Much like his debut film’s aspiring intern protagonist James Parker (James Powell), British director Ozgur Uyanik struggles to reign in his ambitious, yet ultimately flawed first feature, Resurrecting the Street Walker (2009), which wears its influences very visibly on its sleeve. Utilizing the tried and tested ‘mockumentary’ format, echoing recent horror mock-docs such as The Last Broadcast (1998) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), the film plays out as a slick documentary exploring the tragic existence of a young London-based runner/intern James Parker who discovers a forgotten, unfinished 1980’s ‘video nasty’ entitled ‘The Street Walker’ during a routine clear out of his employers’ production office. Driven by his insatiable ambition and dreams of “Spielbergian grandeur”, Parker successfully secures funding to complete ‘The Street Walker’, unaware of the dark secrets lurking within the reels of celluloid.
Cue a ‘film within a film within a film’ multi-layered narrative, as James’ best friend Marcus (Tom Shaw) records his descent into madness and obsession, with the footage then incorporated into the overarching meta-documentary. Unfortunately, Resurrecting the Street Walker quickly begins to buckle under the pressure of so many shifting perspectives, resulting in an inconsistent (yet still commendable) final cut that unintentionally echoes the failed attempts of its intern lead.
Perhaps the majority of the Resurrecting the Street Walker’s flaws can be traced back to its promotion as a horror. Firstly, it is hard to tell whether the black and white scenes shown from the rediscovered ‘Street Walker’ are meant to shock, or merely amuse (upon reviewing the surviving footage, James’ long suffering editor appears dismayed, stating “The whole thing stinks of ‘low budget’”). It appears that the intention may have been to evoke memories of past UK controversies such as Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) or the myriad of previously banned ‘video nasties’ displayed in the film’s opening, all of which tapped in to the innate fears and anxieties of the era they were produced in.
However, the only members of the general public likely to be shocked by the original ‘The Street Walker’s’ unconvincing scenes of female mutilation are those averse to corny one-liners (the film’s killer remarks “That was good for me” after penetrating one victim with a power drill). In addition, James Parker’s descent into insanity, shaving his head in true Travis Bickle mode, and ‘horrific’ final act are treated so heavy-handedly as to almost undo the director’s otherwise careful character study, and are perhaps act as the clearest indication of an unnecessary, restrictive adherence to horror generics.
Adversely, one of the most interesting aspects of Resurrecting the Street Walker is its exploration of the growing trend of unpaid internships within the UK media industries. Viewed on the one hand as a valuable method for nurturing emerging talent whilst taking the financial strain off struggling production companies, many view the schemes as little more than glorified slave labour, whilst taking positions away from those with the necessary skills & experience. James’ numerous rants to camera relaying his frustrations, often relating to the lack of support from his straight-laced parents, are among the most compelling and perfectly conveys the desperation often felt by those attempting to find their way into a tumultuous, unstable industry. Sadly, such high points are often spoilt by clumsy attempts at integrating them within the film’s over-riding, often confused plot.
Resurrecting the Street Walker will in all likeliness prove a very effective ‘calling-card’ for its undoubtedly talented British director. However, a calling card it remains due to the film’s own destructive ambition to ultimately ape the ‘video nasties’ it alludes to, rather than provide a truly original exploration of their legacy within both cinema and society.