Hug a hoodie? Not likely, after watching Johannes Roberts’ British school siege horror.
The moral panic surrounding the modern phenomenon of the hoodie has been exploited to substantial effect in a number of movies, and Johannes Roberts’ F seeks to bring a fresh wave of ASBO-styled tension to the horror genre. The result is a competent, tense, and efficient gust of British horror that serves up a plethora of shocks and jumps, though the rapid exit leaves some sensation of incompleteness.
F wastes no time in tapping into today’s sense of paranoia and frustration; not only are the disconnected youth thoroughly out of control and devoid of respect, but the system also protects them against any punishment, perversely punishing their victims in some instances. The victim here is Robert Anderson (played with raw conviction by David Schofield, a popular face on British television and delivering a solid shift), a teacher who is head-butted by an angry pupil whom Anderson belittles following a substandard homework submission. After an extended period away from work, and a blossoming intimacy with alcohol (at various, socially unacceptable times of the day) Anderson makes an uncertain return, only to receive a complete lack of support from a panel chaired by the school head, and a heavy dose of ostracism from his academic colleagues.
After losing control of his temper and lashing out at his audaciously disrespectful daughter, Anderson finds himself trapped inside the echoing corridors of the maze-like school one evening as some unidentified hooded youths embark upon a campaign of terror against the broken teacher and any other victims they can track down in or around the building. And with a delightfully unlikely but hugely successful scare involving the smashing of a pink milkshake against a window, the methodical and effective deconstruction of your nervous system begins, and continues unabated until the films’ abrupt end with the clock standing at brisk 76 minutes.
Director Johannes Roberts portrays a stark illumination of the disconnect between the adult world and that of the errant teenage generation, a disconnect which completely severs the link between the two societal sectors. The threat of the stalking hunters has an overwhelmingly feral sensation, as the literally faceless hoodies adopt agile street jumping manoeuvres and feline crawling moves to mercilessly intimidate, surround and eventually destroy their adult prey. And the most shocking disconnect of all is that which exists between the alcoholic father and his rebellious daughter. As he slips further and further into a state of disintegration and loses his former dignity, she eschews any sense of sympathy and instead develops a sense of embarrassment, and loathing.
The polarisation between the two represents a common theme in the movie, with many of the teachers treating Anderson with similar disdain, yet whilst this polarisation proves a useful tool for cranking up the tension, it weakens the credibility to some extent; surely Anderson’s spiralling demise would evoke some sort of sympathy amongst his peers. Additionally, much of the later part of the film hinges upon the collective disbelief of Anderson’s desperate ranting, with other characters openly suspecting him to have become some sort of ‘nut’. This presents a vehicle for the filmmakers to crank up the tension, with Anderson’s desperation failing to impact upon others as he urges them to escape the besieged building, but the main issue here is that in the first half of the film, we’ve seen that Anderson is a troubled man, a teacher who has suffered a trauma, a marital and familial breakdown, and an ongoing battle with alcoholism. Yet we don’t for a moment consider him ‘mad’, or ‘unbalanced’ – stressed, maybe – but not mad, and for people to disbelieve his panicked cries so flippantly feels rather artificial.
Yet overall, direction is extremely competent, the filming is executed with a deft hand, and performances are strong, with Roxanne McKee’s brief appearance in particular providing a splash of colour across this often dark picture. As a rule, horror should be short, yet F is almost too swift as it draws to a rapid finish, leaving a slight feeling of emptiness as the titles roll. That said, the substantial jumps, shocks, and the partial gaze at the lives of the troubled amongst the rampaging school kids leaves plenty to recommend in this brutally efficient British hoodie horror.
Yet again, Optimum Releasing have presided over a splendid transfer, and the result looks fantastic. Presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the quality of the image is superb. The deeply carved lines of David Schofield’s face are captured with incredible detail, with the superb level of definition presenting a highly accurate and realistic view of the unfolding action.
The film mainly has a green filtered tinge, which lends something unsettling to this edgy story. There are brief occasions where some artificial colouring creeps into the images of skin, mainly on character’s faces (take the moment where Anderson talks to his ex-wife in the car), but this is infrequent enough to mean that it doesn’t become an issue.
I’m uncertain as to why the BBFC decided to grant this an 18 certificate (albeit an uncut 18). The shocks are intelligently constructed using largely gore-free methods, and where there is gore (there are a couple of scenes of explicit gore), it is swiftly glimpsed, and there is certainly no over-indulgence in the violence. I took a quick glance at the BBFC justification on their website, and they put it down to ‘insufficient mitigation to permit this level of violent detail’, suggesting that if ‘comic’ or ‘supernatural’ elements has been present that this may have passed with a ‘15’ certificate. It makes little odds to the core horror viewing audience, and the ‘18’ certificate will lend the film the allure that such a rating grants, but I can’t help but feel this is misaligned to similar releases and their respective ratings.
Subtitles are available in English for the hard of hearing, and are clear, accurate, and sensibly positioned.
Just as the visual elements of this release hit the spot nicely, the audio provision is similarly satisfying. Running the movie with the 5.1 surround sound soundtrack proves an immersive experience, with much detail being output by the rear speakers. The bass resonance is particularly deep, and with a Rosemary’s Baby-esque score, the audio presentation here compliments the visuals nicely.
You can also opt to watch the movie with a 2.0 stereo soundtrack.
F does benefit from a small clutch of extras. There’s a five minute Interview with Roxanne McKee, who is suitably charming and demure. The interview format is a little strange, with some fairly facile questions flashing up on the screen for Roxanne to answer, but it’s a watchable enough segment.
The Making of F is a well constructed documentary looking at what went into the picture behind the scenes. There are interviews with the cast and crew, on set shots of the Director in action, and some insights into the special effects.
The piece runs for almost 29 minutes.
There is the option to watch the movie with director’s commentary accompanying the action, sitting alongside co-producer Ernest Riera. Roberts is lively and engaging with his discussion (although some may find his accent wearing after a while), though whilst Riera has some interesting comments, his softer voice is not always so clear as the bellowing tones of the director. The content of the narrative is well worth the time, and you gain a useful insight into the efforts that went into this production.
Finally, there’s an effective Trailer for the movie which does prove a suitable allure for those who have not seen the film.
A great transfer of a rampaging British horror combined with a small selection of enjoyable enough extras means that the DVD of Johannes Roberts’ short but sweet F makes for a smart purchase.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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