The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - GATECRASH | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - GATECRASH

gatecrash review
A wealthy couple arrive home in the aftermath of fleeing from a hit and run.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Lawrence Gough

Starring: Ben Cura, Olivia Bonamy, Anton Lesser, Samuel West

gatecrash poster

Talk about starting with a bang! Opening in the immediate aftermath of a hit and run, Lawrence Gough’s Gatecrash (with co-writing credits to Alan Pattison and Terry Hughes, who adapts from his original play) picks up with quarrelling poshos Nicole (Olivia Bonamy) and Steve (Ben Cura), who have only gone and knocked some poor fella over while speeding home from a party. Stop and check if the victim is alright? You’re joking! Not this pair, with their modish abode of smoked glass and polished steel, their perfectly coiffed hair and inwardly dismal, hateful relationship. It is always surface with these sorts of arseholes, every single time. If they think can get away with it, then they’ll try to: it’s what separates us from them, after all.

As the drama unfolds, Gough’s camera (with dop Mark Nutkins) certainly recognises this, making an objective case study of Nicola and Steve: trapping them in unforgiving medium shots, insidiously tracking the pair in ominous Steadicam as they argue the implications of what has happened. In the first five minutes we see Steve retrieve gruesome evidence of broken spectacles stuck with blood and hair, before screaming at Nicole that she’s a ‘fucking cunt’ and manhandling her onto the bed. Gatecrash is 0 to 60 in seconds, bursting across the screen in its opening moments like, well, some sort of person who gains entry without invitation. Following this exhausting opening, you wonder where the film has left to go...

gatecrash review

The answer is nothing you would expect. It’s not so much that the narrative turns of Gatecrash are surprising, more that the plot developments are destabilisingly strange, unsettlingly leftfield and coolly shocking. Hughes’ play debuted at Fringe festivals, and this feature pleasingly retains the sort of confrontational artistry you would expect from such origins. And so, after a two-hander which establishes Steve as a bully, and Nicole as inscrutable, the narrative opens to include Samuel West as a copper (or is he?, etc), who is ostensibly combing the remote area for a reported prowler...

[Slight spoilers follow] It is now that the film turns slightly on its axis, a deliciously menacing balancing act of the intensely familiar (domestic setting, recognisable archetypes) and the nightmarishly strange. The copper taunts the couple, intriguingly focussing on Nicole like a woodentop conscience. He exhibits an intimidation which, like Steve’s, is formulated through implicit threat and barbed language, but is more sophisticated, more chilling than the shouting and swearing which Steve resorts to. There is a way out here; could Nicole come clean and save herself at least half the bother? Not likely with the inconvenience of her doubled lined pregnancy test still warm and wet in the bathroom...

gatecrash review

But before we can process the bloodshed and violence which will complete the film’s first act, Gatecrash flashes forward a year or so. The couple have seemingly got away with the events of months ago unscathed: Nicole has given birth, and Steve is still rich and full of himself. The film’s time lapse and unresolved plotlines are a sublime process of disorientation, a narrative malice which mirrors the coercion of the film’s next snollygoster, Sid (Anton Lesser), who has turned up (while Steve is opportunely absent) to thank the couple for driving him to the hospital a year ago, after they had apparently found him in the middle of the road left for dead after a hit and run... Yikes!

Lesser’s performance is insanely good. Simmering from calm waters to a rolling boil, I would have loved to have seen this in a theatre, the increasingly hostile rhythms of his language filling the room and electrifying a live audience. The dramatic pedigrees of Gatecrash are most evident here, that old adage of film dialogue being overheard but theatrical communication always addressing the third party of the audience: here fiercely so. Gatecrash ends in visceral hostility, but this is second to the impact of the devious vernaculars of its characters, their language vibrant with threat and extortion. It is that Pinter/Beckett dialogue of cruelty in scary effect, and it is telling that the moment where Steve really begins to lose control involves Sid addressing Nicole in her native French, a language that her husband (despite being married to a femme) has no understanding of, and is excluded from.

gatecrash review

Actually, writing about this film has made me want to watch it again, immediately. So, that’s what I’m going to do, right now, and stop scribbling before I further ruin its dark surprises and unsettling cadences. Uniquely unnerving, I urge you to join me in appreciation of this intense and subversive psychological horror. (Gate)crash bang wallop: what a film!

Gatecrash is on UK Digital from February 22nd.

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