Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Field In England aka Edgar Allan Poe's Imp of The Perverse (review)

When Witchfinder General was released in the US in 1968 it was re titled to tie it in with AIPs series of films based on Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Since A Field in England, Ben Wheatly's new follow up to The Kill List, is so obviously channeling Witchfinder General can we do the same with that? What Poe title would we pick? 

The Gold Bug? 
The Purloined Letter?
The Forest Reverie?
The Divine Right of Kings?

Weirdly, and this points to my trouble finding a suitable Poe title for it, it is a little too oblique to be pigeonholed with other British "Folk Horror". Most of it reminded me more of the film adaptation of Sir Henry At Rawlinson's End. I laughed out loud often at this movie, far more than I thought. Perhaps the presence of Julian Barrett and Reece Shearsmith started me off, but it is Amy Jump's witty period banter that is the highlight for me. 

This is instantly my favourite English Civil War movie, placing you literally in the heads of those suffering through the last (to date) period of British religious and political fundamentalism. These feel like real conversations between grumbling servicemen at the time, as much as a Patrick O'Brian novel or Willis Hall's The Long And the Short And The Tall, at least until the effects of searching for treasure in a field of magic mushrooms brings what is left of their rational world crashing down around them.

Micheal Smiley also fantastic as a Cromwell era Irish Vincent Price but Shearsmith is magnificent and, to cheekily re-title some of Alan Moore's recent work, A Field In England is only Mark Gatiss and a few others away from being League of Gentlemen : Century 1600.  Except that this movie, despite appearances, is quite a bit lighter than the grim League of Gentlement tv comedy. 

I really enjoyed A Field In England and thought it a big step forward over Ben Wheatley's previous Kill List (which ultimately infuriated after a great start). It is a great ensemble piece presenting likable characters that lifts it above the most recent stab of period folk horror, the otherwise unfairly maligned Black Death. The camaraderie (and gore) also reminded me of another recent favourite of mine,  the medieval mutton western Ironclad.

And just because I've not mentioned it for months the other British movie it invites comparison with is Dredd, as both have dazzling psychedelia that should be experienced on as big a screen as possible.

The eerie retro companionship that A Field In England has with Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio I will have to return to after a re-watching both on disc..

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