Very much coming out from the same school that forged Attack the Block, with a little bit of The Hunt thrown in for good measure, Ninian Doff makes his feature debut with a homegrown comedy horror that goes about its bloody business with an infectiously energetic glee.
Set in the Highlands of Scotland, the film follows four boys who are embarking on their Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, with new kid Ian (Samuel Bottomley) being the only one keen to take it seriously. But soon the gang, also made up of wannabe hip hop star DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), underachiever Dean (Rian Gordon) and the naive Duncan (Lewis Gribben), discover that completing the DOE isn’t going to be as easy as they think. It certainly doesn’t help that they’re being hunted by a pair of mysterious elitist figures, looking to cull the youth of today.
It is not hard to see the DNA of Attack the Block in this thing, from its very plot of putting urban youths into an extraordinary situation to its sense of humour, with much of the laughs coming from seeing the lads helplessly bumble their way across the hilly landscape of the Highlands, all the while dodging bullets. It is all delivered with a very peppy energy, wasting no time getting down to business and enjoying the level of absurdity that comes from its sequence of misunderstandings, as things get out of hand and hallucinogenic rabbit droppings are consumed.
It is a tightly scripted 80 odd minutes that allows the charming cast to adequately flesh out the characters so they feel much more than just cannon fodder for the proceedings. All the young actors are clearly enjoying themselves and rarely does a beat feel disingenuous. Rian Gordon as Dean particularly impresses when it comes to giving more heart to the proceedings, but they all work very well together to sell the hip-hop infused zaniness. The supporting cast is also a great deal of fun, with Eddie Izzard as the gun-toting Duke hunting them down, and Kate Dickie as a Police Officer keen to nab an exciting case in her sleepy town.
Along with the strong cast, Doff keeps the whole thing moving at a breezy pace, with a nice use of the picturesque Highlands, and some fun visual tricks when it comes to the high hijinks. It is a fun debut, one that shows a level of wit and just the right amount of care for the character to keep this whole thing feeling fresh and engaging. It is an energy that proves quite infectious, with a dark bloody streak of humour running through it all, confirming this a fun UK-based horror exercise out amongst the rolling hills of the Highlands. A very strong debut that displays a voice that enjoys letting things get silly, with a very game cast all enjoying the thrill of the hunt.
Dir: Ninian Doff
Scr: Ninian Doff
DOP: Patrick Meller
Music: Alex Menzies
Run time: 87 minutes
Get Duked! Is available on Amazon from August 28th.