From the pen of Alan Moore comes The Show, a movie that shows the darker side of the town of Northampton – here’s our review.
Whilst it’s said that all great writers enjoy a complicated relationship with their hometown, Alan Moore – the legendary comic book scribe who gave us Watchmen, V For Vendetta and The Killing Joke – has always seemed particularly enraptured with Northampton, the market town he has lived in all of his life.
In 2016 he published Jerusalem, a million word novel set in the town. Now, having sworn never to return to the world of comic books, Moore has added to his anthology of surreal short films set in his native Northampton by trying his hand at feature film writing. Thus, he’s penned the script for The Show, a garishly surreal film noir that spends its running time winding throughout the weird underbelly of a lurid Northampton fever dream.
The plot itself is simple enough, at least at first. Fletcher Dennis, played by Tom Burke, arrives in the town on the trail of a valuable artefact, thought to be in the possession of a now-deceased visitor who supped a little too deeply on the town’s dangerous delights. Once a quick trip to the morgue confirms that the item is no longer in the possession of the dead man, Dennis finds himself slowly drawn into the town’s dark web of outlandish haunts, populated by a cast of increasingly bizarre characters.
As reality and dreams (and genres too) begin to mesh irrevocably together, what begins as a simple fetch quest begins to slowly take on far darker hues.
Directed with visual flair by Mitch Jenkins, there’s an abundance of Dutch tilts, gaudy colours and noir shadows competing for your attention throughout The Show. It’s tempting to describe it as a sort of delirious vision that Nicolas Winding Refn might have where Royston Vasey melts imperceptibly into Twin Peaks, but whilst no doubt a compliment, that would also be a little reductive.
In truth, it’s another weirdly compelling entrant into the quiet revival of the English Gothic genre that we’ve witnessed for a while now. Films that focus on dreary, half-forgotten English towns that pulse secretly with a mystical, sometimes even erotic mania, continue to emerge from small-scale British filmmakers. Over the last couple of years, Trick Or Treat, Stone Men, Saint Maud and now The Show all with some degree of success have juxtaposed the uncanny nature of their stories against the hum-drum grimness of towns whose potential has long since been squandered by a decade of economic rot.
Naturally, this being Moore, there’s a hefty dose of meta-textual commentary that sits easily alongside the surreal happenings and noir inflections. Oblique references to an 80s-style computer game sketch out strange ideas about the simulacrum-style nature of reality in relation to dreams, whilst Moore is more direct in his skewering of the American superhero, an archetype that he himself helped to deify before renouncing.
Although he couldn’t possibly have foresaw this point in history, there’s something eerily prescient about this film’s powerful, masked avenger, who chooses the position of voyuer over saviour, a stark personification of all those crowd-pleasing American superhero films dallying passively in the wings whilst cinemas flounder desperately for a saviour to bring back audiences. (On the other hand, you’ll be glad to know that British comics, specifically, The Beano get a much more loving tribute…)
Still, since V For Vendetta and Watchmen, Moore has always seemed to have one eye firmly on the future potential of whichever medium he works in and I’d argue that The Show is no different, placing him and his collaborators at the vanguard of what is one of the most interesting movements in UK cinema right now. Plus, the film also boasts a detailed dissection of why pineapples make the deadliest choice of fruit when engaging in hand-to-hand-combat. What more could you ask for?
The Show played at the Sitges Film Festival. When we have a firm UK release date, we’ll let you know.
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