6.5 out 10

Release Date: 17th October 2010

Director: Johannes Roberts: (Roadkill (2015) / Storage 24)

Cast: David Schofield, Ruth Gemmell, Eliza Bennett, Finlay Robertson, Juliet Aubrey, Max Fowler, Emma Cleasby, Christopher Adamson with Tom Mannion and Roxanne McKee

Writer: Johannes Roberts

Trailer: F

Here’s a slasher thriller for haters of the nanny state. Or is it the opposite? Will those that read the Daily Mail and pledge to it’s creed that everybody is secretly out to kill you, especially anyone under the age of 20, be agog?  Do you despair at the lack of discipline in our schools? Did you blame the government for last years looting sprees? Well its unlikely that anyone with an over imaginative social conscience will seek out commentaries in seemingly generic slasher flicks. But here we have one. At least to begin with.

David Schofield (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1 to 3) plays a teacher who is let down by the system after he is head-butted by a pupil in class.  The school instead back the student and suggest our man take the rest of the term off.  Eleven months later, we catch up with him to find he can barely control his classes through fear of attack and has developed a drinking problem.  We think his wife (JULIET AUBREY – STILL CRAZY) has recently left him due to the pressure as well.  On top of this, the teacher’s daughter  (ELIZA BENNETT – INK HEART) is beginning to side with the students.  One evening after a run in with the headmistress (RUTH GEMMELL – OFFENDER) after putting his daughter in detention, the school comes under siege from faceless hoodies intent on causing destruction and to leave all and sundry dead in their wake.  To make things even worse, to begin with, only the discredited Schofield believes the school has been invaded. His daughter goes missing and everyone else is getting stalked and killed by a heavy breathing force of deadly, ghostly attackers.

This film is mostly effective in the opening stages with the interfaces between Schofield and the headmistress bringing into question the credibility of the former.  The slow build does well to establish the main characters. With the very slim running time (under 80 mins including credits) little attention is given up to the other teachers who are pure knife fodder.  Tom Mannion (IRIS) is an early victim as a woodwork teacher with an equally unhealthy attitude to his charges.  Is work in such short supply that good established actors are lining up  for the chop and a handful of lines that amount to “Hello?” and “Who’s There?”…. Anyway, I digress.  Is F scary? Is it any good? Are their enough frights on hand to recommend this? Yes to all of the these.

On the whole F is competent and the scares are all present. Eventhough the violence occurs off screen in most cases, F is gorier than most recent horror flicks, with two particularly mangled members of staff sticking out.  One early death by fire is aptly upsetting. So yes it works where it should, perhaps too well.

What sets F apart is the very interesting way in which the film is left to resolve itself.  Without giving anything away, it does throw open a few neat possibilities and at the same time a life or death dilemna.  I’ve read reviews that say this film has no ending but they have misunderstood everything that has gone before and one particular interpretation of events fits in perfectly.  I, for one, am sick of convention in these kinds of films and was bowled over by this narrative departure.  Hopefully I haven’t overcooked the outcome but after forty minutes of genre convention it was a brave move by the makers to try something new.  The director Johannes Roberts went on to make the alien invasion flick Storage 24, that whilst enjoyable, didn’t have any new tricks up it’s sleeves. Maybe he / she paid too much attention to F’s detractors and played safe with their follow up.

6.5 out of 10 – 40 minutes of slasher film conventions book ended with intelligent arguments about discipline in schools and a very unsettling ending.  Recommended for a great lead performance from (what have I seen him in-face) David Schofield.

Thanks to my friend Safron for recommending it to me….




One thought on “F

  1. Who’d be a teacher? There you are, slaving away, day after day, feeding GCSEs into unresponsive/crazed children, then you end up on the wrong end of a headbutt-related misunderstanding with some sort of moronic child, get suspended, wind up an alcoholic, separated from your wife, humiliated by kids acting like they should be in a zoo, having to put your estranged daughter into detention in order to spend time with her, then see the school come under attack by hooded killers, see your colleagues horribly mangled and then find that those closest to you hate you more than ever. Now, I’m not a teacher, and I suspect this isn’t a documentary, but this is what happens to poor Mr Anderson (actually I don’t think he’s even given the title ‘Mr’) in F, a surprisingly good horror film. The title is terrible, but at least it’s relevant to the film, which, if you wanted to be pretentious (and nothing ever stopped me being that) is a meditation on the nature of failure, as well as being a proper nerve-shredder of a slasher movie.

    David Schofield (a ridiculously under-rated actor) takes centre-stage as the hapless Anderson enduring an early evening of hell. He is the epitome of middle-aged breakdown – the sort of breakdown which is more a kind of shambling slow-motion collapse rather than an explosion of anger; a good man gone wrong with nobody noticing. It’s an incredibly objective performance – although we may empathise with him, he never reaches out to us as we see him digging a bigger hole for himself; there is no self-pity.

    The setting up is interesting in that it focuses very much on Anderson and his place in the school pecking order (he’s near the bottom, despised by head, colleagues, pupils, wife, daughter, security guards, everyone really). It looks for a while like he’s going to take a class hostage or indulge in some sort of vigilante/teacher strikes back shenanigans) but then the film side-steps into horror territory as we see someone trapped and burned to death in a bin and mysterious hoodie-wearing killers start causing mayhem and murder (they’re impressively quiet), before re-asserting interest in Anderson. Anyone who is dismayed by the film’s ending clearly hasn’t been paying attention and should stay back after class: the film is about Anderson and not really about crazy killers at all. (I’m glad he doesn’t get the blame though – that would have been stupid and melodramatic and is exactly what the film-makers wanted me to think and I fell for it. No, they had a much better ending in mind, which may well have you screaming in frustration, but it makes perfect sense. I hope they don’t go and ruin it by giving us F2: The Explanation.)

    The other characters, for all that their appearances are mostly quite brief, are well-sketched, so that even if we dislike them, they feel real enough for us to be genuinely concerned for them (well, not genuinely, but genuinely in terms of watching films; it’s not simply a matter of guessing the kill order, and most of the time you want them to get away). Ruth Gemmell is the sort of competent headteacher who is all too clearly aware that she’s tied up by every regulation going, Tom Mannion is the re-incarnation of my least favourite woodwork teacher, and there’s a gloriously wimpy/slimy turn from Finlay Robertson as the rubbishest security guard in scholastic history (and since when did schools have security guards? Am I showing my age/naivety there?). Of course, as tradition dictates, there is the obligatory feisty blonde schoolgirl (Eliza Bennett – brilliant I suppose because she’s extremely irritating and she deserves a slap, which she duly gets), as well as quite a large complement of staff waiting to be slaughtered (it does seem a tad crowded at times, and it does seem to take a while for anyone other than our hero – who no-one believes of course – to realise what’s going on).

    The single most surprising thing about F (in retrospect) is that it doesn’t feel like a genre film which has followed all the rules and included all the clichés. And yet they’re all there: improbably swift moving villains, pretty girls getting killed in showers, phone lines going down, no-one believing our hero, the moment where you think it’s the killer but it’s really the boyfriend (though you think he might be the killer anyway); it’s all here but is cleverly disguised. I think it’s because it’s all filmed as a kind of drab downbeat film about a school; the school itself (or college as it’s called but that’s silly, it’s definitely a school) is a vital part, almost a character in the proceedings, not just a backdrop for imaginative nastiness. And director Johannes Roberts displays some sort of genius at sleight of hand as he manages to hide the villains in plain sight. The scene in the library is a good example – it just shouldn’t work and yet somehow it does.

    I particularly liked the music – usually these films resort to the fairly sledgehammer sort of orchestral stuff which has barely advanced since the glory days of Bernard Herrmann. Here, and this is a bit of a cliché but it’s done brilliantly, we have the chorus of spooky children, but these are seriously demented choristers, serenading the school to its doom; scary music is almost impossible, but they get it right here.

    F is far from perfect and its most significant failing is one which it shares with too many of its genre. The deaths for the most part are seen from afar, hinted at; the camera often turns away once the first blow is struck. This is a good thing and adds to the tension. But of course we must at times see splatter and gore, and this is where the problem is. As ever (or so it sometimes seems) it is splattered, gore-riddled women who we get to see in gratuitous detail, whilst almost all the men who get killed are never seen again after they’ve said ‘what’s that noise?’ or ‘don’t hit me’ etc. But half the budget must have gone on one mangled female corpse; there’s probably room for a dozen or so dissertations about this phenomenon but please join me in a cry of ‘we want to see more mangled male corpses!’

    I would claim that there are four types of movie scare: the red-herring shock (it’s just the cat), suspense (people getting caught), nasty stuff (the caught people getting chopped up), and the disturbing feeling you get after the film has finished: the film won’t let you go, and you find yourself irrationally checking you’ve locked the door one extra time at night, just in case. This film delivers on all four fronts, and does so with style and surprise. At the end you are left with some very obvious unanswered questions. But more importantly you feel a bit helpless, wondering how things might have gone if only someone had done this or not done that. In other words, I cared! You’re not supposed to be that involved in a slasher movie, so it may be the best one of its type.

    7 out of 10


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