Setting back society by demonizing the working classes all over again is writer/director Jason Ford and his film Community, which is definitely not to be confused with the feel good US series now in its fourth season. Ford’s film is another attack on a country where the gulf between the haves and have not’s has never been higher with the middle classes all but eradicated.
The problem is if this had come out ten years ago then it would have felt timely and clever but now after the likes of Eden Lake and Them (Ills) it feels like it’s too little too late and in a way it feels cruel and borderline irresponsible and is a little too specific with regards to who it’s targeting.
If Eden Lake was the suburban England Texas Chainsaw Massacre then Community is an Essex set The Hills Have Eyes with a dash of John Carpenter, except not as good as that sounds. We begin with a couple of film students Isabelle (Jemma Dallender)and Will (Elliott Jordan) who are intending to make a social documentary about a notorious estate near where they live. They interview the public who all seem to have fairly horrifying stories and urban myths about the place but this isn’t enough so they head to the place with a camera.
There are the obligatory feral children with greasy hair and faces that say they have been through a lot already and these kids are very fond of cruelty to animals. Alas there are no adults in sight. Upon further investigation the students discover that the adults are more or less housebound thanks to some kind of super strength strain of weed that they smoke and that they use to keep the kids at bay. This weed is grown by an evil transsexual named Auntie, who grows the product and seems to fertilise it using dead bodies.
The first hour or so of Community is actually really good. Ford knows how to build tension and keep your interest and does so by giving the audience only glimpses of the carnage that is to come. It’s obviously a low-budget film but somehow they found the resources to film on a very convincing looking set that looks exactly like an estate that has been forgotten and abandoned by society. The way that when night falls the shadows come to life with hooded menace recalls similar scenes in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Walter Hill’s The Warriors. Apart from the two leads the other performers are remarkable, seeming to have grown right out of the state of our society and effortlessly having the right look and the right physicality to convince you of their place in the story and world that Ford is portraying.
After the first hour things take a massive nose dive into unpleasantness rather than tension and suspense as Dallender is tied up to a bed for what seems like forever and the frankly bizarre super strength weed plot takes centre stage. There is also a plot reveal that sticks out like a sore thumb when it happens and just gets lost as the script makes a tonal shift into something else. The film seems more content to wallow in grotesque strangeness rather than maintain the style and atmosphere with a good dollop of thrills.
Community is better than a great deal of the straight to DVD British films that follow similar territory but still feels like something of a missed opportunity that didn’t have faith in its story and was at least five years too late with its subject matter.