Community (2012)

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Community (2012)Starring Elliott Jordan, Jemma Dallender, Terry Bird, Ian Ralph, Paul McNeilly

Directed by Jason Ford

The Draymen Estate is a godforsaken place. Spoken of in hushed tones and all but abandoned by the authorities, the only tales to come from its confines are those of violence, abuse and disappearances. Looking to score some major filmmaking kudos, students Will (Jordan) and Isabelle (Dallender) decide to head into the Estate to make a documentary on the residents’ lifestyles.

A dumb move, of course, as within mere minutes of arrival (via a bus that stops serving the area as soon as it gets dark), the local kids are gleefully showing off their skills at hunting, torturing and mutilating animals. Accompanying one of the youngsters to his home in order to interview his mother, the duo discover a shocking truth about life on the Draymen Estate: The adults are in a constant drug-fueled stupor, while the younger children are uncontrollable, violent little cretins. They’re nothing on the teenagers, though, whose feral natures have seen them almost entirely regress into growling, shrieking pack animals.

All of this is due to the Estate’s biggest industry – the cultivation and widespread use of an exceptionally addictive, insidious strain of cannabis that requires a specific kind of fertilising ingredient for its soil…

With Community, director Jason Ford has crafted a particularly unsettling, and distinctly British, slice of socio-terror. The sense of menace within the estate is penetrative, with just about every interaction with the locals, no matter how benign on the surface, always oozing with threat and uncertainty. All of this is sold by an across-the-board excellent cast, filled with performance highlights – from Jo Dyson’s haunted, drug-addled mother to Terry Bird’s brutish Dumpy, and especially Paul McNeilly as the cross-dressing community leader Auntie, here is a film packed to the brim with distinguishable characters and laudable players.

Wisely avoiding a slip into torture-porn territory, Ford toes the line between exploitation and social commentary to create a very uncomfortable viewing experience for anyone familiar with some of the kind of real-life denizens found in Britain’s most notorious sink estates. Respectful of the audience and his cast, Ford for the most part eschews gratuitousness in both violence and nudity; a refreshing display of confidence from the filmmaker. Community is hyperbolic, certainly (the over-the-top growling of the animalistic teenagers only just stays on the right side of laughable) but not so cleanly divorced from reality as to be dismissed as total fantasy. Think Eden Lake on steroids, and you’ll have some idea (but in turn lacking the brutal impact generated by that film’s realist tone).

While the transition to the third act tends to become slightly too overwrought and talky, Community remains a shocking, disturbing and impressively self-assured piece of work that will really have you wondering what is truly going on just around the corner…

3 1/2 out of 5

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