Heckle (FrightFest 2020) review – good cast, good story, but just not exciting enough

October 24, 2020
Alix Turner 0
Film, Film Reviews
2.5

Summary

Some familiar names in the cast and writer lifted my hopes for this comedy circuit slasher, but it was let down by the unexciting tone, despite the well-thought-out plot.

2.5

Summary

Some familiar names in the cast and writer lifted my hopes for this comedy circuit slasher, but it was let down by the unexciting tone, despite the well-thought-out plot.

Tell me, if you see the names Clark Gable, Steve Guttenberg, and Toyah Wilcox in a cast list, do you expect a slasher film? No? Me neither, so curiosity was the first thing that drew me to Martyn Pick’s Heckle. This is essentially a slasher film, with a masked bad guy first setting sights on a target, then gradually attacking people close to the target, and then concluding with a final battle for survival.

Heckle is the story of Joe Johnson (Guy Combes), a popular but jaded stand-up comedian. About to star as his idol Ray Kelly in a biopic, Joe is touring his show when one night he’s knocked off balance somewhat by an aggressive heckler and snaps angrily in return. A little later, Joe and a few mates (including those played by Clark Gable III and Toyah Wilcox) decide to go away for a night to celebrate Halloween (i.e. drink and watch horror videos). Joe starts to receive nasty calls, and he has the impression the heckler hadn’t appreciated being talked back to, but it turns out to be worse than simply a disgruntled fan turned stalker.

It’s a great story, much less superficial than many similar films. Written by Airell Anthony Hayles, it’s easy to wonder at first what the death of a couple in flashback at the start of the film has to do with the contemporary story, but steadily things fall into place. Quite different to They’re Outside, Heckle isn’t a spooky film by any means, though there are some atmospheric and shocking moments.

What Heckle is missing, though, is excitement. I didn’t feel at all engaged with the characters, not sympathizing with Joe’s panic or even cheering when someone annoying was killed. Sure, the action violence built up as the story progressed, but I simply watched the story, I didn’t feel much for it.

I’ve never heard Steve Guttenberg so sweary though! He was a revelation as the aging comedian Ray Kelly, well past his best, but still able to give back as good as he gets. To heckle means to “interrupt (a public speaker) with derisive or aggressive comments or abuse” (according to the text at the end of the film), and Kelly doubled down on that abuse.

Heckle receives its world premiere at FrightFest, October 2020. I do hope it is received well enough to spur Pick on to better work.


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