Have you ever imagined what the lovechild of The Mighty Boosh and The Evil Dead would look like? No, neither have I — but I think it would resemble Hard to Kill, a short film from James Iles and Alastair Jenkins, and I’m really glad it exists.
It might sound like a criticism when I say that Hard to Kill is all over the place, but that’s one of the joys of this bizarre film.
In the space of half an hour we travel from School of Rock band-misfit territory to Liam Neeson taking on a wolf with a DIY knuckleduster in The Grey via a dayglow animated sequence and a darkwave obsession.
There’s a lot crammed in and, while I feel that the opening could do with a little trimming, getting us to the meat of the story quicker, Hard to Kill is an enjoyably demented creature.
The film lingers a little too long over the early scenes, but it really gets into gear when we arrive in Finland.
Musician Troy Freeman (Scott Suter) has left civilization on a Bon Iver style retreat to a cabin in the snow-laden woods. Cut off from help he becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse battle with a small, but deadly, “snow weasel” (which looks like something spawned by the ovine zombies of Black Sheep and the giant rodents in 50s oddity Attack of the Killer Shrews).
It’s unsurprising that one of the directors, James Iles, has a background working in art departments for shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who, because Hard to Kill is a visually bold film.
There are some sweeping, cinematic shots of the Finnish wilderness our axe (in the guitar sense of the word) wielding hero finds himself besieged in while the snow weasel and an encounter with a skeleton couldn’t be described as realistic — more out of the pages of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (a comparison I do not make lightly!)
Hard to Kill feels like it wears its influences on its sleeve — the snow weasel’s POV approach to the isolated cabin feels very The Evil Dead and I was reminded a lot of They Live (another wonderfully demented film) not to mention the very 80s-action-film slow-mo peppered throughout the latter half of the film. All of this creates a very odd and very fun horror short.
The Evil Dead meets The Mighty Boosh
One sequence encapsulates the combination of styles particularly well for me and it’s a surreal fantasy sequence which starts off feeling like Julian Barratt talking to two women in the Boosh before one of the women has a Cheryl (The Evil Dead) possession moment.
Hard to Kill is funny, there are a lot of throwaway one-liners which made me laugh out loud and I particularly enjoyed the warm flashback where our hero was first taught to smash a guitar.
I don’t know if I’d categorise Hard to Kill as a horror-comedy in the way that, while it makes me laugh, I wouldn’t call The Evil Dead a horror comedy (until we get to Army of Darkness). It is a fun film though and if you have affection for any of the other films I’ve mentioned then I think you’ll find you have a soft spot for Hard to Kill.
By Ed Hartland
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