In a small village in the West Midlands, a film crew are making a zombie movie. They’ve hired the local pub as a shooting location. But the film is beset with problems, including an abusive lead man, and a series of accidents and deaths, that are seriously hampering the producers’ ability to get it wrapped. And that’s really all you need to know to get you started.
It’s no secret that this is a werewolf movie. It’s right there on the movie poster, and if you haven’t seen the poster then the title probably gave it away anyway. But much of the comedy comes from the fact that the characters know far less than the viewer, and in watching them – slowly – connect up the dots to form a picture.
Please don’t watch the trailer for The Snarling. Whilst trying to crowbar in what someone has assumed are the most salesworthy elements, it somehow manages to both vastly undersell and completely spoiler the entire movie. Seriously, don’t watch it; it’s shockingly bad. Instead go straight to the movie. Because The Snarling itself is surprisingly good.
If you like horror and self-referential British genre comedy, if you love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, if you adore werewolves and zombies, and if you believe that budget and indie don’t have to be synonymous with cruddy, then The Snarling is the movie for you. Written and directed by Pablo Raybould, The Snarling definitely has a Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright flavour to it in terms of script and style. But whilst some might call it derivative, I would say it’s taking a formula that works and running with it.
The Snarling is packed with humour. From the witless banter at the bar of The Dirty Hog, to the inane actions of the investigating police, a joke is never far away. It’s pretty much constant low-key comedy and it’s clever too, often making use of cutting between scenes to deliver a punchline. And whilst much of it will evoke a smirk, groan, or eye-roll, there are some real laugh out loud moments and I even found myself applauding at one point.
The mistake made by many indie horror movies is to go overboard on the required creature effects and then find that ambition doesn’t equal budget, leaving their productions looking laughable in all the wrong places. The Snarling avoids this by largely hinting at the necessary gore and because their zombies are supposed to be movie zombies and don’t have to look wholly convincing. The werewolf reveal was better than expected and as a werewolf fan I have no complaints. Pablo Raybould clearly knows that less is more and that what you don’t show is sometimes more powerful than what you do.
The principal players in The Snarling are pretty solid, with Chris Simmons, Ben Manning, and Laurence Saunders as three ordinary blokes thrown into a strange situation. They play off each other so well that I would be happy to see these same characters in a sequel. Saunders especially proves his worth by playing two vastly different characters, who are once or twice on screen at the same time. Pablo Raybould and Ste Johnston ham it up slightly as the investigating police officers, but largely hit the right notes, although pacing-wise they are sometimes on screen for slightly too long at a time, and my interest wavered.
In terms of constructive criticism, the colour grading seems somewhat off in a couple of scenes, and this feels a little jarring, especially as these are scenes which introduce new characters. And script-wise there are a few lines which feel a little transphobic or homophobic, and perhaps these are meant to be ironic but it doesn’t necessarily come off this way.
But overall The Snarling surprised me in a positive way. It surprised me with how good it is, right from the first few shots, and it surprised me with its set-ups and pay-offs, some of which I genuinely didn’t see coming. The denouement had me in stitches, and might actually be original and unique within the realms of werewolf lore. Highly enjoyable, The Snarling has great comedy bite, and is a must for all lycanthrope enthusiasts.
The Snarling is now available on DVD from Left Films.