SCRAWL ** UK 2015 Dir: Peter Hearn. 82 mins
Writer-director Peter Hearn’s debut has taken so long to get an on-demand release – after failing to secure distribution on the festival circuit – that its debuting star, Daisy Ridley has since become famous via the new STAR WARS movies and the remake of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Although she’s the best actor in SCRAWL’s amateurish cast, she cannot save this bloody but muddled and unappealing attempt at a subversive superhero saga. Against an authentically dull seaside British backdrop of drab local shops, run down high streets and sparsely populated beaches, unpopular teens Liam Hughes and Joe Daly have created their own comic book, “Scrawl”, to score with girls and actually make something of their lives rather than fulfilling the seemingly inevitable destiny of staying in the dreary town for the rest of their lives. The comic makes them well known locally, but they also attract the attention of Ridley’s attractive but malevolent “Death” figure – her presence alarms Daly’s dad (Mark Forester Evans), whose life went to shit after experiencing something similar when he was a lad. “That was really funny – just like the comic book…!” Overly on-the-nose dialogue of the “You’re the writer…” kind mars this potentially engaging but virtually incoherent horror-fantasy, which takes too long to explain itself and gives us no one to root for. The scrappy editing style makes it uninvolving rather than edgy, and it’s not enlivened by bursts of bludgeoning gore. The very low budget shows, but a wittier script with more interesting characters could have transcended the project’s modest origins.
Review by Steven West