Film review: F | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Film review: F

Director: Johannes Roberts

Cast: David Schofield, Eliza Bennett

Release date: 17th September 2010

Run time:

With the release of Eden Lake, Cherry Tree Lane and Harry Brown, the British hoody horror is practically becoming a genre. F is now the latest installment and functions as a chav-slasher movie.

The plot moves swiftly. Teacher Roger Anderson (David Schofield) humiliates a pupil by grading his paper an ‘F’ and is assaulted by the student in return. The bureaucracy of school governance allows the pupil to side-step punishment whilst Anderson is placed on extended leave.

Eleven months later, he is an alcoholic wreck, paranoid of stepping into the classroom and only able to bond with his estranged daughter in after-school detention. It is during one of these late-night detention sessions that the school is besieged by anonymous, violent hoodies and the inhabitants are picked off one by one.

F certainly knows how to scare. Aside from the expected jumpy moments and gruesome deaths, the most terrifying aspect of the film is the concept itself. The killers are not deformed monsters or serial killers dressed up for Halloween. Instead, they are everyday hooded youths just like those that we pass in the streets. They wield Stanley knives, crowbars and fire extinguishers, as opposed to axes and fish-hooks. As such, the film is very close-to-home and the reality that ‘this actually could happen’ is the part most likely to unnerve audiences. Teachers will find it especially hard to get through their popcorn.

Admittedly, the realism does slip on several occasions. The hoodies risk losing their aforementioned credibility due to the impossibly light-footed gymnastics. Are we really expected to believe that packs of chavs have the grace and poise of a free-running team? Furthermore, their darkened hoodies are more reminiscent of Middle Earth Black Riders than anything we have glimpsed on a street corner. However, this is cinema and so a few stylistic touches like this can be forgiven. And it does serve to make them scary as hell.

David Schofield puts his Ridley Scott-endorsed RSC acting chops to good use as Anderson, subtly conveying a mix of world-weariness, exasperation, self-loathing, frustration and all-consuming fear for his daughter’s safety. It is this performance that holds the film together.

Unfortunately, the other characters have very little to do. Most are there to stumble around the school and meet an elaborate death (speaking of which, it is an incredibly over-populated school considering this takes place after-hours).

Nevertheless, Finlay Robertson, manages to create a watchable performance out of his gutless security guard - although since when did a secondary school require two overnight security guards? Little details such as this endanger the film’s claim for realism.

Flaws aside, the film’s abrupt ending is its real downfall. Some films can get away with an open ending (Lock Stock, The Italian Job, Blair Witch) but F owes its audience a resolution. After 90 minutes of chav-induced massacre, we are owed some closure. But we are not even told the fates of the core characters let alone the identity of the hoodies. They remain anonymous, without faces or motivation. Arguably that adds to the terror but it also provides a cheap shortcut for the scriptwriter so they can avoid plot and characterisation. In short, there is little catharsis on offer.

Overall, Johannes Roberts shows real talent as an upcoming British director, but this is a horror film without the crowd-pleasers of humour, star appeal or even an ending. As such, this is for horror fans only.

And a word of warning: any graduates considering a PGCE or Teach First should stay firmly away. This will scare you out of the classroom faster than a Daily Mail.


9th September 2010 at 6:50 pm