Resurrecting The Street Walker
This appears to be the latest in a long line of films that can be loosely termed faux documentaries that go hand-in-hand with the 'found footage' films such as The Blair Witch Project, The Last Broadcast and, most recently, Paranormal Activity. In the case of Resurrecting The Street Walker, the film begins very much as a documentary into the whole 'video nasties' outrage of the early- to mid-1980s as it begins with a quote from Charles Manson and then a definition of 'video nasty' before a man, in voice-over, tells you about the 'video nasty' outrage and how he was told to go and tidy some stuff away in a basement in Soho Square where he stumbled across an unfinished horror film from 1986 called The Street Walker.
Our protagonist, James Parker, is a film nut who wants to become a famous filmmaker but, like so many others, has to start at the bottom and work his way up so is currently employed as a runner for a film company. As the documentary is told using James' camcorder footage and with friends and relatives talking about in the past tense, you know that something has happened to James, but don't know exactly what.
The beginning of the film is very tame with people talking about their friend/colleague/son and how he found some film cans with all that remains of this strange and unfinished horror film. As it progresses, the tone darkens as James becomes increasingly obsessed with the movie and whether it is one of the very few examples of a so called 'snuff movie'. With rumours that, in this film about a man who drugs, abducts, tortures and kills women, a woman really died, James devotes every waking hour to finding out everything he can about not only the star, but the mysterious and unnamed cameraman who was filming it all.
As some early clips suggests, what eventually happens is that James goes completely off the rails in his frustrations to get the film finished. As no ending existed, James thought it would be a great coup to finish the movie and prove his doubting parents, his line manager, the short tempered and demanding Dorothy who called James 's*** Face', and his boss, Mike, wrong by completing an unknown horror classic to show to the world. Just about every moment of James' life is caught on camera either by him or his best friend, the long-suffering documentary maker Marcus and this has all been pieced together in chronological order to see how his mental state gradually collapses to the point where he is verbally abusing everyone around him and picking fights with random people.
Making a film like this must be extremely tough as you need to make the audience believe that what they are seeing is real and the events on-screen really took place. For some films this is a real problem and, if you don't buy into this conceit, the entire film doesn't work. In the case of Resurrecting the Street Walker, I was very sceptical at first and was perfectly capable of keeping a safe distance between myself and events on-screen. As the film progressed, however, I found myself suckered in to the point where I found it quite difficult to believe that what I was watching was a work of fiction and that the scenes of brutal murder were not real.
It helps that director Ozgur Uyanik has cast people who, at least for me, are unknowns so I have no problem accepting that the actor and the character were one and the same. If he had cast someone who was a familiar face, I would have had a real problem accepting them as someone else. Once you've been drawn into the film, what you see becomes deeply unsettling as there are scenes of violent murder and torture that are extremely uncomfortable in a fictional film, let alone one in which the lines between fact and fiction have been blurred to the extent that you are unsure exactly how much of what you are seeing is fabricated. Perhaps the first quarter of an hour was unconvincing and I knew I was watching a film that that was probably Uyanik's way of drawing you in so that, by the time the credits roll, you have been well and truly won over by the film. The naturalistic acting really helps in this and every actor acquits themselves extremely well.
Usually, when you see interviews on the menu screen, you expect about five minutes of EPK material with members of the cast and crew saying how wonderful it was to work with each other. Fortunately, that isn't the case here as there is a full 31 minutes of interview footage with director Ozgur Uyanik, producer Ian Prior plus actors James Powell, Tom Shaw and Lorna Beckett. Uyanik and Prior talk (separately) about how their real-life experiences went into the film and both they and the three actors discuss the positives and negatives of working on such a low budget feature with no set shooting days, so was a case of 'a day here, a date there' for about two and half years, with only one week of solid filming.
Next up are some deleted scenes which, given the rather haphazard nature of the filming process, run at 33 minutes and do add to your appreciation of what the cast and crew went through in order to get the film finished. The bulk of these are from the documentary but the last few from The Street Walker material.
As the title suggests, Test Footage is a short piece of some of the actors trying to get a grip of their characters and their lines. In addition, there is the theatrical trailer.
This uses a mixture of very grainy, black-and-white film stock from The Street Walker, DV material shot by either James or Marcus, some mobile phone footage and other, recent material shot for the purposes of this documentary of interview footage with those who knew James Parker the best. As such, the quality varies throughout but, when it is good, it is very, very good with a very even picture, good colours, sharp edges and good skin tones.
When it comes to The Street Walker, the film looks like a very grubby low budget 1980s horror movie that could easily be mistaken for a 'snuff movie', such is the production design, set decoration SFX make-up and sound. When these are used correctly, they are extremely disturbing and it's no wonder the BBFC slapped the film with an 18 certificate as it contains 'very strong language, horror and violence'.
Just as with the picture, the sound also varies according to the video source and, for the most part, it is extremely clear and there is absolutely no problem in making out what people are saying. The sound design is also extremely clever when it comes to The Street Walker as you firmly believe that what you're seeing is a bona fide low budget horror movie in which the events on-screen may or may not have been real. Hearing a power drill applied to someone's flesh is never going to pass without a flinch and the events here will have more squeamish viewers wriggling in their seats.
I was extremely sceptical about Resurrecting the Street Walker and the opening quarter of an hour or so did little to dissuade me that this was going to be a film that will be a chore to sit through. I was extremely pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong and found it to be an utterly compelling watch with strong echoes of Man Bites Dog, the really disturbing Belgian horror movie in which you are drawn in, just like the camera crew, into the serial killer's actions. In this film, you want James Parker to succeed and see what the end of the movie will be so, when it comes about, you feel slightly guilty about being so emotionally involved!
As with other films of this nature, you will get out of this when you bring into it and, if you sit down with the mindset 'this is all fake' and remind yourself that every few minutes, you won't appreciate the film at all; allow yourself to be drawn into the movie and you will enjoy it all the more.