The curse of the self-reviewing title strikes again with Aaaaaaaah!, the bafflingly dreadful feature directorial debut from Sightseers scribe/star Steve Oram. In its IMDb description, the question “Ever imagined what life would be like if humans were apes in modern life?” is posed. Maybe lots of people have wondered that but, after spending an obnoxiously long 80 minutes with these buffoons, you won’t anymore.
The premise, if one can even call it that, surrounds an extended family that have been besieged by the kind of alpha male creep who screams and throws things literally the whole time he’s awake–only here his behaviour makes slightly more sense because the characters all act, and communicate, like primates. However the film is, at its core, a soft romance that sees one man try to reunite with his family while his daughter attempts to find love.
Let’s face it, you’re either going to find Aaaaaaaah! completely insufferable or utterly genius depending on your propensity for gurning and slapstick humour that relies exclusively on the lowest common denominator. This is a movie in which the height of comedy is deemed to be somebody defecating onto some cling-film. Seriously. Elsewhere, you can enjoy food fights, random nudity and a whole hell of a lot of grunting.
That’s pretty much it, aside from some strangely misplaced moments of gore (the flick ends with a violent sequence that seemed curiously out of kilter, not to mention senseless). The cast are totally game and, considering it includes The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, along with Oram’s fellow Sightseer Alice Lowe, it’s doubly disappointing that none of them can elevate this mess above exactly what it is: a mess.
The Boosh connection is important as it seems, at least at first, that Aaaaaaaah! was envisioned as a similar kind of endeavour. Oram has featured in Fielding’s underrated, yet suitably loopy, Luxury Comedy and there are moments when the movie tips into surrealist territory. Unfortunately, it’s shot mockumentary-style and the grungy texture does nothing to elevate the gloomy, kitchen sink locations or the dull, grey-on-grey colour scheme.
This is also the worst either Boosh star has ever been. Fielding, who is unfortunate enough to take part in the film’s crudest, and bloodiest, joke, is completely muted. If he weren’t being used as a major selling point, you’d hardly even believe he was in the thing. Barratt, meanwhile, gets considerably more to do but he also spends much of his screen time cuddling with a piece of cake. Even the score recalls better, Booshian times.
There’s no doubting Oram’s talents as a writer–Sightseers was a hoot–but he falters when taking centre-stage here. His idea, such as it is, isn’t explored much beyond a fleeting, humourous musing about the nature of man. It’s the premise for a piece of sketch comedy at best, a drunken joke stretched out over a particularly long night at the pub at worst. It isn’t strong enough to entertain for 80 minutes. After about a quarter of that, we’ve explored it completely–but there’s still another hour to go.
Aaaaaaaah! posits the idea that, if we were apes in modern life, we’d eat from troughs, our language wouldn’t have evolved and we’d defecate everywhere. However, it also suggests that modern appliances, such as televisions and cooking equipment, would be readily available, and we’d all still live in houses, shop in stores and sleep in beds. At one point, we even see the characters watching a cooking programme with a topless woman.
It’s like the film can’t keep track of its own mythology. Or perhaps Oram wants us to question certain additions to the landscape in order to give weight to his flimsy story. There really isn’t anything to it; people speak and act like apes, but also do a lot of human stuff too, so it’s kind of a glimpse at an alternate reality but not really. It’s a bit like that one priest from Father Ted has been given his own movie. But everyone acts like him and it isn’t funny and Graham Norton doesn’t show up to translate.
Let me put it like this: This movie starts with its writer/director/star, Oram, pissing on a photo. And it just gets weirder from there. So, if that sounds appealing, then have at it. Personally, I went from being bored to tears to being actively annoyed by what I was watching. It’s insulting to see something like this presented as though it’s smart or inventive or thought-provoking or shocking. It isn’t. It’s lowest common demoninator rubbish and it should not be heralded as anything else.
There will be people who try to defend this pretentious wankery, who argue that naysayers simply don’t “get” it. There’s nothing to get. Aaaaaaaah! isn’t funny, clever, well-made or interesting. I can’t remember one moment of it that made me smile, or even think. And, perhaps most egregiously given its inclusion on the Frightfest lineup and the amount of attention gifted to it by genre sites (including this one–sorry), it isn’t horror.
Avoid at all costs unless you’re after a particularly bad headache. Or you’re having trouble sleeping.
WICKED RATING: 1/10
Director(s): Steve Oram
Writer(s): Steve Oram
Stars: Steve Oram, Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding, Alice Lowe
Studio/ Production Co: Lincoln Studios
Length: 79 minutes