This creepy low-budget British movie has been lauded at various
horror festivals but the slasher angle is actually a red herring. The
really scary thing here is the portrayal of a rotting, bleak, desperate,
drug and alcohol-ruined Britain.
The character of Tony is one of the most gripping portrayals of a serial killer seen on screen – desperate, friendless, sad, sexually confused and broke.
The fact he kills men, cuts them up and throws their remains in the
Thames is portrayed almost as an afterthought – the film is really an
examination of a society who lets people like Tony slip through the
cracks in the system. The real-life serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who
killed at least 15 men at his London flat, clearly looms large over the
Tony, brilliantly portrayed by Peter Ferdinando, is a pale, sallow,
stammering shell of a man, shuffling around the streets of Dalston in
east London, unnoticed by anyone. His diet consists of cornflakes, orange squash and the odd Coke in a pub;
his council flat is rotting, squalid and smelly. His visual diet is as
poor as his real one, as he spends his days watching cheap videotapes of
poor action movies with Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Stallone et al.
Unemployed for a staggering 20 years, he seems content to mope about the
streets, desperate for some human company.
The brilliance of the film is the portrayal of Tony’s pathetic
attempts to make some form of human contact. An early scene has him
catching a lad’s football but being rebuffed by the boy – who is called
in by his mum for, of course, nuggets for tea. The scenes take on a
terrifying meaning when we discover Tony has hacked up at least one body in his flat and
disposed of the remains. When a couple of addicts take advantage of
him, fleece him for cash and go back to his flat to take drugs they meet
their end in a genuinely shocking portrayal – mainly because it seems
so mundane. Tony’s last words to one of his victims are borrowed from
one of the action movies he has ingested.
An interview at the jobcentre shows how people like Tony have been
let down – an ill-informed, badly trained, bored interviewer is more
interested in answering text messages than trying to help Tony, and his
one moment of insight – when he bellows “What is wrong with you – are
you disabled or something?” remains tragically unanswered.
Even more remarkably, Tony has moments of genuine, if rather
desperate, humour. When he is picked up by a clubber in a gay bar and
they return to his flat, the look on the young man’s face when told his
choice of drink is water or squash is priceless. In the film’s one ray
of hope, a neighbour is given a plaster for her bleeding finger, and in
return she asks Tony round for Sunday lunch. “Nice lady” Tony whispers.
The film’s closest echo to the Nilsen case is when a CID
officers calls round looking for a missing boy, and strongly suspects
Tony has something to do with it. Noticing a strong smell, he asks the
nervous man what it is. “Drains” comes the reply – drains were the clue
that gave Nilsen away.
Watching a man kill four people and cut them up is horrific stuff,
yet such is the remarkable portrait by Ferdinando the overwhelming
emotion watching his awful life is actually one of pity. Bullied, spurned, misunderstood and ignored, he is a victim of the dreadful society we seem to have created – and that really is scary.