GORE IN THE STORE
SWEETIE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT ****
Directed by Yernar Nurgaliyev.
Starring Daniar Alshinov, Asel Kaliyeva, Azamat Marklenov, Yerlan Primbetov, Dulyga Akmolda, Almat Sakatov, Rustem Zhaniyamanov.
Kazakhstan 2020 Certificate: 15 84 mins
Released on Blu-ray and digital from 101 Films on 21st February, 2022
“All they have left is this small penis…” Somehow, when a Guardian reviewer dismisses a gore comedy as “juvenile, crass and gross-out”, you know that there’s a strong chance that a good time awaits. Yernar Nurgaliyev’s festival hit boasts the novelty of a broad, splatter-filled Kazakhstan take on the typically American strain of post-DELIVERANCE backwoods horror films in which city dwellers stumble across in-bred, rapey hillbillies. The tone is set with the juxtaposition of TV news warnings of missing women and the perils of fishing in the countryside with footage of horny pygmy chimpanzees.
There’s also a lot of spirit and heart in this inventive resurrection of over-familiar themes. Key to its success is a genuinely appealing performance from Daniar Alshinov, channelling the protagonists of early Peter Jackson splatter films, as our hapless hero Dastan. He’s at breaking point thanks to omnipresent, payment-chasing debt collectors and the mood swings of his hormonal, pregnant wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva), who even nags him from the car while he’s doing the weekly shop. An early bit of slapstick in which his shirt gets caught in the car boot provides an easy chuckle while also symbolising his low ebb. If this were CARRY ON KAZAKHSTAN, he would be played by Terry Scott with a long-suffering frown and the comically horrid other half would be an intimidating Joan Sims.
He takes refuge in a fishing trip with two buddies. They’ve never fished before and travel to the middle of nowhere in a van full of (what else?) damaged inflatable dolls. What follows wittily undermines all those scenes we’ve seen countless times in straight versions of the same concept. There’s a funny version of all those tense gas station encounters. The turning point involves a mishap with a bottle of piss that inadvertently places the trio in the sights of psychotic local oddballs. The dolls prove essential in creating a makeshift raft after our heroes have borne witness to an apparent mob hit carried out by a maniacal one-eyed gangster.
It doesn’t shirk from wine-inducing gruesome detail: there’s a bit of yelp-worthy business involving a fishhook and an earlobe, while fine make-up effects work craft suitably grotesque facial mutilations. The tone is refreshingly light and breezy, however, and offers a deliciously silly counter to all those intense, downbeat French and American ordeal-horror movies of the early 21st century. There are approximately 302% more wanking jokes here than in FRONTIERES.
The protagonists are sketched in appropriately cartoonish style: everyone embraces their larger-than-life characters but generate enough good will to successfully pull off a disarmingly sweet and lovely final scene. Amidst all the inspired lunacy, kudos to all for a suspense sequence in which a key character has to avoid farting for an extended period in order to stay alive. The gore, stunts, physical performances and dialogue seem tailor made to prompt a raucous response from a packed / pissed midnight festival audience: “He’s unkillable. Let’s tie him to a pole!”