13th Sep2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘Show Pieces’ Review

by Nicky Johnson

Stars: Siobhan Hewlett, Darrell D’Silva, Robert Goodman, Alan Moore, Andrew Buckley, Khandie Khisses  | Written by Alan Moore | Directed by Mitch Jenkins, Paul Chessell

showpieces-cast

If you’re like me and you’re the type of person who likes to IMDB films before you watch them so you have a good idea what to expect, you’ll find it useful to know that Show Pieces isn’t one film. It’s actually a set of three short films that tie together, albeit a little loosely in the case of the first and second, all of which form a prelude to a planned feature called The Show. Normally what I would do is write about the first act then describe the experience, but in this case I’ll write about the first two short films which lead into the last.

First, we get Act of Faith, which is the shortest of the three. It follows Faith Harrington (Siobhan Hewlett), a journalist alone in her flat on a rainy evening. She makes herself up, puts on a long, glittering dress, and has a kinky phone call with her partner which ends in an auto-erotic asphyxiation scenario. After she puts the noose around her neck and handcuffs herself, her partner calls and gets through to her answering machine. He’s been in an accident; he can’t make it. The scene ends with Faith struggling to survive.

Next we have Jimmy’s End. James Mitchum (Darrell D’Silva) is lost after going to one bar too many and walks into an odd looking Working Man’s bar in Northampton. He walks through a long corridor, with flickering lights and yes, even a pentagram on one of the walls, walking past posters of an old comedy double act, until he finally reaches the bar. He’s bought a drink by Nicky Matchbright (Robert Goodman), one of the managers who’s sitting with a visibly shaken Faith. Eventually, we learn it’s time for James’ ‘talent show’, and as the other manager Frank Metterton (Alan Moore, who also wrote the films) reads what appears to James’s life, a light descends.

Cue His Heavy Heart. James is on the stage he was on before the light, but everything is now darkened and empty. A man in clown make up (Andrew Buckley) and a striper (Khandie Khisses; yes, really) lead him through to what looks to be a cellar to be have his life and deed judged the ‘Egyptian way’ by the clown. As we learn more about his past actions and womanising ways, we see what fate awaits him.

If I’m honest, writing the above was as tough as getting through the first two shorts. The Guardian called this avant-guard; I call it bloody bizarre. Act of Faith is a little strange, and I would have like to have had more on Faith’s line of story, but we go straight into Jimmy’s End and all momentum from Act of Faith falls away. The imagery and visuals are great, and that’s not just because there’s burlesque girls everywhere, but it looks dark and eerie. The script and story is just bizarre.

This is redeemed by His Heavy Heart though. This was a dark thriller, something that got me interested and freaked and on edge. The desperate acting from D’Silva and the vile clown by Buckley were fantastic. The visuals of the cellar/dungeon were perfect and the dialogue was genius. If this a feature on its own, I’d be raving about this to everyone and throwing my money at Moore like he was one of the strippers. That is if he took out the very last line which just seemed to dump on everything he’d worked for.

But perhaps the most confusing thing of all is that this was meant to be five short films. A Professional Relationship goes between the second and third I saw and follows the relationship of the clubs managers, something I cared very little for. However, Upon Reflection goes between the first and second, and follows Faith as she first enters the bar, which was sorely needed, at least to explain what she was doing in the bar in the first place. Until it gets explained, I genuinely began to think this was a separate timeline or something, and that it was all unrelated.

Really, I’m just left baffled by the format and annoyed. If it were a feature length film, worked together and exploring the characters a bit more, I think I could have liked it. Instead, I watched three out of five short films, two of reached seemed fairly unrelated, the latter was too short and ended with the cheesiest line I’ve seen in a long while, and in which the first film’s only character was woefully undeveloped. If you have to watch Show Pieces, skip forward to His Heavy Heart. Otherwise, just leave it.

** 2/5

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