cast: Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Carter, Alex Wyndham, Andrew Lee Potts, and Martin Compston
director: Paddy Breathnach
85 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 16:9
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
Paddy Breathnach eagerly returns to us with a second stab at horror to confirm his interest in the genre having only last year served us a dish of Shrooms. The first horror film was a plot thin pursuit and stab effort about young Americans in an Irish forest that yearned for rubber reality status kudos. The second horror film Red Mist (formerly known as Freakdog in festival screenings) I would prefer to similarly sum up as a cut and shove of genre standards. It again features that unpatriotic bashfulness which once again removes the story from the UK and replants it in a mock USA which nobody on either side of the Atlantic is going to believe. Concorde Anois has a lot to answer for. If Breathnach is so in love with the idea of making American movies then why doesn’t he just fart off to California and make them there, then loyalist film aficionados like myself can simply ignore their existence on release. There he might be ideally placed to direct the next in the Leprechaun series of films – though, if his past is anything to go by, he would probably give the little green twat a Texan drawl.
Red Mist is so irretrievably rotten it should slip into the emergency relief of unintentional entertainment. But whereas the films of old had to weigh up the cost of celluloid and settle for what they got on a meagre budget it is difficult today to excuse blandness and ineptitude (a similar case in point is Shark In Venice from which I am also fresh and very sore). As much as there is nostalgia for the turkeys of yore, is there really a pardonable place for the modern movie botch-up. Red Mist returns to the astral projection/ out-of-body and jump possession subgenres which have been proven entertainment ground since Psychic Killer and The Hidden respectively. The Hidden had a smart sci-fi cause for its succession of body exchanges but that was too complicated and successive body-transfer movies have used a simpler supernatural course with varying degrees of lesser success across an increasing number of films including Out Of The Body, The First Power, and Fallen – until de rigueur (End Of Days, Ghosts Of Mars, the MPD-Psycho series). Red Mist, however, goes directly to one film for major borrowing and that is Richard Franklyn’s bed-bound terrorist Patrick, though the results are probably a lot less enjoyable than the original Italian rip-off, Viva Patick Ancora (aka: Patrick Lives).
The Red Mist story takes place in Forthaven Hospital in some ‘American’ state or Belfast-estate USA where a clunk clique of seven medical students misbehaves horribly. There are no pretendings of intelligence here; they are simply portrayed as the ilk of jerk-offs that you might more likely expect to find in the jock football team or the cheerleader squad. Unlike the medical students in Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train whose horrific misfiring gag was an extreme variation on the kind of trick that real med students might play on one another to get them used to the horrors that they will in future encounter (for example, a nurse may once have been asked to transport something to the next room unaware that the weighty object in the bag was a dismembered half of leg) these young doctors resort to drugs, name-calling and selfish survival. When they endanger someone’s life, they endanger him further with cover-up action. Spottiswoode’s crime took less time to set up; Breathnach’s is too painfully long and less effective.
Andrew Lee Potts, one of the stars of ITV’s Primeval, plays Kenneth Chisholm (though in one of the skewed accents it at one point actually sounds like ‘Kenneth Jism’) in what has to be a career low. He should have fucking walked, no pay packet is worth this inglorious a role. Kenneth found a keyhole as a child and watched his mother fucked and murdered – I’m being as blunt as the film here – which left him a self-harming idiot. He works in a morgue and uses his mobile phone to film the naked corpses on the slab and typically, as is often the case in these films, there is no shortage of unblemished, pretty female cadavers. How someone this stupid could be allowed access to a morgue is answerable only in the brain of Paddy Breathnach. In what has to be the most embarrassing scene in anyone’s career, as an actor or a director, and especially as a scriptwriter (step forward Spencer Wright) when responding to abusive language (don’t recall the dialogue exactly but it was probably something imaginative like “Fuck off! Loser!”), the script calls for Andrew Lee Potts to respond: “You’re a potty mouth!” Cringe!
Arielle Kebbel is Catherine Thomas, the one nice young doctor in the pack of bastards. Kenneth’s nice-o-meter reading on the girl results in too much interest and he has been stalking her. Kenneth’s filmic activity has also captured Sean (Martin Compston) stealing party-time pharmaceuticals from the dispensary and cold-shouldered by the crap crowd he threatens to shop them. Catherine is persuaded to lure him back to their table where he is plied with drink. The taunting returns and working himself into a rage he collects a knock on the head that puts him into a coma for the remainder of the film, probably to the relief of Potts who is now free of the dreadful dialogue. A guilt-raddled Catherine reads of an experimental wonder drug which might stimulate the synapses and reawaken Kenneth, no matter what the outcome might be for her and the colleagues who might be exposed over their cover-up of the incident. Kenneth’s brain is stimulated alright but from his hospital bed he instead possesses staff into committing bloody murderous acts on those responsible.
So far, so tripe… The only way out is to bemuse oneself with the film’s blips and inadequacies. Breathnach has a few temporal troubles. When nurse MyAnna Buring is given permission to vacate her desk by Catherine, she appears to take a long journey into the basement for an illicit unbuttoning of her blouse only, either that or the quickest of quickies, the activity set against Catherine’s own medical administrations upon Kenneth several floors above. Word is that Kenneth is to be taken off the life support the next day but Breathnach forgets himself and two nights pass before the deadline arrives. It’s almost as if Catherine knows the next day will see two nights passing as she feels she has time for substantial research in the library finding an answer.
Hospital signage is bizarre and a game can be played wherein all roads lead to ‘x-ray’ or ‘laboratories’, and not an -ological department in sight. There is especially big signage for the staircase, which is only fair I suppose as these medical students are not a particularly bright lot the last thing we would want for them is to be left standing on the top step mistaking it for the down escalator. There could have been disturbing play on the fact that Kenneth has no family or medical insurance speeding in the need to pull the plug on him… but that might have complicated the telling and was beyond the director and writer. Of course, resuscitation paddles never leave burn marks in medical horrors like this. Shrooms got away with more as its forest landscape was a constant visual treat but the manufactured backdrop of Red Mist is more demanding and Breathnach’s efforts are hopeless within these confines.