Three witless guys and a truck filled with inflatable sex-dolls all embarking on a ‘fishing trip’ deep into the countryside – what could possibly go wrong?
Throw some uncompromising wilderness into the mix, them witnessing a gang-style execution and then stumbling into the hunting grounds of a back country family with a penchant for murder and you’ve got a decent scope for a modern horror with some decent characterisation.
Whilst the plot might not have been a million miles away from genre territory, the country of origin certainly was for me, with ‘Sweetie, you won’t believe it’ being the debut feature from Kazakhstani director Yernar Nurgarliyev.
Cultural differences aside, which actually aren’t as disparate as you might expect, this films a surprising hit on all fronts.
I often find that releases from newer cinema markets often lean heavily on older (established) horror films as their base of reference such as TCM or ‘Evil Dead’ (especially the latter with horror comedies), not here though, this film is much more contemporary feeling in terms of its dichotomy of dry dialogue driven humour, relatable characters and slapstick physical comedy – think of ‘the hangover’ meets ‘hills have eyes’, and you won’t be far wrong.
Not only does the setting come across fresh, the native language interesting to listen to, but the films a banger in its own right. The script is witty, the characterisation is endearing and there a really great pacing of gory, visual horror and its very organic comedy.
As I illuded to in my opener, the group find themselves quickly out of their comfort zones, which is amusing enough, but then put these hapless guys into an increasingly farcical situation involving Kazakhstan’s own red-neck equivalent and their characters and relationships start to blossom; in my opinion this is one of the films biggest strengths, what audience doesn’t like routing for the underdog!
Main character Dastan isn’t really trying very hard to be successful at life in general; leaving his pregnant albeit highly strung wife at home whilst he goes fishing with his friends, and equally the fact that his two friends didn’t even believe the weekend was actually about fishing says a lot about them and their moral standards. Yet through the film we see them drop their self-serving and cowardly personas to develop into situational heroes, where their sense of self-preservation enables them to cope with the most absurd of scenarios; of course everybody comes good in the end, and I guess sometimes it takes almost losing something to recognise how important it was to you in the first place.
Still, whist the film has a kind heart, it certainly doesn’t forget that its key audience are equally baying for carnage, and ‘Sweetie’ doesn’t leave viewers short-changed in that department either. The film’s themes read like a thriller, but much of the film’s more intense scenes feel like their stolen from a slasher movie. There’s a mixture between practical effect and some CGI gore. Along with an abundance of violence the film has some fairly strong gore thrown in for good measure with its OTT and slapstick nature helping it to sit within the film’s wraparound story and sentiment.
As with many horror comedies, many of the films more violent set pieces offer small nod and homage to more established franchises; it’s clear that Nurgarliyev is no stranger to his debut genre; and its pitch perfect.
Overall, whilst the title ‘Sweetie, you won’t believe it’ doesn’t exactly role of the tongue, the film itself is both an easy watch and an equally comfortable recommendation. Sitting comfortably on my shelf next to other offbeat contemporary classics such as ‘Tucker and Dale’ and ‘Zombie Land’ with respects to its finely balanced attention to both on-screen shocks as well as equally stand out characterisation. Whilst its unusual country of origin might see it something as an initial talking point, I hope to see the film make more of an impact in the community long after the novelty has worn off.