NEFARIOUS ** UK 2019 Dir: Richard Rowntree. 80 mins
DOGGED director Richard Rowntree’s low budget riff on DON’T BREATHE opens in British social realist territory, revolving around a quartet of housing estate losers – Darren, Lou, Jo and Mas – who owe money to a local crime lord. Jo (Abbey Gillette) is a cleaner for wealthy Marcus (Toby Wynn-Davies) and together they hatch a plan to rob Marcus while the only one at home is his mentally handicapped brother Clive (Gregory A Smith). Hints of a sub-genre and tonal shift to come involve dead birds and references to a mysterious power surge. The story is awkwardly framed by present-day police interrogations involving key characters – the kind of device that has become relatively standard and detracts from, rather than adding to, the impact. This well-paced picture is also bogged down by a truly arduous bunch of central characters: endless variations of dialogue interactions like “You fucking idiot!” will test your patience while hanging around with this ill-fated, obnoxious bunch. Smith’s performance is a stand-out, though we could have done without the “sad” tinkly music designed to make us sympathise with him. Rowntree gets to acknowledge one major fanboy inspiration (one character has a ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, Vipco style, T-shirt) but the second half disappoints with relatively uninventive gory mayhem.
Review by Steven West