Originally a short film from 2016, Polterheist played festivals and won awards all over the world. The story has now been expanded with more threat to the protagonists in their desperation to find the money their criminal partner hid before his untimely passing.
We say untimely, in fact, Frank has been murdered by one his colleague and their underworld crime lord Uday (Chani) has tasked them with 24 hours to find Frank and their money… or else.
After seeing a news report about a psychic who helped the police find the bodies of two murdered children, they pay a visit to Alice and force her to contact Frank. He comes through from the other side and agrees to help them, despite his bitterness of his murder, by inhabiting the body of Alice. What follows is a comedic array of mishaps and threat as the trio attempt to get the money for Uday.
Expanding a short that worked so well is always dicey. Add too much and one runs the risk of diluting what worked in the first place. Fortunately, here we have a prime example of how to do it right. The feature version fills in the gangland backstory perfectly with the various warring factions (in this case, the Asians and the Polish of Bradford), all suitably realised with caricatured aplomb. ‘Uncle’ Uday is a Scarface wannabe who conducts his business while being ‘serviced’ under his desk and is fond of a cricket-loving bout of ultra-violence. The Polish, on the other hand, prefer to spend their time between a strip club and playing bowls. There are no racist overtones, however. They are just presented as hard-as-nails businessmen who just happen to be on the wrong side of the law.
Director David Gilbank’s film is beautifully shot, despite its low budget and plays more realistically than any of the London-based gangster flicks we’re subjected to on a regular basis. What it does most successfully is mix the violence with comedy. This is most prevalent in the banter between the leads; it’s almost as though Tarantino has shot his latest movie in Yorkshire.
Jo Mousley is fantastic as psychic Alice, particularly when she’s channelling the deceased Frank; she genuinely shines. Likewise, the two hapless crooks who are desperate to avoid being sent out for six by Uday. Sid Akbar Ali and Jamie Cymbal are believable as the wannabe hard men, and more importantly, likeable enough that we can root for their safety.
Crucially, the supernatural element is front and centre, but never used as a catch-all gimmick. The story crosses several genres and excels in each. However, there are enough creepy moments to remind us we’re in pure fantasyland.
Polterheist has cult classic written all over it; lock-stock and ghosts. It’s well-written and boasts great acting throughout. The violence is hard-hitting without being over the top and there are some downright hilarious moments. If only all British films could be as entertaining as this.
POLTERHEIST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID GILBANK / SCREENPLAY: GEMMA HEAD, PAUL RENHARD, DAVID GILBANK / STARRING: SID AKBAR ALI, JAMIE CYMBAL, PUSHPINDER CHANI, JO MOUSLEY, POLLY LISTER, MANDEEP SEHMI / RELEASE DATE: TBC