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  Aaaaaaaah! Animal KingdomBuy this film here.
Year: 2015
Director: Steve Oram
Stars: Steve Oram, Julian Barratt, Lucy Honigman, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Toyah Willcox, Tom Meeten, Sean Reynard, Holli Dempsey, Noel Fielding, Waen Shepherd, Shelley Longworth, Tony Way, Alice Lowe
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Smith (Steve Oram) has been unlucky in love recently, and has headed off into the woods in search of a new life away from his old one. Well, except for one aspect, his best friend and underling Keith (Tom Meeten) who is at his beck and call in order to be as supportive as he possibly can, so when it comes to the decision to forget about that lady, he is first to urinate on her framed photograph that Smith has been carrying, and though he thumps Keith a little, he agrees this is the best method of putting her behind them. Keith dries Smith’s tears and penis, and they wander further into the foliage until they see a town through the branches of the trees – will this provide a fresh opportunity for them both?

Once you had it worked out that director and writer (and star) Steve Oram’s search engine-bothering Aaaaaaaaah! was essentially portraying its cast through the lens of chimpanzee behaviour, you more or less had the project sussed, inspired as it was by a violent nature documentary he had seen and digested, then eventually posited as the ideal drama to play out with human actors speaking in grunts rather than presumably chimpanzee performers overdubbed with dialogue as in a tea bag commercial of old. Though you imagine if Oram wanted to make a follow-up he could have very well progressed down that avenue, as he said everything he needed to about the difference between chimp and human here.

Or was he observing the similarities? That sense of territorial behaviour, where the alpha male will do his best to intimidate those he sees as beneath him with frankly bullying behaviour, was prevalent in the movie in a manner that may well have been commenting on real life at the top of the evolutionary ladder, perhaps not as advanced as many of us would like to think we were, or at least not as far from the antics of overexcitable beasts. Not that the males were solely to blame, as the females were depicted as enablers once they had found a male they wished to endorse, and they could be as vicious when it came to backing up their own territories, as seen when comedian Noel Fielding has his penis bitten off.

Wait, what? There was indeed a scene where the TV funnyman showed up as a shop assistant bringing two of the ladies to the back room to see the manager for shoplifting, and the scene quickly turned sexual, as that manager masturbated in front of them to demonstrate his standing (and ejaculated onto a photo of Prince Harry for reasons best known to Oram), then the assistant demanded oral sex, which had an unfortunate result when he hadn’t the social standing he thought he had. One of those ladies was played by Australian actress Lucy Honigman, and she was the daughter of Toyah Willcox’s willing to please mother, and the banished father Julian Barratt who stayed in the garden as the latest alpha male (Julian Rhind-Tutt) lounged around asserting his masculinity. It is this man Smith makes up his mind to take the place of, and thus we had the main conflict in the film, with variations that barely made sense as symbolism, never mind as how humans haven’t quite left behind the laws of the jungle.

In spite of a bunch of fairly well-known faces before the camera, Aaaaaaaah! clearly wasn’t an expensive film in the least, shot on cheap video in 4:3 ratio (apparently the preferred screen ratio of all the best chimps, judging by Smith’s preferred, non-widescreen TV set) and mostly in the same house with occasional digressions to the street or forest. In that way it did resemble a nature documentary, particularly as the cast’s language was purely in variations of grunts much like the French cult favourite Themroc which appeared to be an influence (there was cannibalism here, too). With bursts of violence, some bizarre laughs and bits to make you mull over the actions you see every day, this wasn’t really a horror, nor a comedy or drama, but a curious mixture of the formats to craft a commentary that didn’t quite hold up as sociologically vital, and more resembled some nineteen-seventies agitprop theatre that had somehow been transported to the Twenty-First Century. Surely a prime “WTF was that movie?” hard to pin down memory for its era’s future generations, though. Music by Toyah’s other half Robert Fripp, among others.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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