Aaaaaaaah!
"Aaaaaaaah! is a beautifully crafted piece of work masquerading as an ethnological study made by chimpanzees."

Aaaaaaaah! is one of those films that you'll either love or hate. If you hate it, you won't understand how anybody could want to watch it. You'll probably want to burn the negatives. If you love it, you'll completely understand that reaction. Whoever you are, it's probable that the fist ten minutes will knock you right out of your comfort zone, but bear with it because, in its own way, it starts to make a lot more sense.

The film has been described as a zombie apocalypse shot from the zombie's point of view, but that's a bit misleading. There's no focus on eating brains here and everybody we meet is in the same condition: completely non-verbal with other significant cognitive problems. If there were any unaffected people about, they're long gone. But life - or perhaps undeath - goes on. Like the zombies at the end of Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, our heroes imitate what they see and try to act out their former roles in life. There are still shopkeepers, postmen and kids playing in the park. There are even non-verbal people presenting cooking programmes on television.

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Reduced in this way, our protagonists are not automatons. Rather, they've relapsed into basic primate behaviours, and it's here that things get interesting. Oram's satire is brilliantly observational. Watch a drunken crowd on a Saturday night, to football fans getting excited at a game or to young women enthusing about a shopping trip and you'll see many of the same gestures, here many of the same sounds. There's a measure of pathos surrounding the struggle to communicate, but for the most part these people are as contented as they ever were. Whether they're urinating on fridges to mark their territory or shooting withering looks at incompetent partners struggling to install new televisions, they have familiar concerns. This is, like the best of the subgenre's offerings, a sidelong look at our world.

There are obvious parallels here with Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers, but whereas that film was really an extended short, Aaaaaaaah! has ample plot and character development for its running time. We get to know individuals, watch their lives unfold like a soap opera, and observe a battle for dominance between rival alpha males, with women and beta males watching closely and cautiously switching allegiances in pursuit of advantage. the alpha female also has significant power within her suburban home, and it proves unwise to get on he wrong side of her, whilst another, younger woman finds social advantage in reaching out to rejects and strangers. There are ugly confrontations but also affectionate moments of bonding, all ultimately leading toward an ending that is shocking in its bleakness and in what it has to say about our most blatant human impulses.

Throughout the film, the cast is superb, never slipping out of character or letting us glimpse more sophisticated thinking. There are one or two tiny jarring notes - would somebody with these difficulties really manage the complex cognitive task of recognising himself in a mirror? - but they arise only when absolutely necessary to serve the plot, and the less familiar you are with psychology and anthropology, the less they'll bother you. Aaaaaaaah! is a beautifully crafted piece of work masquerading as an ethnological study made by chimpanzees. Oram has made something truly unique.

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2015
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Aaaaaaaah! packshot
Alpha Male Smith and his Beta, Keith, move to take over a local community. They hook up with restless Female, Denise, igniting a deadly feud in which emotions run high and deep-seated grudges resurface amongst the tribe. Are we not men?

Director: Steve Oram

Writer: Steve Oram

Starring: Steve Oram, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Toyah Willcox, Noah Fielding, Julian Barratt

Year: 2015

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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