Thursday, 11 June 2015


hungerford is a found-footage sci-fi/horror film written and directed by 19-year-old drew casson. who also did the visual effects. and plays the main character. and it’s rather good.

the films follows film student cowen rosewell as he films his friends adam, kip and phillipa as part of a college media project. however, there’s something wrong with the town of hungerford and cowen soon realises he is capturing the end of the world on video.

it would be lazy of me to compare this film to things like shaun of the dead and the world’s end (despite the obvious influences and the fact that the former is referenced in the film). sure, it’s a group of friends dealing with an apocalypse in a small town so the similarities seem obvious, but there’s actually a lot more going on here. in terms of influences i actually saw more of a direct parallel with 50s sci-fi movies like them! and invasion of the body snatchers. the alien parasites in hungerford also attach themselves to the back of their host’s neck in a way that reminded me of invaders from mars, or robert a. heinlein's novel the puppet masters (which was also turned into a film. hungerford is much better than that film).

but enough about influences, hungerford is very much it’s own thing. there are two really interesting themes at play here. early on, the friends are on the way to a party when they see two men assaulting a third man. at this stage the alien parasite plot is yet to be introduced and even then it's unclear if this incident has anything to do with it. the important thing is that the friends do not intervene; they leave the victim to his fate because they want to get to their party. this is a film about youth, and about how at a certain age we are so preoccupied with our own lives and our own dramas that we don’t even see the end of the world when it’s happening right in front of us. i could really relate to that.

the second big theme of the film is to do with moving on. the other characters continuously tell cowen that he’s wasting his time in hungerford; that he needs to move away and get on with his life. what happens to hungerford could almost be seen as what happens to your life if you leave it too late to move ahead. the idea of parasites controlling your every move could easily be transposed to getting a dull job in your home town and being trapped there forever. the four friends are constantly risking their lives for each other, but ultimately because of this they are unable to escape and rather than this coming across as a message about the importance of friendship, i saw it as the risk of friends holding you back. maybe i’m reading too much of my own experiences into this, but for me when things really kicked off in the film i couldn’t help thinking ‘you should’ve left while you had the chance’.

when things do kick off they really kick off. there’s a moment early on where it appears as though the film could all take place in one flat, and given that i’m assuming the budget was fairly low i can see why this would be a tempting prospect. casson dismisses that idea about halfway through, taking us out into the town and ultimately into the heart of the alien lair itself. however much it cost, the production value on screen is huge, particularly in the later scenes in which cowen follows a team of soldiers through rooms strewn with cocooned bodies. that said, casson handles the smaller moments really well too and there are a couple of genuinely creepy scenes towards the end.

for all it's innovation there are moments in hungerford where the constraints of the budget and the limited experience of the cast and crew pulled me out of the story. the performances are a bit shaky in the more intense scenes and the dialogue is occasionally a bit over the top and on the nose. that said, what the actors occasionally lack in subtlety they make up for in likability. i enjoyed hanging out with these people and that counts for everything because when the aliens came i really cared about what was going to happen to these characters. it’s a small but fundamental element that most big budget films of the same genre forget, but it’s front and centre here.

you should watch this film, not because it was made for no money, or because it’s exactly the kind of thing the british film industry should be producing, or because it was made by an extraordinarily talented individual who deserves to be supported. you should watch it because it’s really good.

check out the hungerford website for more details.

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