by Jessy Williams
When his father is killed during an altercation with drunken thugs, Salah (Ziad Abaza) takes it upon himself to punish those he deems deserving of death. He becomes a vigilante, murdering the drunk and using them as meat for his kebab shop. In short and simple terms, this is very much a Sweeney Todd for the modern age and it’s greatly enjoyable one at that. Packed full of dark hilarity, blood, guts, gore and more, K-Shop is brutal, bold and relentlessly entertaining.
Beginning as it means to go on, K-Shop immediately settles on a tone that is ripe with equal amounts of social commentary and seriousness, laced with an unmissable edge of humour. We’re greeted by a middle-aged man – wasted, of course – tied to a freezer and at the mercy of Salah. He f’s and blinds and screams to be freed, while the tension builds furiously through the gentle hum of the freezer , the quick glances around the dark, dingy hell this man has found himself in and the gradual close-ups on Salah’s shaking hand. After less than a minute the scene explodes into the tunes of Hard Fi’s ‘Living for the Weekend’ and an onslaught of material that shows people drinking until they pass out, dancing in the street and making general fools of themselves. It’s a strong opening that gives you an immediate taste of the identity that K-Shop is crafting for itself as an unforgiving attack on those that bring shame to themselves and those around them.
K-Shop wears its message proudly on its sleeve and never tries to disguise the lesson that it is trying to teach. If it is a film that everyone should probably watch, because most of us have probably found ourselves in similar states to those on screen. As a way to draw attention to the stupidity of those who drink into oblivion, have very little care for their dignity or the safety of themselves or anyone around them, K-Shop paints a successful and vicious portrait of a society that has quite simply, stopped caring. The film preaches an unrelenting, brazen warning about our country’s drinking culture that we can’t help but take personally. The news is often awash with Brit tourists acting up abroad, so this is a film that is easy to take seriously because it’s happening right in front of us. K-Shop’s critique could have been directed a bit more subtly, however, because the footage of drunken people becomes quite excessive. The message is soon drilled into our brains and our eye sockets – with some images I wish I could un-see – so there is no need for this repetition. This is just a minor niggle, but as the film is near-reaching 120 minutes long, so it is easy to notice when moments are used to stretch the runtime into a scale that could be described as unnecessary and even pretentious.
It doesn’t hold back on its runtime and it doesn’t hold back on its gore either. When you’re attempting a story similar to Sweeney Todd, it is crucial that you deliver in the gore division and, sure as hell, K-Shop brings some fantastically gruesome slicing and dicing to the screen and it will be a joy for gore hounds. The prosthetics are superb; every cut, chop and sever looks effortlessly realistic, so don’t watch this when you’re about to have dinner. This certainly earns its 18-certificate rating and it’s great to see a film that is so dedicated to presenting such an uncompromising presentation of its story, never softening its blow and consistently hitting the audience hard with its blows to head and heart.
K-Shop is not just limited to executing great violence and a hard-hitting social commentary. There are moments that are surprisingly tender, showing that director Dan Pringle can mesh heart-felt scenes in-between the brutal ones. It may be a bloody journey, but there are a few stops on the way that aren’t quite so violent. Salah is a complex character and we are drawn into his mind-set through his varied emotions. He’s not a heartless killer on a murderous rampage –well, he is – but, he’s more than that. He’s a struggling student who desires to make the most of his life by getting a degree, he’s mourning the recent death of his father and the guy helping himself to chips purely pushes him over the edge. Ziad Abaza is an excellent Salah and commits entirely to the character, truly giving it all. He raps 50 cent, forces a man to take shots of chilli sauce and kills without mercy, but he still manages to capture the much-needed humane side to his character. He never forgets to remind us that he’s not a senseless slasher, but a human being who’s at the end of his tether. The frequent shots of the sea work as a metaphorical insight into his mind; his last drops of sanity are literally washing away in front of his eyes and he’s helpless to stop it from sinking beneath him.
Dan Pringle swings his audience in all directions as we exude the same emotions as Salah. A simple moment of material destruction represents a union of brutality, humour and emotion; it is these perfectly crafted moments that allow K-Shop to raise the bar for horror in general, but undoubtedly, this is one of the best British horror films of the year. The careful blend of pure horror, emotive storytelling and pitch black humour is perfectly culminated into a smart and relevant piece of cinema. K-Shop is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of polished, gritty British cinema and it’s just what we need.
K-SHOP IS OUT 22nd JULY