To present yet further evidence why reviewing new horror movies is frequently a lot less fun than you’d hope: it’s hard to keep track of the number of small scale domestic productions ostensibly carrying on the British tradition of homely Gothic horror, and every time we go in hoping they’ll do justice to the legacy of Hammer, Amicus, Tigon et al; yet the vast majority of the time, we come out the other end underwhelmed at best, or outright mortified at worst. As such UK horror movies go, at a glance Eat Locals may seem to have a lot more going for it than most, given the wealth of proven talent in front of the camera, plus a decent actor making his debut as director (although a warning sign may be thrown up by the attachment of a rather less reputable producer). Unfortunately, while its heart may be in the right place, this profoundly unfunny and never remotely scary vampire comedy is a total wash-out from start to finish.
We open on a remote, gloomy-looking farmhouse on a dark and spooky evening. A meeting of sorts is taking place between several mismatched individuals, seemingly there to discuss business. However, one of their number, Vanessa (Eve Myles), arrives a little late, and she brings with her a stranger: seemingly her new lover, a young chav named Sebastian (newcomer Billy Cook), who’s expecting nothing more than a romantic getaway, and is naturally a little taken aback by this bunch of somewhat aloof oddballs. After a lot of euphemistic talk and standard comedic misinterpretation, Sebastian learns the shocking truth: Vanessa and her old friends are a council of vampires, and they find themselves with a vacancy at their table which, thanks to his Romani bloodline, they think Sebastian is an ideal candidate to fill. But of course, you can’t put a bunch of mismatched individuals in a remote building without going Assault on Precinct 13, and so it is that the vampires soon find that they are under siege from an army unit quite literally out for their blood.
It’s a set-up which shows just enough promise to get your interest; assuming, that is, you haven’t already been drawn in by a cast clearly contrived to grab the attention of the genre audience. On top of Torchwood veteran Myles we have Daredevil’s Charlie Cox, Doctor Who/Sense8’s Freema Agyeman, not to mention prolific character actors Vincent Regan and Tony Curran (the latter being pretty experienced in vampire roles after Blade 2 and Underworld: Evolution), and a comedy wild card in One Foot in the Grave’s Annette Crosbie, who seems there primarily because Cockneys vs. Zombies proved that senior citizens wielding machine guns is an easy sell. Mackenzie Crook also pops up in a small role as a soldier, in a surprisingly straight turn for the typically comedic actor. Unfortunately, it would seem Eat Locals blew the vast majority of its budget on its above-average cast, as in terms of production value it’s very poor indeed, with lifeless DV cinematography and mediocre SFX.
None of this would necessarily be too big a problem if Danny King’s script and Jason Flemyng’s direction brought some life out of the undead ensemble. No such luck, though. While there are some nice ideas here and there which might have proved effective under different circumstances, the whole endeavour is bogged down by excessive overwritten dialogue which fails to convey either tension or amusement. As I said before, this is a horror comedy that’s completely devoid of real scares, with jokes which rarely inspire anything beyond a mildly amused snort here and there, and efforts to stir in a bit of Brexit-era social commentary prove largely fruitless. A few attempts at injecting some action into proceedings present some vague hope here and there (Jason Statham is credited as a fight scene adviser, which has to inspire some confidence) but these too fall flat thanks to the dodgy cinematography and editing.
We might go in hoping for a new horror comedy hit that measures up to the greats (I’m not even going to name the usual suspects; you know, the one with a certain monster from the United States visiting a certain British city, or that one in which the protagonist’s name conveniently rhymes with Dawn). Sadly, Eat Locals is little more than an episode of a TV daytime soap with a bit of blood and some swear words thrown in. Tired, tedious and instantly forgettable, this is definitely one to avoid.
Eat Locals is available on home entertainment in the UK from 30th October.