaaah! is a Marmite film that will always divide audiences, as it did critics. The avant-garde, punk, arthouse cinema community will eat this shit up, relishing in its weirdness – Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh are in the film, which tells you a lot about how bizarre it all is. But more mainstream audiences will be flabbergasted by the premise alone, let alone seeing it in action. One IMDb user gave the film 1 out of 10, stating ‘Someone finally beat "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes", for the worst film ever made’. But on the plus side, the film doesn’t stretch itself or outstay its welcome. Clocking in at 75 minutes, Aaaaaaaah! knows when to fold ‘em, as they say. This is a film that could’ve completely destroyed itself if it had gone on too long. 

The problem for me with Aaaaaaaah! was the tone. It didn’t seem to know whether it was going for laughs, scares or drama. IMDb lists the film as a thriller, while Amazon lists it as horror and the marketing describes it as a ‘surreal horror comedy’. While it’s never laugh-out-loud, there are amusing sequences in the film – and there are certainly disturbing moments too. This genre confusion made it a little uncomfortable. But it’s an uncomfortable watch anyway, so this only adds to the weirdness of it all.


Aaaaaaaah! is a downright bizarre piece of work, but films like this are exactly what cinema needs. It’s something you’ve never seen before, and something that will surely go on to earn a devout cult following. In the same way we look back on wacky low-budget films from the 80s now with such affection, like Basket Case, some of us will surely look back on Aaaaaaaah! similarly in many years’ time. I can’t wait to see what Steve Oram comes up with next.

Aaaaaaaah! is the most original film you’ll see this year. Check it out. 4/5.

★★★★☆

Sam Love



Aaaaaaaah! at CeX


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