This film is not a feature film. For a start, it is not feature length,
also, it is not shot on film. More importantly, it does not have what
feature films have these days: star actors, special effects, exotic
locations, explosions. Instead, seeing B.W.P. is seeing something else
that a cinema can be: a place where people can share an intimate experience
created by a few people on a tight budget. I would be glad of its success
if only for that reason.
The first section of the film appears at first to be amateurish and slow.
In fact, it is very deft, and very efficient at what it does. It tells the
audience everything it needs to know about the characters and situation,
and nothing more. Also, it gets the audience into the habit of viewing the
film's format: alternating between black and white (very grainy and poorly
focussed) film, and the washed out colours of shaky pixilated video. The
film makers managed to set up a rationale for why the film is so cheaply
made. Three people hike into the woods for a few days to shoot a
documentary, with borrowed equipment, and are in the habit of videoing
everything for the hell of it. They cannot carry tripods, steadicams,
dollies, large lighting rigs, or the like, so everything we see is lit
either by raw daylight, or by a single light fixed to the camera, which
illuminates just what is within a few feet of the lens. The film creates
its own excuse to be cheap. This is intelligent.
The acting and script are both excellent. The well-cast actors are
presumably playing pretty-much themselves, and are convincingly
naturalistic, and neither too likeable or too dislikeable. The slow route
into hysteria is well documented. Rather than simply having a character
say "We're lost!", we see many scenes which show the trio getting more and
more hopelessly lost, and more annoyed with each other for this. By the
time they are thoroughly lost, the audience shares the despair.
My friend and I, after seeing it, both felt a little sick. I put this down
to my having been tense for a hour, he put it down more to motion sickness.
The jerky, badly-framed camerawork is hard on the eye and stomach, but I
applaud the director for its uncompromising use. Similarly, no compromise
is made with the dialogue. Some of it is very quiet and must be listened
for, some is technical jargon, which is left realisticly unexplained.
One of the great strengths and weaknesses of the film is the editing. It
is good in that it does much to heighten the tension, with many key moments
lasting just a little too long for comfort. Each time the characters find
something nasty, the viewer is made to want the editor to cut soon to the
next scene, and the fact that he doesn't adds to the sense of being
trapped, as the characters are. The problem with this, though, is that one
is left wondering about the motives of the fictional editor. In truth, of
course, the film is edited to create these effects, and to entertain, but
the film's rationale is that these are the rushes of a documentary put
together posthumously by someone other than the film's original creator.
Why, then, would an editor piecing together such footage, edit for dramatic
effect rather than for clarity? Why would he keep cutting back and forth
from the video footage to the film footage, when neither shows any more
information than the other?
The film is stark. After one simple caption at the start, all that follows
is the "rushes". I wonder if the film might not have been improved with an
introductory section which documented how the rushes were found and edited.
A programme was made for television which did this. Perhaps a portion of
this might have been added to the film, making it more complete, and more
believable (and proper feature length).
While I applaud the fact that young original film-makers have managed to
create a mainstream hit out of a simple idea, well-handled. I dread the
possible avalanche of inferior copies which may come.
Most horror films these days are created not for the audience, but for the
makers. The departments of special effects, make-up, model-making,
animation and so forth all try hard to show potential future employers what
they can do. The result is that nothing is left for the audience to do,
since everything can be seen and heard, and the viewer's imagination can be
switched off. Today, it is possible to see pigs fly on the screen, and so
film-makers show off and show us a formation of Tamworths, which is
something which will look impressive in the trailer. To show us less is to
make our minds fill in the gaps. This way, we create our own terrors,
perfectly fitted to ourselves. The ghastly face I see in my head, is the
ghastly head which I find scary. The ghastly face I am shown may be one I
can cope with quite easily. If I see a believable character screaming in
hysterical fear at something I cannot see, my own brain creates demons for
my night's dreams, demons far more mighty than anything CGI graphics or a
latex mask could portray.
This film will stay in your thoughts for some while.