Review: Eat Locals dir. Jason Flemyng

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In his directorial debut, actor Jason Flemyng reunites the cast of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to bring us vampire action film Eat Locals.

Set in a small English town, a council of eight vampire overlords of England gather to meet, discussing vampire administration every 50 years, as they have for centuries. But this year, things are about to take a turn for the strange as they attempt to bring a new man into their ranks, leading to new disagreements and infighting. To make matters worse, they’ve also been tracked down by a team of anti-Vampire Special Ops forces, hell bent on destroying them once and for all. Worst night ever? It just might be their last.

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Eat Locals is by no means a bad film. A suburban English setting can do wonders for genre film if done right, as we’ve seen with Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, and vampires versus soldiers is as good as any a starting point. Eat Locals starts off promising enough, setting up easily enough with potential vampire Sebastian (Billy Cook) lured to the farmhouse by a foxy Vanessa (Eve Myles) for some midnight shenanigans, and armed with a cast of fascinating characters whose histories we wished we were privy to.

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But where Eat Locals goes wrong is that it tries to be everything at once – part horror, part comedy, part social commentary and part action, and winds up succeeding at each one only in brief flashes. We’re allied with the vampires right from the very beginning, privy to their counsel, but there is never any real threat that they seem to possess, with little bite to them. The glimpses we do get at their more feral state could potentially have been used to much more terrifying degree, but when your vampires end up resorting to machine guns and knives to fight fire with fire, the exciting, supernatural element is almost completely erased from the film.

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Flemyng admittedly tries his best to differentiate the film by injecting it with a strong dose of fun, with jovial, upbeat tracks to back the action scenes, making the fights seem more lighthearted, but ends up treading a strange line that neither has quite enough blood and violence to create that contrast, nor does it actually have humour in it to bring across a light mood.

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The potential for a much stronger film is squandered by the script’s inability to truly endear us to the main cast. It is to their credit then, that several of them still manage to hint at the spark of caring much more for them. Henry (a charming Charlie Cox) refuses to kill humans and drinks only animal blood, and if anything, is the head honcho of the coven. Matronly Alice (Annette Crosbie) turns the loving gran trope on its head and uses her innocent facade well to hide her stone cold, murderous intent underneath. Eve Myles also does her best with her role as Vanessa, strangely charming in her demeanour and wickedly seductive, while Tony Curran plays his role as a gruff, aggressive Scottish vampire with aplomb, concealing a warm concern for his pals underneath.

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But a strong cast alone isn’t enough to save Eat Locals from being a pedestrian, forgettable film.The stakes may be high for the characters of Eat Locals, but it never actually feels that way, with a surprising lack of impact with each offscreen death. Stranger still is the twist ending Flemyng decides to include at the end, setting up the possibility of a sequel with a mysterious skincare company making a sudden appearance, adding almost nothing to the overall narrative. Eat Locals is ultimately a squandered opportunity, packed with all the right ingredients for a successful new horror-action-comedy, but suffers at the hands of a weak script and characters who aren’t quite fleshed out enough to care if they live or die.

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Nonetheless, the film is enjoyable enough for its frenetic pace alone, with plenty of fun stratagems and the occasional surprise employed to keep audiences on their toes. A good film for a weeknight, and palatable enough for scaredy cats afeared of the horror genre, and would like a hint of the English countryside laced with a tinge of blood, bullets and incidental badassery.

 

Eat Locals will be in Selected UK Cinemas and PVOD from 1st September & VOD/DVD from 30th October. 

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