Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Jason Flemyng makes his directorial debut with Eat Locals, a horror-comedy that is sadly light on both horror and comedy.
The eight undisputed vampire elders of Britain have gathered for their annual meeting in an old farm house to discuss matters of land divisions and how much of the populace within those boundaries they’re allowed to eat. In one of the film’s more interesting moments, screenwriter Danny King (Thieves Like Us) quickly sets up how modern age is making it incredibly hard to be bloodthirsty and undead. Quotas on human to be feasted upon must be agreed for fear of raising alarm bells. When one of their number is revealed to have been the cause of a headline-grabbing murder of two young children, they are immediately dispatched via the application of chair leg to heart. Now missing a member, a tearaway Essex boy by the name of Sebastian (Billy Cook) is brought in to make up the numbers, but not everyone is keen to make him an elder.
Whilst office politics threaten to tear the group apart, a troop of soldiers, led by the Vatican, is circling outside the farm house, ready to take out the bloodsuckers for God and country. Essentially, Eat Locals is like Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers, except we’re supposed to be rooting for the monsters, not the armed forces.
The film’s casting is likely to garner a fair bit of attention amongst aficionados of cult TV and British sitcoms, comprising of actors such as Eve Myles (Torchwood), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), Annette Crosbie (One Foot in the Grave) and Mackenzie Crook (The Office/Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). It’s perhaps no coincidence that Flemyng has worked with most of them before on other projects. Perhaps the jewel in the crown is Daredevil‘s Charlie Cox, who mothballs his red body armour to play well-spoken vampire elder, Henry. Whilst none of the vampires are truly evil ““ though Tony Curran’s Peter is particularly shifty from the word ‘go!’ ““ we truly know that Henry is best of the best because he doesn’t drink human blood, only animals. See, he’s one of the good ones.
If that sounds like lazy short hand to you, then Eat Locals is likely to frustrate you further through its brief running time; broad strokes are the choice of the day when it comes to character development. Myles pouts and tousles her hair because she is the ‘sexy vampire’, Crosbie knits and is proud of her VHS collection because she is the ‘old vampire’, Agyeman wears 90s grunge gear because she is the ‘young vampire’, and so on. There’s nothing wrong per se with this kind of sketchy characterisation ““ truly, everyone is evidently having a lot of fun on screen – but the shallowness means that it can be hard to care who dies once the action kicks into gear.
Not that the action comes on quickly, for that matter. Whilst Flemyng shows flashes of kinetic fun, he plays it remarkably safe and steady for the majority of the time. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence or budget (which is demonstrably low), but the main feeling is that it’s all coasting on King’s screenplay. Eat Locals plays too long a game for a 90-minute film, the main players ushered on to set too lethargically. A film that sees vampires go toe to toe with the SAS ““ even a comedy ““ should hit the ground running. That said, there’s still enjoyment to be taken from scenes such as a single-take martial arts battle in a barn or a cheeky nod to the aforementioned Lock, Stock involving the 83-year-old Crosbie and an insanely large automatic rifle.
There have certainly been worse horror comedies to come out of old blighty – the ‘sexy’ Love Bite and problematic Lesbian Vampire Killers quickly come to mind. And whilst Eat Locals manages to be entertaining enough in the moment to rise above most of them, even a last minute sequel-baiting stinger isn’t enough to draw you back for more. A missed opportunity by all accounts.
THE REEL SCORE: 5/10