Reaper Rebuttal: In Defence Of Neil Marshall's Doomsday
, January 12th, 2012 08:23
London band Teeth Of The Sea love Neil Marshall's epic Doomsday so much they've created Reaper, a live soundtrack event inspired by it. But as David Moats's feature earlier this week made clear, mainstream critical reaction to the film was anything but glowing. Avowed fan Andrew Stimpson dons a gimp mask and presents his rebuttal
Fresh off the back of scaring us shitless with The Descent, the best 'British' horror film since Hellraiser, where was Neil Marshall to go? After kicking off his career as a director with the rightly lauded (and surprisingly well-promoted) Dog Soldiers, Marshall appeared to waste little time maximising his opportunities. The Descent was a substantial success, garnered plenty of attention on both sides of the Atlantic and secured the exuberant director a decent (by genre standards) budget for his third effort. The fact that he chose to spend that cash on a wildly ambitious, UK-based, apocalyptic sci-fi homage-a-thon rather than something more high brow or 'worthy' is probably why the majority of critical attention was somewhat dismissive or downright derisory. It has been described as 'a mess of lousy filmmaking' and 'hectic yet mundane', offering 'pale imitation and jumble sale thrills' while lacking 'cohesive narrative and charismatic leads'. That would appear to be the price of seeing your work displayed in the multiplex. The average film critic would not know the majority of this film's inspirations if they had crapped a turd-like sexual parasite in their swimming pool. If any of these writers can point out the charismatic lead in 1990: The Bronx Warriors or 2019, After The Fall Of New York then I will take said parasite and raise them a disease-inducing armpit clitoris. Of course, there were a few more discerning critics who took the opposite tack and, as time elapses, more interested viewers find Doomsday and discover its heavenly secrets and singular beauty.
While it may not hold the narrative drive of The Descent or the on point belly laughs of Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall's third feature is anything but a mess. It is a deeply encoded love letter to a sweet genre beloved of many but derided for so long by the critic. Quite unlike 28 Days Later (for example) it wears its heart proudly on its sleeve, rather than shamefacedly shrouding its origins in muddy art house visuals and Dogma movement pretence. In fact on reading the suggestion in friend Moats' piece that Doomsday owes anything to 28 Days Later made my geekbrow arched to the extent that I resembled a constipated Mestema listening to the latest Andromeda remix. If you think 28 Days Later was original see Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City, David Cronenberg's Rabid, Bruno Mattei's Hell Of The Living Dead (aka Night Of The Zombies), the original BBC TV series of The Day Of The Triffids, Romero's ...Dead trilogy and Dan O'Bannon's Return Of The Living Dead, then reconsider.
Neil Marshall, in addition to being an enormous movie geek, is evidently a quality filmmaker. It is surely no fluke that The Descent was so exhilarating (and to date the only film in my 39 years to make me leap three feet clear of my cinema seat and yelp “Eek!” like a cosmetically challenged rabbit). His one mistake with his third effort, perhaps, was thinking there were more of us around to champion Doomsday in the face of arch sniffiness and wearisome criticism that: “It has all been done before, and done better.”
Balls! Give me more of the same with a twist. Give me a post-apocalyptic punk cannibal orgy and by God have it accompanied by Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘Good Thing’. Give me a sexy, rock-hard chick fighting a huge armoured behemoth in a medieval castle courtyard while Malcom McDowell looks on. Give me deserted, dead cities; give me steam trains; give me bunkers, cybernetic eyes, exploding heads and by Fulci’s cod-eye give me a Bentley coupé in a Mad Max chase to a Frankie Goes To Hollywood accompaniment. All of these elements gave me a mental hard-on for this movie. In fact I had a mind-chubby the moment I saw the opening titles appear in the classic John Carpenter font, a clear signal from Marshall that treats are in store for those with a grasp of his dialect.
Doomsday was begat of love, talent and a whole host of sci-fi/fantasy tropes normally reserved for straight-to-DVD near misses and miserable failures, or restricted to a 42nd Street past that was once viewed as miasmic and artless but is now rightly celebrated as groundbreaking and visionary.
The past is the past but why not make this kind of movie today with high tech visual effects, modern production values and stunning cinematography, yet maintain the same essential vitality? Marshall did just that and good on him for having the balls to do so. For those of us who can decipher its message, Doomsday is a dream package. For everyone else there is The Walking Dead.
Teeth Of The Sea will perform Reaper - their live soundtrack remix of Doomsday - this Sunday January 15th at The Lexington as part of the London Short Film Festival. Click here for more information.