Written & Directed by Steve Oram
Starring Julian Barratt, Lucy Honigman, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram
Indie film review by Monica Jowett
Sightseers (2012) star Steve Oram makes his directorial debut Aaaaaaaah! in which he also writes and stars, as a satirical view of the world populated by humans who inexplicably act like apes. Almost as though it’s an abstract performance art piece, Aaaaaaaah! happens to be a surprisingly funny take on what life would be like if everyone behaved with an ape-like mentality.
It follows the alpha Smith (Steve Oram) and his beta Keith (Tom Meeten) who have moved in to take over a local community of ape people in an alternative version of South London. First of all they have to overthrow the current alpha Ryan (Julian Rhind-Tutt) which they do in a comical and violent manner, during and following a scene which could be described as one of the weirdest house parties you’ve ever seen! There Smith catches the eye of, and impresses with his alpha theatrics, Denise (Lucy Honigman); a troubled and unhappy female. However the female alpha Barabara (Toyah Willcox) is not pleased Smith has taken over from Ryan, so he has to win her over too. Throughout this, a sub plot emerges of the former alpha Jupiter (Julian Barratt) who has stuck around the area, looking for his opportunity to reclaim his alpha status.
An indie film like this is hard to pin down; it is bizarre in so many ways. The cinematography uses a handheld camera approach, giving it an arthouse and chaotics feel, and the editing, by Oram himself, shows us just how low budget the film is, but also the type of films you can make with the willingness of a cast of talented British actors.
They must have been willing too, as there is no dialogue within the film, everyone communicates with grunts, whoops and arm flailing and there are many scenes featuring unusual activities for humans, though not so much for animals, as there is an abundance of nudity, violence and everyone just lets loose. Aaaaaaaah! does make a point of showing the animalistic way that men act toward women and each other in the fight for dominance, often in a sexual way, but whether Oram wanted there to be an underlying message for the film remains to be seen. Despite this confusion of acting and a slow start to the film, the story is easy enough to follow, and though there is a lack of speech, the characters emerge well defined; it is easy to see who the alpha is, much like in a nature documentary.
Already known for good scriptwriting, Aaaaaaaah! is an odd direction to take for a directing debut. Genre defying but with a clear comedy centre, this is not a film for all audiences. However it will stay in your head, even if that thought was ‘it is such a weird film’.