DVD Review: Elfie Hopkins / Cert: 15 / Director: Ryan Andrews / Screenplay: Ryan Andrews, Riyad Barmania / Starring: Jaime Winstone, Aneurin Barnard, Kimberly Nixon, Steven Mackintosh, Ray Winstone, Rupert Evans, Kate Magowan, Richard Harrington / Release Date: August 13th
Pilloried and derided - and pretty much ignored - during its brief limited theatrical run back in April, Ryan Andrews’ cheap British horror thriller Elfie Hopkins might not be in danger of troubling too many Awards ceremonies any time soon and is largely pretty forgettable (even occasionally irritating) but there's just about enough going on here and there to make it worth a look if only out of curiosity.
Elfie Hopkins is a tale of mysterious strangers, unexplained disappearances, amateur detection and quite a lot of unconvincing accents in one of the most rural parts of rural Wales. Jaime Winstone plays Elfie, a rebellious twenty-two year old slacker who fancies herself as a bit of a detective; but the problem is there's not much real detection required deep in the heart of nowhere. But when a swanky new family - the Gammons - move into the village, Elfie's suspicions become aroused and she and her geeky best friend Dylan (Aneurin Barnard) soon find themselves in more trouble than they'd ever bargained for.
Elfie Hopkins is really nothing like as bad as you might have heard - but it's also, unfortunately, nothing like as accomplished as it should be. Despite co-writing the script, new director Ryan Andrews doesn't seem at all sure quite what he wants to put on the screen. Elfie Hopkins staggers randomly between stoner comedy and slasher horror, its characters and their motivations are all over the place, performances generally too mannered, self-conscious or just plain poor (Steven Mackintosh has probably never been worse and Ray Winstone's cameo as a portentous butcher is... let's just say interesting) and the dialogue, desperate to appear slick and referentiall, just ends up coming across as clunky and unbelievable.
But Elfie Hopkins isn't a complete wash-out. Its first half hour or so certainly drags its heels but the pace starts to pick up when Elfie realises there really is something odd about the new neighbours - the Gammon's freaky Goth daughter Ruby (Gwyneth Keyworth) being easily the most intriguing character in the film - and the bloody killings start. The last-reel carnage throws the erratic quaint style of the rest of the movie out of the window and goes Hell for leather for the jugular with slashings, stabbings and throat-slitting as the Gammons reveal their true colours - even if the script doesn't actually provide them with much in the way of motivation or substantial back story.
Despite its considerable shortcomings Elfie Hopkins is likable enough, perhaps because of a general haphazardness which makes it endearing rather than infuriating. There are a few good ideas, a pleasing other-worldiness in the locations and the photography and a decent, albeit familiar story and even though none of its component parts sit particularly well together and the film lacks a clear and coherent vision, it's still really not the career-sabotaging disaster some of its fiercer critics have suggested.
Special Features: 'Making of' documentary, deleted scenes, short film.