Directed by David Campion and Ben Simpson
Distributed by Crabtree Films
Welcome to Peyton Island. Just south of the British Mainland, this fictional little community forms the basis for British first-time writer/directors David Campion and Ben Simpson’s micro-budget Patrol Men (Niall Maher also served as a co-writer). A quiet and secretive society, Peyton Island is also home to a nighttime curfew, whose arrival is heralded by an air raid siren, and regular social conditioning and control tactics deployed by the despotic Mayor Yorke (Jonathan Hanslon). The Mayor’s rules are enforced by the intimidating Patrol Men of the title, who mete out brutal summary justice on those who fail to be inside after curfew or otherwise question authority. Fed up with this oppression, and fueled by the rebellious nature of her friend Jess (he wears a leather jacket all the time – natch!), local teenager Alex Watts (Van Harding) begins to poke around behind the scenes and enlists the aid of local mechanic Okie (Abuah) when Jess mysteriously disappears.
From there the machinations of the slimy Mayor are revealed, and the people of Peyton Island band together to overthrow the murderous regime before a final turn provides a sting in the tail.
If anything, Patrol Men is ultimately a victim of its budget (or lack thereof). Filled to the brim with some rather lofty social ideas and several narrative strands that are either completely half baked or don’t really seem to go anywhere (for example the local bogeyman story of murderer Marcus Day, whom Yorke uses to explain disappearances), it has machinations far beyond its reach. While it tells an engaging story – the second act in particular is riveting stuff as Alex and Okie dig further into the rabbit hole, all the while avoiding the grasp of the Patrol Men – the payoff is a total failure, with very little in the way of surprises or twisted revelations given. The ending itself feels abrupt and, despite having a distinctly Twilight Zone-esque vibe, just isn’t satisfying at all.
In terms of acting, the majority of the cast here range from pretty passable to pretty poor. Leads Van Harding and Abuah manage to endear themselves to the audience admirably, even if Abuah does seem to mask his inexperience with line delivery behind random swearwords inserted into the dialogue. On top is Hanslon as the ruthless, morally corrupt Mayor Yorke. His performance is perfectly unhinged and slimy, with just enough restraint applied. The faceless Patrol Men themselves are simplistically intimidating in their boiler suits and gas masks, looking largely like a carbon copy of Paddy Considine’s ruthless avenger in Shane Meadows’ fantastic Dead Man’s Shoes.
Patrol Men isn’t too high on the gore quotient, with very little on-screen splatter and no elaborate effects work. One or two kills are nicely staged and provide impact despite merely being glimpsed, but for the most part the splashing blood is quite over-the-top and more reminiscent of watered down strawberry jam than anything more convincing. Technically it’s on par with what you would expect from a no-budget outing with a large number of static frames and unadventurous camera work, but the directing duo do show an admirable amount of potential with some nicely atmospheric scenes (the opening, for example, is suitably creepy) and well executed tension.
Overall, Patrol Men fails to earn a recommendation as the narrative is just too muddled and ultimately disappointing, especially considering the gripping second act. What starts off as a promising slow burner never accelerates beyond just that – failing to provide the twisted thrills and turns that it so wantonly promises. If you’re a low budget indie completist or just interested in burgeoning new UK talent (which directors Campion and Simpson most certainly are, and will hopefully have the means to really prove themselves as with more funding in future), then you’ll likely find something to enjoy here, but casual viewers would do well to keep away from Peyton Island.
On the special features side of things, this UK DVD comes with a 22-minute interview with the directors. It feels a little disingenuous to call it an interview, though, as it’s really a discussion between the two of them in front of a camera. In the early minutes it’s not a particularly interesting piece as the two discuss their early filmmaking efforts largely between themselves. A lot of it feels like sitting in a bar with two people who are old friends, having a conversation that you simply have no involvement in, leaving you staring into your drink as they guffaw over events that mean nothing to you personally.
Thankfully, it soon picks up as they appear to remember that they’re filming this for an audience to watch and hear, and we get a really nice rundown of their experience with the film and their frank admissions to its shortcomings and failures (one of which is, quite easily, the failure to complete enough drafts of the screenplay). Both of them are personable and occasionally quite funny, which makes them easy to listen to when they truly get going, leaving this little piece ultimately worth the time spent. No other extras, such as a trailer or commentary, are present.
1 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5