Aaaaaaaah! – VIFF 2015 Review


Aaaaaaaah! is adventurous and bombastic postmodern cinema, full stop. Puritans, the easily offended, the mild-mannered and the populist filmgoer need not apply. And this, trust me, is a very good thing.

Steve Oram, best known as the co-writer/co-star of Ben Wheatley’s unruly serial killer comedy Sightseers as well as a string of lacerating comedic shorts, here comes out swinging in his feature length directorial debut (no slouch, he also writes, edits, and stars). Displaying a ruthless instinct with sadistic lapses into camp and caricature Aaaaaaaah! centers its deconstructionist gaze onto a world eerily like our own, only here society has faced a sudden and severe devolution.

The human stock has downgraded, perhaps overnight, into grunting, drooling, depraved, inarticulate primitives, robbed of the capacity to speak beyond gorilla-like elucidation, chest-beating, and waving of private parts (including the frat boy favorite, tea-bagging).

Utilizing a fully committed and courageous cast of unlikely and unlikeable characters, including alpha male Smith (Oram), his object of affection, Denise (Lucy Honigman), the culinarily-challenged Barbara (Toyah Willcox), the emasculated Jupiter (Julian Barrett), and inept shop clerk, Carl (Noel Fielding). The cast alone ensures Aaaaaaaah!’s cult status while its Beckett-like scenario and savage ravel all but cinches it.

There’s a lo-fi and disorienting aesthetic on display here, the often thrusting camera style reflects the libidinous and intrusive assertions of the characters, punctuating their loss of humanity and their struggle to retain hegemony and the upper hand.

Fans of the early John Waters and early Gregg Araki oeuvre will be right at home with all the vulgarity and body fluids on display. Piss, shit, blood, puke and come appear with aplomb, making for either a poor taste parade or a jagged memento mori of pitch-dark humor and surrealist insolence, depending on the viewer.

Many will find Aaaaaaaah! unbearable and irritating, and they probably felt the same way towards Lars von Trier’s similarly sanctifying film, The Idiots, which is probably this movie’s distant and more presentable cousin as the two often traverse the same rough ground. But here Oram makes a bravura stab at excessive homemade cinema that’s both brash and dangerous.

When Smith and his kin celebrate with handfuls of chocolate cake and splashes of champagne – about the closest they come to observing accurate social mores – there’s almost a Buñuelian bite to the panoply of social evils being eviscerated onscreen. Did I forget to mention cannibalism? There’s cannibalism. Lots.

Aaaaaaaah! is as spurring as it is strangely sublime and about as delicate and disorienting as a blow to the head with your own severed arm. You’ve been warned.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)