Resurrecting the Street Walker

Resurrecting the Street Walker

Format: DVD

Release date: 28 June 2010

Distributor: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

Director: Ozgur Uyanik

Writer: Ozgur Uyanik

Cast: James Powell, Tom Shaw, Lorna Beckett

UK 2009

80 mins

Opening with a brief history and contextual overview of the video nasties era, Ozgur Uyanik’s debut feature delves imaginatively into the world of the found footage sub-genre of horror movies, capitalising on the media-sparked paranoia surrounding these notorious 80s gems. James Powell stars as James R Parker, an enthusiastic film industry hopeful who gets his first step on the ladder as a runner for a Soho-based production company. Desperate to impress his friendly yet demanding boss Mike and to withstand the constant taunts and put-downs of his more established colleague Dorothy, he subjects himself to the most undesirable tasks in a bid to appear indispensable. When cleaning the understandably filthy basement he uncovers the reels of an unfinished film, The Street Walker, a low-budget nasty horror with which he becomes infatuated, an obsession that is driven further when he notices a reflection of the film’s director in one of the shots. Thus, with his boss’s blessing, he is prompted to finish the film himself in the hope that the complete picture will be his ticket to success. However, the more James uncovers and his fascination escalates, the darker his story becomes.

The use of faux documentary within horror is always a risky device. If used ineffectively, plot and budget holes will be magnified greatly, but if approached with care, it can make for a genuinely chilling and believable experience. Resurrecting the Street Walker walks a fine line between the two throughout the course of its slight 80-minute running time. The opening 20 minutes superbly blend a classic curse story and an account of breaking into the British film industry as seen from a typically inexperienced enthusiast’s perspective, which is instantly gripping and easy to relate to.

Much of the film is played out through talking head interviews of various characters affiliated with James, and this device hinders the film’s unpredictability, as early sequences clearly point to the film’s conclusion. These segments don’t really add anything to the journey documented by the footage captured by his friend Marcus, which displays James’s mental unravelling far more effectively. The film’s climax itself isn’t particularly thrilling or believable, but snippets of the found footage are suitably unsettling and the film contains some shocking moments, including a particularly nasty strangulation scene.

Resurrecting the Street Walker does succeed, however, in conveying the pain and passion of people working their way up from the bottom of the film industry, with James Powell giving a heartfelt performance as a young man who refuses to give in to his parent’s wishes for him to find a ‘proper’ job and has the perseverance required to triumph through unpaid internships. It’s an amusing and familiar tale to anyone who has been in his position and has faced real-life characters resembling Dorothy, brilliantly played with a wealth of creative put-downs by Lorna Beckett, and for this reason it is worth seeking out.

James Merchant

The Vice Guide to Film: Mexican Narco Cinema

The Vice Guide to Narco Cinema

Format: Internet streaming

Website: VBS TV

Episode:The Vice Guide to Film: Mexican Narco Cinema

Reading Vice magazine, you get the impression of intelligent writers having to use their skills for an audience to which they do not necessarily belong, sort of like a Daily Mail or Sun for pretentious hipsters (at least, this reviewer does). With shabby-but-articulate Vice co-founder Shane Smith’s casual profession of a love of drugs just a few seconds into The Vice Guide to Film: Mexican Narco Cinema, it seems like Vice‘s new web series is going to be more of the same, which is why it’s such a pleasant surprise when it quickly turns into a well-made, entertaining and easily consumed piece of film journalism.

Smith travels from Texas to Tijuana, on the way doing a great job of putting Mexico’s ultra-violent Narco Cinema of drug runners, fetishised cars and bad cops in context. He outlines the importance of Mexico’s drug industry to its economy and then interviews a film commissioner, who reveals that only 18% of the population can afford to go to the cinema. It’s no wonder then that these straight-to-DVD (the genre is also known as ‘Videohome’), low-budget action movies about poor Mexicans who use drug-running as a way to lift themselves out of poverty and give back to the community have become so popular, both in Mexico and with immigrants in the US. Think Scarface, but without the tragic fall. Or at least, if the characters do get shot at the end, there’s always a family member to take revenge in the sequel.

Each film is based on a ballad (corrido) about a famous criminal, which makes the whole genre reminiscent of the way the Robin Hood legend got started with the troubadours of Europe. However, in this instance both song and movie are almost always commissioned by the narco in question, with serious consequences for not sticking to the agreed script. So of course everyone Smith interviews speaks of the narcos in heroic terms and the genre singularly fails to hold a mirror up to Mexican society. To his credit, Smith has a go at highlighting this irony, interspersing clips of Narco Cinema with shots of real-world victims caught in the crossfire between the narcos and the government forces trying to crack down on them.

The overall message though is that these innovative, $40,000-50,000 films, which are shot on location, with the script written on the fly, where more often than not each character type is played by their real-world counterpart (the prostitute is a an actual prostitute, etc.), are a lot of fun and it doesn’t really matter which of them you watch, so long as there’s a car in the title. On this point The Vice Guide to Film: Mexican Narco Cinema is pretty convincing, although one criticism would be that as there are thousands of these films in existence surely there must be some canonical highlights for newcomers interested in exploring the genre?

Alexander Pashby

The lastest episode of the Vice Guide to Film is Inside Iranian Cinema. In this episode, Shane Smith travels to Iran for the 3rd Annual Urban Film Festival in Tehran where he meets Iran’s top directors, actors, and clerics.

The Hidden Fortress

To mark the BFI release of the Kurosawa Samurai Collection, Karen Rubins gives The Hidden Fortress the comic strip treatment. The 5-disc DVD box set containing Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962) is released on June 7. This box-set is released alongside BFI Southbank’s Akira Kurosawa and His Influence, a season running from June 1 to July 8, which marks the centenary of Kurosawa’s birth with a season of films made by both the seminal filmmaker himself and those he has influenced. It includes an extended run of Rashomon (1951). More information on the BFI website.

Comic Review by Karen Rubins
For more information on Karen Rubins, go to her website or her blog.

Film writing competition: Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

Electric Sheep Film Club

Venue: Prince Charles Cinema, London

Every second Wednesday of the month

We are pleased to announce that the winner of our May film writing competition, run in connection with the Electric Sheep monthly film club at the Prince Charles Cinema is Simon Johnson. Our judge was Time Out film critic Tom Huddleston, who said: ‘Simon Johnson’s review of Midnight Cowboy may read more like a diary entry than a film review - gleefully breaking that cardinal critics’ rule of keeping yourself out of it - but its a heartfelt, lovingly written and rather touching celebration of a classic film.’

Here’s Simon Johnson’s review:

It was just as the Greyhound left the Port Authority bus station bound for Florida that it occurred to me. I turned to my friend Shane, a fellow cineaste, and asked him if he remembered the scene near the end of Midnight Cowboy when Joe Buck and Ritso Rizzo, aka Ratso, left the very same bus station, also on a Greyhound and also bound for Florida. ‘Of course,’ he replied, ‘and that means you’re Ratso and I’m Joe Buck!’

This was in 1989 and in the intervening years many times have letters, postcards and emails been exchanged between us always arguing who is indeed Joe Buck as neither of us wants to be Ratso. On that Greyhound all the way to Miami, we came to realise how much the film meant to both of us. It was often shown late at night on the BBC in the 1970s and 80s and I always made a point of seeing it. For a teenage boy the film was impossibly sophisticated, exciting and even a little bit dangerous. The heady mixture of illicit sex, religion, counter-culture and New York was intoxicating. This was the New York I was looking for on my first visit in that summer of 1989, even more so than the city of Taxi Driver or Mean Streets. Being fairly broke meant that we did see the seedy side depicted in the film.

I still watch the film every year and even though some argue that it is dated it always seems fresh and dynamic to me. Oh, and Shane, I’m Joe Buck!

Next screening: Wednesday 14 July – Blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown + Q&A with award-winning filmmaker Rebecca Johnson.