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June 2010

Resurrecting The Street Walker

cast: James Powell, Tom Shaw, Hugh Armstrong, John Talbot, and Lorna Beckett

director: Ozgur Uyanik

80 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
DVD Region 2 retail
[released 28 June]

RATING: 4/10
review by Paul Higson

Resurrecting The Street Walker
There had been something of a murmur around Ozgur Uyanik's Resurrecting The Street Walker but having now seen the film I wonder if it wasn't a mumble that was heard. Do we really need another faux documentary thriller? Home movies, behind the scenes footage, reportage: has not every quirk and tick been explored to death? Have we not already seen the best that the fake documentary has to offer? Looking at British product alone, there has been a number of top-notch horror films including the Heather brothers' The Big Finish (2000), Julian Richards' The Last Horror Movie (2002), and Pat Higgins' The Devil's Music (2008). On television there was the second series of Shockers (2001) which in three tales use a POV camera: (Barat Nalluri's Cyclops), a video diary (Marc Charach's Parents' Night), and handicam and CCTV footage (David Blair's Ibiza £99 Return).

The trend for terror-mongering shock documentaries over the last decade included a pair of films from Daniel Percival, Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon (2002), and Dirty War (2004), but this subgenre of faked frights was at it's best in Gabriel Range's The Day Britain Stopped (2003), and Nicholas White's Heatwave (2005). Dom Rotheroe's Exhibit A has been receiving positive notices but is as yet unseen by this reviewer. Of course we can go much further back to Lesley Manning's Ghostwatch (1992) and much earlier still.

Then there are the films that we could well have done without like Bernard Rose's Snuff Movie. Every film brat filmmaker will have at least one 'movie movie' in them and some will get it out of their systems on their first film outing but it is now becoming the lazy option. Write about what you know, they say! So should they really be opening their career with such a film?

James Parker (James Powell) is an aspirant and struggling filmmaker who has gone the experience from the bottom on up as an unpaid runner with a small production company called Portland Pictures that has been turning out films for over 25 years. Given the chore of taking an inventory of the clutter in the cellar he discovers several film cans with reels of a movie called 'The Street Walker'. It turns out to be an unfinished British horror film from 1985 directed a mysterious figure named David Forshaw, a troubled individual who died before the year was out. Parker sees an opportunity, adding his name to that of the original director, a feature film credit with a fraction of the work a feature film would entail.

He first needs the backing of Portland head honcho Mike Lowrie (Hugh Armstrong) who is eventually persuaded but only if James matches him on the budget for the shoot to finish the film. Parker is reckless and ready to max out his credit cards to make it happen. He must, however, continue in his voluntary role as the office dogsbody and the bane of that existence is the pregnant Dorothy Thistle (Lorna Beckett) who baits and torments him with every available second. They are the script readers but she deposits her signature on his write-ups and nobody takes any of the offences against him particularly seriously.

James already has best friend Marcus Grady (Tom Shaw) filming a documentary on him so that there is footage capturing the moment he makes that crossover move into the big league. He is cataloguing the nitty-gritty all of it though. He also records the casting sessions and the shoot which fails to go as planned. Dorothy talks herself into a position where she can oversee the shoot and before the camera can roll on any of the scripted action catastrophe strikes. Equipment is lost and Lowrie shuts down the production. The financially constrained Mike continues to obsess over the completion of The Street Walker, losing his mind which brings about the final act of horror.

Presented as an ex-post facto documentary utilising Grady's footage it is soon apparent who will survive and who the likely victim or victims might be. Most of the participants are seen in talking head interviews leaving a very select number of characters absent. It is of little surprise that Dorothy is not here, that and her nasty goading enormous indicators of her scheduled demise. The story is cursed by inevitability, leaning heavily into its conclusion. Everything up front of the end murder reads like filler. The problems do not end there.

The film opens with a familiar quote which it attributes to Charles Manson. It is the first of many oh too familiar utterances. "Clinging to a lump of rock flying through the universe... before you know it you've crossed that invisible line... that was not my friend anymore... I don't know who that guy was." It is as if somebody splattered a book of clichés across the script. This could well be intentional. "I gave it 110 percent but at the end of the day it just wasn't enough and I'm absolutely gutted."

This is how most game show contestants talk, this is how real people talk... but it is also how you end up with a dull movie. The characters are bland and, to boot, their behaviour is often unbelievable. At the end of the film the survivors are presented with the footage of the murder of their former colleague and though they might flinch none of them give the expected response: "What the fuck are you doing? Why are you showing me this?" Surely, the footage is the subject of a police investigation. How did they gain permission to use it here? One might think that the fact that the killer is still at large might also weigh on the minds of some, but they all seem quite matter of fact about it.

Uyanik also botches the casting, particularly the characters of Parker and Grady. Grady is at one point accused of exploiting his friend's duress and mental breakdown. His is a shallow presence though. Greater play could have been made of Grady, a smirk to camera or a sinister remark confirming the abuse. We hear people recall a scary look in Parker's eyes, but the cut to footage never supports this. Powell never convinces as either someone suffering a mental breakdown or as a violent killer. Technical precision and continuity aside, and the earlier footage of The Street Walker does come across as a work apart, the film fails in areas more important: in character, story and dialogue. Even the film's title is annoying.

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