Nottingham’s Kneel Before Zod claim to be a ‘crap’ film club. As a concerned citizen and audience member, I’m here to tell them they’re wrong. If you’ve been keeping up with our coverage, you’ll know they’ve banded together with the nefarious minds behind our very own Mayhem Film Festival and the equally dastardly Kino Klubb to bring us a season of alternative cinema dubbed Cinéma Diabolique. After successful screenings of The Keep and Robocop from the other two, Zod stepped up to the plate this week with the creepy 1978 classic and Cannes Grand Prix du Jury winner, The Shout.
Films lucky enough to achieve ‘cult’ status often do so for various reasons: the dialogue and performances may be great, but the soundtrack could be lacking; the story could be riveting, but the visual effects endearingly cheap. Occasionally, however, they can be a near-perfect marriage of directorial savvy, pithy dialogue, superb performances and a haunting soundtrack. Zod chose well, this round.
Starring a host of British thesps, including Alan Bates, John Hurt, Susannah York and even fleeting appearances from Tim Curry and Jim Broadbent, The Shout is an eerie supernatural horror set in a sleepy coastal village in Devon. Bates stars as Crossley, a mysterious traveller who invades the lives and home of Anthony and Rachel (Hurt and York, respectively). Having lived with an aboriginal tribe for many years, he claims to have learned the ability to kill any living being with the power of his ‘terror shout’ — an almighty, deafening scream that’s as frightening as it sounds.
Anthony, a composer and audio-tinkerer himself, is fascinated with hearing this ‘shout’, and when we are finally subjected to it, director Jerzy Skolimowski and composer Tony Banks (of Genesis fame) reveal the film’s most outstanding attribute: its sound mixing/editing. The magnitude of Bates’ thunderous scream can only be matched by the gleam of his golden fillings. While this only occurs a handful of times throughout, the rest is punctuated by a hazy organ score that even Michael Mann would be jealous of. This is combined with a host of intensely amplified sound bites of everyday objects that Anthony records in his basement studio.
Bates himself gives an outstanding performance, giving the at the time relatively young Hurt many lessons in scenery mastication. He shifts effortlessly between charming wayfarer, raconteur and murderous warlock. It’s interesting to see Hurt, an established leading man, take a back seat and enjoy interplay with Bates’ commanding presence.
Admittedly, prior to seeing The Shout I was unfamiliar with the work of the Polish filmmaker, Skolimowski. He has been a fixture on and off-screen since the 1960’s. Some may even recognise him from a brief appearance in last year’s The Avengers as the Russian agent who kidnaps Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow at the beginning. But if The Shout is anything to go by, Skolimowski’s filmography is one that merits further exploration.
As for Kneel Before Zod and the rest of the Cinéma Diabolique collective, they have several events on the horizon, the next of which is a double bill of Female Trouble and Beyond The Valley of The Dolls (the latter of which was written by the late, great Roger Ebert) on 28th June, presented by Mayhem.
For a full list of Cinéma Diabolique’s future events, head to their Facebook page here.