F

What looks on paper to be a Daily Mail-bothering hoodie horror is an elegant yet disturbing thriller.

17th September 2010 in Film4 FrightFest, Front Featured, Recommended, Reviews / By Becky Reed / Rating: 4/5
F

Openly influenced by Assault On Precinct 13, Johannes Roberts takes what looks on paper to be a Daily Mail-bothering hoodie horror, and crafts an elegant yet disturbing thriller.

The wonderful character actor David Schofield is in a much-deserved leading role as Robert, a teacher in a faceless British school. Exasperated by his unwilling students, he steps too far in his verbal putdowns and finds himself on the end of a beating from a pupil. School politics, led by Ruth Gemmell's headmistress, mean the boy isn't expelled, and Robert has to return to work months later, a broken shell of a man, borderline alcoholic and going through a divorce. Matters are complicated by his teenage daughter Kate (Eliza Bennett) being a pupil, straining their relationship to breaking point. Schofield brings humour and dignity to a role that could've had our leading man being merely a sorry caricature of anger and fear, and his performance is central to the power of the film.

You may have gathered at this point that there's a lot more to F than outright terror, and you'd be right. Devilishly clever, it pulls you into Robert's bitter frustration, and the tension is mainly from his paranoia, which is unfortunately proved correct. For one dark evening, during detention, Robert, Kate, headmistress, librarian, gym teacher and some hapless security guards find themselves at the mercy of literally faceless hooded figures, who silently and mercilessly slaughter anyone in their way as they break into the school.

Roberts doesn't hold back with the gore, but this is no slasher flick. We are subjected to the aftermath of this senseless violence, taking place in atmospherically dark corridors and locker rooms. He is helped by a powerful and unusual score from a dramatic choir, and the tension is broken by Finlay Robertson's thankful comic relief as said useless security. A horror is nothing without its villains, and the predators are these agile, cat-like young men in sweatpants, wielding crowbars, fire extinguishers and petrol cans as their urban weapons. It's hard to tell throughout if these are supernatural beings, or experts in torture and pain, so deftly are they shot with sinister black-out masks.

There are no easy answers in F. However, rest assured, its brave and unusual ending will answer the one thing that will niggle in any regular horror fan's mind. A unique and masterful movie that belies its low budget in every way.