By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Genre – Comedy/Horror
Run time – 2 hours
Certificate – 18
Country – U.K
Awards – 3 Wins & 3 Nominations
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There is a bit of the Ben Wheatley about Dan Pringle’s debut feature film K-Shop, both black comedy horrors set in south coast English seaside towns around that debilitating underclass crime and anti-social behavior we all suffer in some way in our day-to-day lives, Wheatley’s Down Terrace being set in Brighton and K-Shop in and around an unnamed Bournemouth. Anyone who lives by the sea knows they are very different places out of season.
K-Shop (slang for kebab house) is set around that not so talked about fractious frontline between the mostly Muslim night time economy and the mostly drunken British white working class. Wheatley’s film looked at that world through a paranoid bunch of low level urban drug dealers and both films have that same vibe of having a middle class pop at that delinquent underclass, here through the eyes of a British Muslim graduate and Kebab shop worker. Our Muslim brothers have had a hard time of it late because of a small number of their community’s behavior around terrorism, child abuse and unemployment, for example, and this the first film for a while for them to have their say on negative elements of the white population – that of binge drinking, fighting and projectile vomit.
Ziad Abaza … Salah
Ewen MacIntosh … Nigel
Reece Noi … Malik
Daniel Wilkinson … Unicorn Man
Darren Morfitt … Steve
Scot Williams … Jason Brown
Jamie Lee-Hill … Oompa Loompa
Duncan Meadows … Trev
Samantha Lyden … Chantelle
Rashed … Zaki
Sean Cernow … Duckman
Sean Pogmore … D.I. Saunders
Steve McCarten … DCI Cunningham
Rhodes Thakrar … Police Officer
Salah (Ziad Abaza) is a student struggling to complete his degree as his father Malik (Reece Noi) lays ill in hospital after a heart attack nearly working himself into an early grave at the family’s kebab business to help pay for his kids studies. Salah decides to work in the shop and do his studies online at the same time until his dad is much better and ready to return to work. How hard can it be?
Once up and running he has his first set-to with Bournemouth’s late night drinking crowd, not pleasant but nothing compared to the war zone of Iraq his family came from. The country that came to liberate him are now calling him an array of expletives for no real reason other than his skin color and culture.
When dad returns to work it’s not long before the yobs also return, a torrent of racist abuse over something or other ending up in an altercation outside and dad collapsing with a heart attack and so no more pop.
Grief stricken and behind with his studies Salah is now lumbered with the business and close to the end of his tether. When a drunken young lad pushes his luck too far at closing time by firing up the fryer to cook his own meal something terrible happens and Salah now has a dead body on his hands but with no witnesses. What to do with it? Why chop it up and stick it in the freezer, of course! Well, you have all heard the stories about kebab shops, right? Oh and hey, why not go one step further and get back at the underclass once and for all and serve there sh*t back to them in the form of human kebabs. And so he does. From then on in every customer who pushes him too far with their behavior ends up potential road kill with Salah sharpening the blades.
Yes, the predicable broadsheet hacks did give this some stick as it’s a bit of a mess of a film with a lot of unsure and unneeded sub plots and bungled romantic angles but the message I got from it is still relevant. After 911 and the Iraq and Afghan Wars those British Muslims having a negative opinion on British foreign policy were facing some sort or censure, often unfairly, and angry about it. They had a point. If they spoke out they could end up in prison. I felt sorry for them and a 100% agreed with their thoughts on our foreign policy. When you know you are right and being told you are wrong it hurts.
People will lash out, as they do on our drunken high streets, the latter the intended theme of this movie for the mainstream. These Asian guys and girls, many born here, then have to work the night economy and suffer the abuse on behalf of others. Trust me, I have a few Asian mates through cricket and this film is a bit of a cult hit for them on that subject. It speaks to them politically, even though it’s a muddled horror movie. But who wouldn’t like to take a meat clever to some of the drunken morons we have to suffer on our high-streets Friday and Saturday nights? Is this the so-called ‘British Culture’ immigrants are supposed to adhere to?
I need not draw you a picture as you know it so well. I’m sure the director wanted to make a straightforward horror but for me there were hidden messages here. Many genuine candid drunken shots of party-goers in Bournemouth were shot over the South Coast weekends and used in the film and you can see why the Salah’s of the world are pi**ed off with that hypocrisy. If these hard working guys didn’t have Islam holding them back and exploit Judaism like the Jews do they would rule the world.
Ziad Abaza in the lead is pretty solid as the fraught intelligent second generation immigrant graduate pushed into that perfunctory Asian world of cabbing and takeaways they all know well and everyone else background. He had taken bit parts as ‘token Asians’ in various big and small movies up until K-Shop (including a Bond movie) and when he saw the role was a kebab shop owner here I guess he thought more of the same but well and truly got his equity card this time. The other sub plots around a Big Brother winner (Ewen MacIntosh) and an attractive cop (Samantha Lyden) are somewhat obtuse in contrast but I’m sure the director was making some sort of cultural breakdown point having a Christian Church being converted to a nightclub by our Big Brother winner.
K-Shop feels like most directors’ first feature in that they want to get a lot of stuff into it that has been fermenting for a while in their heads and not prepared to drop it. The really good stuff could well be on the cutting room floor as Pringle put together a film he thought would sell. Sadly it only had a small cinema and DVD release and currently buried in the pre-mantle of the horror section on NOW TV movies. I wouldn’t suggest getting a spade and digging it up but one not to ignore if it pops up on terrestrial TV, a rough diamond of a movie that suggest the director will be back with something much better and telling. This boy has something.
IMDb.com – 6.0/10.0 (887votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 64% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 50% critic’s approval
Starburst – ‘The film doesn’t actually judge people for their behaviour, but that’s not to say it doesn’t take gleeful relish in acting out precisely the kind of thing that many of us have thought about, whether we’re willing to admit it or not’.
Times – ‘In K-Shop, a little shop of horrors emerges in a kebab takeaway’.
The Guardian – ‘There is no focus, it runs out of ideas, and we get endless ambient shots of people getting drunk in the streets. It sags – which is a shame’.
Radio Times – ‘There’s definitely more substance here than the usual penny dreadful, but ambition without accomplishment only goes so far’.
Kim Newman – ‘With strong work from a good cast (Abaza in particular), this joins a small group of British horror films rooted in observation and anger’.