Written, directed by and starring Steve Oram who, along with collaborators Alice Lowe and Ben Wheatley, made the glorious Sightseers, Aaaaaaaah! is a similarly micro-budget tale. The twist being that everyone involved talks and sounds like apes.
In Aaaaaaaah!'s world, apes never fully evolved into humans. They may look human, but the language and behaviour remain strictly animalistic. Oram’s message – that for all our pretence at civilisation, we’re not as removed from our near cousins as we like to pretend – is hardly original. It’s the same point Kubrick’s 2001 made far more eloquently nearly 50 years ago, but with added knob gags.
Opening with Oram cheerfully pissing on a photo of his ex, complete with close up of his (prosthetic) penis, Aaaaaaaah! revels in scatological humour from the outset. Characters piss, shit, vomit and ejaculate on camera with alarming regularity. Nudity - particularly male - also plays a prominent role. At the screening we caught (at Nottingham's Mayhem Film Festival), Steve Oram proudly exclaimed the film featured no less than three prosthetic penises (surely some sort of record), as well as various examples of the real thing.
The cast, which includes Toyah Wilcox along with cameos from Noel Fielding and a scene-stealing Alice Lowe, all throw themselves gamely into playing apes in human form, and all involved are obviously having a ball. Unfortunately, just because the cast is enjoying it all, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the audience is too. Once the novelty wears off – and it does quickly – we’re left watching a slight tale, revolving around the inhabitants of a house and their shifting relationships which, even at a brief 80 minutes, feels laboured. The concept could have made a brilliant sketch or even a short film, yet all but Oram’s most ardent fans are likely to feel their attention waning before too long.
Whilst it may be flawed, however, Aaaaaaaah! is still frequently very funny. Although the novelty of watching the cast jump around like apes quickly wears off, it frequently manages to deliver laugh out loud moments. There’s a bizarre recurring, hilarious sequence involving a chicken, and one moment involving a photo of Prince Harry may well rank as one of the funniest, not to mention treacherous moments of the year.
The film’s bizarre concept means it’s guaranteed cult status; indeed, some will love it. For the majority, however, Aaaaaaaah! is likely to prove a struggle.
AAAAAAAAH! / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: STEVE ORAM / STARRING: STEVE ORAM, LUCY HONIGMAN, JULIAN RHIND-TUTT, TOYAH WILCOX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (VOD), JANUARY 18TH (DVD/BLU-RAY)