Those familiar with Director George Clarke’s other works, in particular the more recent ‘Blood Harvest’ will know that he likes to cross genre. Whilst I wouldn’t say his works are particularly avant-garde or original, he does seem to be able to by-pass the typical slow pace trudge of your average no-budget movie by simply throwing content at you to break up the pace.
The same is true of the latest release of his ‘Onus’ (although I believe this release is actually out of chronological order from when they were shot), take one part SAW one part Coronation Street (a UK soap) and you have your mix here. Whether you think it would work or not, well, that’s another story.
Literally, the film isn’t just split in two halves by concept, it is divided into two chapters, which have unique directions and feel so that they could have perhaps even worked as two short films.
The first chapter sees a young boy chained to his school teacher, a handgun with a single bullet gaffer taped to his hand, how he got there? and why? are the two big questions that form the main plot device for both sections. He does however have one piece of information, and instruction which says that to escape the scenario one must kill the other. Sound familiar? I thought it was a bit close to the SAW franchise too, but then again, SAW wasn’t the first film to exploit the concept either. Oddly however the teacher is quite happy to offer up his life, but the boy is not prepared to live with the consequence of being a murderer; and so, introduces the drama to the film. The segment proceeds in sequences of scenes through which the mysterious protagonist manipulates the situation to drive events to the aforementioned conclusion.
Indeed, the whole film is based around this single consequence, and whilst the first chapter of the movie was much more to my taste – it’s quite intriguing, if not fantastically executed. It is the second section which gives the movie its unique selling point.
The second part looks almost exclusively at the lives of those forced to be in the ‘horrific’ scenario and the impact it has on their ability to function in society. It’s also a search for justice for those wronged. This offers an interesting angle not often explored in horror – and to some extent it’s because it isn’t horror! The second chapter explores the motive behind the protagonist, for the characters to discover who they are (incidentally we know from the first part who is the bad-guy). The scenes are a little too ponderous for my taste, and the script writing, which I would put as a weakness overall for the film really doesn’t help sell the concept to those persevering until something happens. There are a few decent red herrings, and some cool ‘twist’ moments, but overall any tension created from the mysterious opener has long since dissipated.
Overall, whilst I wouldn’t really describe myself a fan of Mr Clarkes work, I am always impressed by those who try something different. Sadly however, when it comes to buying, I tend to look for more than effort marks to make a recommendation. I can see this movie hitting a niche audience, in particular those film fans looking for films which break the typical movie ‘formula’. It’s a watchable affair, but lacks the oomph of Clarke’s other average-grade works.