Writer: Alan Moore
Cast: Siobhan Hewlett, Darrell D’Silva, Andrew Buckley, Khandie Khisses
Running time: 75mins
The lowdown: Alan Moore pens this short film portmanteau that follows two different characters into the underworld. Moore motifs of eroticism, magick, ancient death myths and Northampton all surface in striking stories from the comic guru’s twilight zone.
The full verdict: Saying Alan Moore is circumspect about movie adaptations of his work is like saying Richard Dawkins is on the fence about religion.
Perhaps surprising then to see him writing work for the big screen. Although he may subscribe to the adage, ‘if you want something done properly, do it yourself’.
And Moore is nothing if not versatile; remember, he wrote 2000AD classic The Ballad of Halo Jones, still to be tamed by Hollywood.
How then does he fare writing an original script?
The first film, Act of Faith, does not bode well. Beautiful, young professional Faith (Hewlett) passes up a night out with friends for a kinky, dangerous sex game. Visually it’s in Red Shoe Diaries land and The League of Gentlemen beat it to the dark punchline back in 2002.
But, Faith then reappears in the second section, Jimmy’s End, and it becomes apparent Moore’s stories will have more interesting continuity than the average V/H/S style anthology.
Jimmy’s End sees the writer on firmer ground. A grimy, smoke-clogged working men’s club is the setting for an unnerving cabaret revue, with bewildered aging low level criminal James (D’Silva) and Faith unwittingly become set-pieces for a fevered, surreal stage act.
Then into black comedy nightmare with His Heavy Heart, as James encounters two malevolent oddballs, clown “Bobbles” (Buckley) and voluptuous burlesque dancer Beryl (Khisses). Taken into a nocturnal world the wrong side of reality, James is subjected to torture based on ancient Egyptian death practices with nastily employed modern day surgical equipment.
But, does worse lie in wait for him?
Audiences worried that Moore will use the short film format for an impenetrable treatise on whatever esoteric ritual has caught his eye that week, fear not. Alan’s here to entertain first and foremost, producing an anthology movie in the tradition of early 1970s Amicus movies, but with more dangerous eroticism and a generous helping of cheese dream absurdity. He even allows himself a wryly self-aggrandising cameo.
Strikingly shot by photographer turned filmmaker Mitch Jenkins, Show Pieces dwells in the dream world of David Lynch’s psychic plains and the comic grotesquery of The League of Gentlemen, converging in Buckley’s Manc accented clown, outlining the contractual stipulations of James’ grisly torture as it happens.
Ambitious and imaginative and refusing to be boxed in by the short film format (the DVD adds a further two shorts to the running time), Show Pieces may be merely a first step into this world.
Moore and Jenkins plan a feature film follow-up, The Show, to take place on the Saturday after this unusual Friday night. Beyond that, a TV show to finish the tale.
Grand intentions indeed. But, even if Moore and Jenkins don’t reach the intended destination, the sights they provide along the way will likely be as memorable as this.