Fanged Up

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Fanged Up
"These are lashings of gore, some deliberately feeble jokes, some good character-based comedy and predictable but nonetheless entertaining twists towards the end."

In 2014 he was known as Dapper Laughs and was a poster boy for toxic masculinity, from his pick-up artist sleaze to his ill-advised comments about rape. Now Daniel O'Reilly is back, older and a little bit wiser, ready to reinvent himself. The degree of ridicule that his character - not a million miles from the Laughs persona - is subjected to in the course of this film makes it an ambitious form of penance, but more to the point, his script (written with Nick Nevern) suggests that he has understood why he was failing to impress, and seen the funny side of his own failings. It's partly this willingness to engage with comedy in a new way that makes Fanged Up more fun that anyone had a right to expect.

Being the sort of guy he is, O'Reilly's character, Jimmy, has a gift for getting into fights. He doesn't win them but he knows how to find them, and this time, the cops find him. Expecting to spend the night in the cells down at the local nick, he instead finds himself transported to a high security prison. Terrified of what might happen to him among seasoned lags twice his size, he's fortunate to fall in with beefy Russian hard man Viktor (Stu Bennett); but in other ways, things don't look too good. Especially when they come across the curious fact that all the inmates have the same rare blood group.

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Also in the prison is a young doctor, Katie (Danielle Harold), who just happens to be Jimmy's ex, and a bountiful source of barbed comments about him. There's a little more to this than just coincidence, and she has suspicions of her own, but that might not be enough to save her from the sinister plotting of the Governor and his associates. Cheesy horror conventions are spun out alongside the prison movie clich├ęs, but neither genre is played straight. These are lashings of gore, some deliberately feeble jokes, some good character-based comedy and predictable but nonetheless entertaining twists towards the end.

Harold may be playing the token woman for much of the film's running time, and there's that older strain of comedy romance in which we're invited to wonder whether Katie will pity Jimmy enough to fall for him again, but she has a properly developed character and story arc of her own, and the film just about manages to pass the Bechdel test despite its setting. Lauren Socha layers on a very English kind of ham as villain Ms Renfield and Steven Berkoff is even more smugly OTT as the Governor; this jars a bit with the more naturalistic style adopted by the younger actors, but the fast pace of most of the film means that there's always something new happening to distract from any problems. There are some entertaining (if rather clumsily directed) fight scenes, and Bennett's dry humour makes the perfect antidote to the film's more hysterical scenes.

Gloriously daft but with a good deal of heart, Fanged Up's Hammer in the slammer shtick has a surprising amount of bite. It's great entertainment for a night in with good friends and a couple of crates of beer - unless, of course, you only drink wine.

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2018
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Fanged Up packshot
After a man is wrongfully arrested and sent to a high security prison he discovers the guards are vampires and the inmates their victims.

Director: Christian James

Writer: Nick Nevern, Daniel O'Reilly, Dan Palmer

Starring: Daniel O’Reilly, Lauren Socha, Steven Berkoff, Lucy Pinder, Vas Blackwood

Year: 2017

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: UK

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Frightfest 2017

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