'Eat Locals': Film Review | FrightFest 2017

Courtesy of Evolution Pictures
Yawn of the Dead.

A secret vampire summit meeting turns into a bloodbath in debutant director Jason Flemyng’s spoofy horror comedy.

A low-budget British vampire comedy with more bark than bite, Eat Locals feels like a school reunion project for survivors of Guy Ritchie’s early gangster films. The director is one-time Ritchie regular Jason Flemyng, the cast includes cameos from his former screen comrades Dexter Fletcher and Nick Moran, and the main fight sequence was guest-directed by breakout action star Jason Statham. But a much more obvious influence than Ritchie on this affectionate horror parody are the genre-spoofing comic-book antics of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, whose tongue-in-cheek signature style looms large enough here to invite some unflattering comparisons.

Flemyng and screenwriter Danny King deploy the same kind of film-geek homages as Pegg and Wright, quoting from The Great Escape and The Shining among others, but with little of their quickfire wit or imaginative brio. A rich ensemble cast including Mackenzie Crook (Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Sense8) and Charlie Cox (Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire) may boost the film’s commercial prospects slightly, but the comedy is clumsy and the horror toothless. Premiered at FrightFest in London last weekend, Eat Locals goes on limited U.K. theatrical release this week ahead of a simultaneous VOD and DVD launch in late October.

Cocky young blade Sebastian (Billy Cook) steps off a night train in a sleepy English country town for a mysterious date with seductive older woman Vanessa (Eve Myles). But his carnal expectations are thwarted when it turns out he has been lured to a remote farmhouse for a gathering of the ruling vampire council, who meet only twice every century to take care of business, bicker over blood-sucking quotas and recruit new candidates to their thinning ranks. When Sebastian's interview with the vampires backfires, the odds on him surviving from dusk until dawn start to look pretty slim.

Meanwhile, a Special Forces team of heavily armed vampire slayers led by Bingham (Robert Portal) and Larrouse (Crook) are staking out the farmhouse. But they were only banking on taking down one blood-sucker, not a small army. This cat-and-mouse game soon escalates into a full-blown gunfight between the living and the undead, with subplots about captive hostages and cannibal killers adding extra flavor to the usual neck-munching, heart-piercing, daylight-shunning frolics.

The premise for Eat Locals, with its echoes of superior pulp classics like Assault on Precinct 13 and Night of the Living Dead, is full of juicy potential. Sadly, the finished package is a parade of labored jokes and bloodless caricatures, missing the target both as comedy and horror. Energy levels are also way too flat for a kick-ass vampire grindcore orgy, though the thrill factor spikes noticeably during a kinetic fight scene in a barn, where Statham’s action-hero chops clearly come into play.

In total, Eat Locals delivers a handful of funny lines and hammy scares. But Flemyng’s low-voltage debut mostly creates the impression of watching a bunch of old acting buddies reuniting for some semi-improvised amateur dramatics at a Halloween fancy dress party. Roaring good fun for the participants, no doubt, but pretty dull as spectator sport.

Production companies: Evolution Pictures, Hereford Films
Cast: Mackenzie Crook, Freema Agyeman, Charlie Cox, Eve Myles, Vincent Regan, Tony Curran, Dexter Fletcher, Ruth Jones, Annette Crosbie
Director: Jason Flemyng
Screenwriter: Danny King
Producers: Neil Jones Rod Smith, Jonathan Sothcott
Cinematographer: Chas Bain
Editor: Alex Fenn
Music: James Seymour Brett
94 minutes