Guts Reaction: Bucking Hell

Bucking Hell is a short film by James Kermack. It’s about three men stuck on a sinking ship, with only one life-jacket. They sit below decks playing an improvised version of Buckaroo to decide who gets the life jacket – hence the title.

The Buckaroo is worth describing in more detail. It’s like a mix between a Blair Witch Project twig sculpture and a four-year-old child’s junk modelling. It’s really quite special.

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The film is a fine study of men on the edge and it’s darkly hilarious. Dick-waving about who’s got the biggest scar – that’s scar not car - takes up a significant proportion of the character’s dwindling time.

Gradually, the terrified and ridiculous bickering breaks down into Beckettian existential reflection. At this point real characters begin to emerge. One shows himself to be a cynic to the end, while another reveals an unexpected, if horribly violated, sensitivity.

Bucking Hell is a very accomplished short film. The performances – from David Schaap of the Inbetweeners, Nicky Evans of Shameless and Geoffrey Breton…  who is less well known but should be…. are impeccable.

Like many a short film, I wanted it to be longer.

James Kermack’s first feature film - Hi-Lo Joe, about a love affair haunted by trauma - received mixed reviews.  But Kermack’s clearly got an eye for compelling set-up and characters, and tightly controlled narrative. He’s currently putting together a dark action thriller, Knuckledust, and I’ll certainly be looking out for it.

Guts Reaction: League of Gentlemen Christmas Special

Here are my off the cuff thoughts on The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special.

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On the down side, the structure of the series - a hybrid between a sketch show and a sitcom - wasn’t quite as dreamlike as in the original show. It felt bitty, rather than unsettling.

This was the only downside, however.

Royston Vasey, as others have observed, is more relevant than ever. What is Brexit if not a resolution of Britain’s identity as a local country for local people?

I’m coming at League of Gentlemen as a horror fan. On a more personal note, I feel that for horror fans , the energy of characters like Edward and Tubbs and Papa Lazarou is always there under the surface of everyday life. To me, you can’t make sense of life without that crazy dimension. You can’t live your life without it. A show like the League of Gentlemen provides an exhilarating validation for this feeling, and it was good to be back.

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton were so ferociously good in all their roles they made me tingle. I got the feeling they were having the time of their lives and they absolutely took me with them.

Shearsmith excels himself when, as Benjamin Denton, he’s possessed by Harvey Denton. I never knew a top lip could be so funny.

Mark Gatiss, as usual, was smooth and brilliant.

All in all, watch it if you haven’t already!