Made in Britain: Elfie Hopkins (2012)
Where to begin with this one. For a start, it was renamed in the US, probably in a vague attempt to cash in on the mash-up, as Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter, which is frankly an outrageous spoiler and completely blows the second half of the film. I can kind of see why it was thought to be a good idea to rename it, because “Elfie Hopkins” by itself isn’t exactly a title to get the giblets tingling, suggesting as it does a kind of dreary tween twilight-meets-Mike-Hammer farrago. What is more likely to cause a brief spike in interest is that this little film has a cast that’s far too good for it, and the strapline “who are the neighbours having for dinner” has a kind of playfulness that implies black comedy. I saw the poster on the tube when it was released and put it down in my “watch at some point, probably when it comes on Lovefilm” list. Well, it’s now on Lovefilm, so I’ve watched it.
Contains a creepy, rapey-looking, refugee from Twilight and Spoilers below. Although none of the spoilers are remotely in the same class as the spoil from renaming the damned film.
I’m struggling a wee bit here, because this is actually an odd, extremely odd if I’m honest, little film. I’m not sure what it wants to be, and it tries to hit several different genre beats without really nailing any of them down. It isn’t quirky enough to be a comedy, she’s not hard boiled enough for noir, and it simply isn’t either gory or scary enough to be a horror movie. Elfie Hopkins is a bizarre mash-up of genres, taking bits of Sam Spade, Miss Marlowe, traditional Horror, and odd black comedy and situating the whole lot in a village in Wales in a plot with more holes than Droid’s favourite string vest.
Elfie (Jamie Winstone) is a 22 year old waster with a detective fixation. Supported by her best friend, the terminally dorky Dylan (Played by the magnificently monikered Aneurin Barnard), they pass their time fantasising about being detectives, arguing with her parents (Julian Lewis-Jones and Samantha Drew) and smoking a quite impressive amount of weed. The rest of the villagers of note are freaky MIchael (Steven Mackintosh), Butcher Brynn (Ray Winstone, and note to any director out there, do not cast Ray Winstone and then get him to do a Welsh accent. It’s embarrassing for all concerned), Lottie and Timothy Jenkins (Claire Cage and Richard Harrington) and slutty Pippa, the riding instructor (Kimberly Nixon).
horrific idyllic setting comes the Gammon’s, Travel Agents who flog “adventure holidays” in untamed parts of the globe. The Gammons have a certain charm, and in no time at all have the villagers, including Elfie to her disgust, eating out of the palm of their hands. Chris (Rupert Evans) has a certain sleazy charm and his wife (Kate MacGowan) is poise personified, so it is understandable to a certain extent, even if their kids Ruby and Eliot (Gwyneth Keyworth and Will Payne) are horrifically creepy. Soon enough villagers start disappearing and Elfie actually has a real case to investigate. Where are they going, because they sure as fuck aren’t going on safari in Africa or whatever.
The answer is simple, the Gammons are eating them. Can Elfie save the day or will she end up as fricassee of misplaced chav served with a side order of stewed nerdling? What this basically boils down to is a fairly brutal climax with Elfie and Dylan forced to slaughter their way through the Gammons, before being luckily saved by Brynn, the human equivalent of Chekhov’s gun.
Where to begin with this mess? Well, there’s the acting, which is variable. Ray Winstone’s Welsh accent is horrid, and wisely Jamie doesn’t even attempt one. However she’s simply not hard enough for the part- she’s clearly aiming at a British version of Veronica Mars, but the script doesn’t support her as it doesn’t supply the right type of dialogue. Unlike Veronica Mars, which gave the leads, particularly Kristen Bell, a script that helped them, Elfie doesn’t have a single memorable snappy line that I can think of. It’s not helped by Dylan being a bit of a drip, following her around like a lovesick puppy, and so she has nobody capable of bouncing the requisite lines off. There’s certainly nothing in this to give the interchanges between Bogart and Bacall in The Big Sleep a run for their money.
Nevertheless, she’s actually quite good, albeit swimming against the tide. As, incidentally, is Barnard, who looks like an even dorkier Harry Potter, but has a certain presence and an easy charm that would be better utilised in a better film. Evans has a sleazy charm but the menace of a coma patient, and the weird cracking thing he does with his jaw is severely off putting. However, the film is stolen in one scene by Lewis-Jones as he faces off against the Gammons and sports a look on his face that would make all but the most die hard cannibal think twice about turning him into a delicious casserole. Incidentally, I know this is a bit “could have”, but he does almost win the fight- it’s a close run thing.
The problem here is the script. The film flirts with a huge number of interesting ideas, mostly related to Elfie’s character, but never goes anywhere with them. It’s also an aggravating mish-mash of a number of different and vastly superior films, not least of which is that it steals one of the key devices from Fright Night- even down to her looking out of the window at the Gammons up to no good, while of course nobody believes her. Nevertheless, the whole script is simply riddled with plot holes and half-baked ideas and it is somewhat surprising that it manages to be, against all odds, somewhat entertaining.
And it is somewhat entertaining. To begin with, while Ryan Andrews must take a huge amount of the blame for the script (seriously, why introduce the death of her mother in dialogue, never to be mentioned again), he has a tight hand on the directorial duties. There’s nothing extraneous in the actual film, and Elfie Hopkins does rattle along at a rare old clip. Furthermore, it looks sumptuous, being heavy on the sepia tones, against which Elfie stands out like the proverbial tarantula on a slice of angel food (I can do this too, it’s easy). Maybe because it looks so good, I’m willing to give it more of a pass than the script warrants, but there is perhaps something here that makes me think that Andrews, much like Hush director Marc Tonderai, may be destined for bigger and better things. He’s certainly got a good ear for a soundtrack with a cracking tune called How Can I by Charlie XCX (who I had never heard of), that’s somewhat reminiscent of early Massive Attack playing over the end credits.
Overall, meh. Meh meh meh meh meh. Elfie Hopkins reminds me of one of my own school reports, in that the key line that leaps out is “could do better”. By no stretch of the imagination is Elfie Hopkins a bad film, it’s just, well, not a very good one. I’m going right down the middle with this, and giving it a meh, and am a bit disappointed as all the parts are present for something much better, but let down by a godawful mess of a script that was at least one draft away from being finished. Less, particularly in little genre films like this one, is clearly more.
Not as good as any of the films it borrows from, but if you see it on TV then it will pass the time, even if it isn’t fantastic.
Until next time,