Inbred is the first feature from director Chandon in almost 10 years (since, er, Pervirella in 2002, of which I haven’t had the pleasure). While I would love to say its been worth the wait, this was one of the few films at FrightFest 2011 which I didn’t get on with at all.
A group of young offenders in the company of two adult social workers are travelling by minibus to a character building activity weekend in Yorkshire. After witnessing some vaguely sinister Wicker Man type goings on in a field (some grubby urchins poke a rather too real looking scarecrow with sharpened sticks) they rock up to the farmhouse that has been booked for their stay, to find it a barely habitable hovel. Relentlessly cheerful lead social worker Jeff (Doherty) sees this as just another opportunity to get the sullen teens doing something constructive over the weekend, but his more down-to-earth colleague Kate (Hartley) decides a trip to the pub is required. Unfortunately the local, charmingly called “The Dirty Hole”, makes American Werewolf’s Slaughtered Lamb look like a Michelin starred boutique watering hole. Asking if the pub serves food, the outwardly friendly landlord Jim (Corrie actor O’Neill) tells them that they don’t do that sort of thing here, with obvious distaste for such bourgeois ideas. When Jeff points out that the sign outside says “Hot Food”, Jim barks that it actually reads “Not Food”. Made uncomfortable by the attentions of the grossly caricatured locals (Jim may look outwardly normal, but the rest of the village is made up of every set of comedy Ken Dodd teeth the prop department could find).
The next day, Jim takes the teenagers to a scrap yard and sets them to work reclaiming metal and fittings from derelict rail carriages. When an encounter with some of the least charming villagers from the night before turns violent, the group is forced to flee, seeking protection at the pub. Unfortunately for them, they have stumbled on a ruthless community of sadistic maniacs led by Jim. The locals capture the survivors and then proceed to subject them to a brutal and sadistic series of ordeals for their entertainment. During this “show” Jim appears as a ringmaster in a sparkly circus costume and blackface makeup. As the teens and their caretakers fall victim one by one, some manage to escape leading to a bloody showdown.
Let’s start with some positives. Inbred was made for a pittance, and does manage to look credibly like an actual film. There is plentiful gore, and when the FX are practical in nature they hold up well. Unfortunately there is also a fair amount of unconvincing and unnecessary CG grue. The cast is a mixture of British TV and soap actors (O’Neil being the most recognisable) and several faces from Shane Meadow’s productions, and for the most part the performances are decent to good. The best is from Jo Hartley who has appeared in both film and TV incarnations of Meadow’s This Is England, and also Dead Man’s Shoes. Hartley brings heart and commitment to her role, and deserves to be in a better film.
However the negatives greatly outweigh any positive spin. The film’s tone appears to be broadly comedic, but it’s far, far too nasty to work as a comedy. Chandon blithely plays with grossly offensive material, including racism and a guest appearance by disabled actor and comic Mat Fraser that felt uncomfortably exploitational to me. Perhaps Chandon may argue that he is satirically confronting prejudice, but I don’t buy it as the film does not seem to have any satirical merit. The key image of O’Neill in circus gear and blackface is shamelessly lifted from the BBC TV series The League of Gentlemen, as is much of the pitch black northern humour. Other obvious homage-come-blatant-thefts are made from Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (especially the farmhouse siege) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The film can’t settle on a queasy Peckinpah-esque brand of grand guignol or ridiculous comic violence. Compare the frankly distressing scene where a character is pinned to a floor while a farm horse is lead to walk over him, with a ridiculous moment when a character is shot with pin point accuracy at hundreds of yards range with a shotgun. There is also an obsession with excreta that is wholly unpleasant. The film just does not gell on any level, and leaves a scummy taste in the mouth.