01st Mar2022

Romford Horror Festival 2022: ‘Manfish’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Dean Kilbey, Emma Stannard, Matty Noble, Jon Campling, Liam Noble, David Alexander, Paul Trussell, Eloise Dale, Reis Daniel, Monica Gaga | Written and Directed by Marc Coleman

When a humanoid sea creature washes up in Terry’s bleak life they quickly develop feelings for each other – But can Man love Fish, and will Terry’s older criminal brother get his hands on the creature before Terry can decide how he feels?

Ever wondered what it would look like if Troma shot a British movie at Canvey Island? Wonder no more as Manfish would definitely be the result… and I mean that in the most complimentary way. You see Manfish embodies the spirit of the low-budget, independent, more ideas than money, style of filmmaking that Troma is synonymous with. Though ion this was made by Americans I doubt the finished product would be quite as sweet-natured as Marc Coleman’s film; because Manfish is INCREDIBLY sweet-natured.

Who knew that the world needed a film about a man loving a fish person to bring a sense of perspective to bigotry, sexuality and interspecies relationships? I jest about the latter of course, but Manfish really doesn’t make any issue about the relationship between Terry and the titular fish man. Hell, we don’t even know if it’s a man OR a woman… It’s a fish person and no matter the gender, Terry falls in love; after all many say we can’t help who we fall in love with and this is an example of true love, the kind of love that crosses boundaries, that doesn’t care about gender, race or sexuality.

In terms of performances, the titular Manfish… Actually, hold on. Is the title the description of the sea creature, as in “man-fish” or is it a description of the relationship between Terry and the sea creature? As in “man AND fish”? It’s an important question to ask, especially given the aforementioned openness surrounding Terry and his aquatic companion’s relationship. But, back to the sea creature. Let’s be honest, it looks like a guy in a diving suit, with some embellishments wearing a rubber mask and hand prosthetics. Somewhat like an even-lower budget version of a Silurian from their original appearance in 70s Doctor Who.

And the creature doesn’t speak a word of English. Or a word at all in fact! However, that doesn’t stop Matty Noble’s performance under all those effects from coming across as sweet, timid, inquisitive and loving. A perfect foil for Terry, a character whose haggard, put-upon nature is perfectly portrayed by Dean Kilbey – he embodies that kind of lonely soul you would see traipsing around the seafront, the kind of person that you feel sorry for. Yet Dean, when presented with someone to care for, someone he bonds with (because he certainly doesn’t have a decent bond with his brother-shagging girlfriend), comes out of his shell and finds an inner strength. There too Kilbey really shines; he also shines in the films more slapstick aspects – including some brilliant reactions to his fishy companion’s somewhat psychopathic actions!

Ultimately though Manfish is a story about love. A love that knows no bounds. A story about finding that special someone and sticking by them. Only Terry’s special someone is a manfish and he’s trapped in a sort of tortuous slapstick reality in Canvey Island of all places!

It might look daft, it might even be daft, but Manfish is also one of the sweetest, most warm-hearted films about a humanoid from the deep you’ll ever see. Kudos to writer and director Marc Coleman for pulling off such an adorable comedy.

***** 5/5

Manfish screened as part of this year’s Romford Horror Film Festival.


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