It has become increasingly difficult in the last few years to watch a British horror film without trying to find “Sponsored by the Daily Mail” written somewhere in the opening credits. The UK film industry has a rich heritage in horror pictures; from Ealing Studios’ Dead of Night (1945) to the reinvigorated Hammer Studios’ Let Me In (2010), the UK has produced some of the best horror movies of the last century, including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Wicker Man (1973) and 28 Days Later (2002).
It seems such a shame, then, that since the release of Eden Lake (2008) – the story of a middle class couple terrorised by working class children on a weekend away – British horror has become so pre-occupied with jumping on the Daily Mail’s bandwagon, perpetuating the myth that a knife crime epidemic is sweeping the nation and that if we want to see true horror, we should look into the eyes of our children. Phillip Ridley’s Heartless (2009) picked up where Eden Lake left off, turning so-called ‘hoodies’ into literal demons, wanting little more than to burn London to the ground.
Johannes Roberts’ F (2010) is not only just another one of these movies, but an incredibly badly made one. F’s plot is simple: an alcoholic and depressed teacher, Robert Anderson (David Schofield) and his teenage daughter Kate (Eliza Bennett), become trapped in their school after hours, where they – and various janitors, deputy head teachers and security guards – come under attack by a faceless group of hoodies who, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, decide to gruesomely murder everybody who remains in the school.
Even if we are to very briefly ignore the fact that the film’s entire point is based on media sensationalism and irresponsible scaremongering, Roberts is a little too late to the party. The media furore concerning knife crime was at its height in 2008, when the media preyed on incidents such as the stabbing of Ben Kinsella – brother of actress Brooke Kinsella – by a gang of youths to convince us that the white British middle classes were under attack by the working class youth. Thankfully, this particular media field day has since come to an end, which makes F seem dated from the outset.
To make matters worse, F offers nothing in the way of characterisation and gives no reason why we should care about even a single character. The film opens with Anderson snidely deriding a student in his classroom for receiving an ‘F’ grade, who then becomes enraged with the teacher’s insults and assaults him. Eleven months later, Anderson has become depressed and an alcoholic, and has destroyed his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter. In short, Anderson is no hero. He is the kind of teacher who belittles and undermines the children he is supposed to be teaching and the kind of parent who slaps his own daughter because, ironically, she tells him he is a bad father.
Kate herself is equally detestable; she cares little about her father until she is in mortal danger, and spends the first act of the film doing nothing but attempting to provoke a negative reaction from him. The rest of the film’s cast of characters are present for one reason and one reason only: to provide a body count.
F’s antagonistic hoodies are as stereotypical as the film’s content. They wear jeans, battered trainers and hooded tops that inexplicably manage to obscure their faces even under fluorescent lights, and wield weapons such as small knives, crowbars and lead pipes. Truly, these “monsters” are the kind of thing Daily Mail columnist Chris Tookey must see in his nightmares.
If we attempt to fill a glaring plot hole, the opening sequence would suggest that the school’s attackers could be the ‘F’ grade students out for revenge, perhaps alluding to the real life story of Phillip Lawrence, a head teacher who was stabbed by a gang in 1995. But just to completely undermine any realism this film might have had, F’s hoodies are seemingly more animal than man, and must be skipping P.E. classes if they are receiving failing grades across the board; they are capable of leaping great distances and spend more time running across high surfaces than they do on the ground, whilst managing to do all of this in absolute silence. At least if these particular juvenile delinquents drop out of school they can look forward to lucrative careers as ninjas.
In fact, F is rife with plot holes: the film ends in mid-sentence, and never drops even the slightest clue as to who these hoodies are or what their motives might be, something which may have been acceptable if the film was character-driven, yet both protagonists remain irritating to the last. Perhaps F purposefully leaves these details unexplained in an attempt to make some kind of pretentious statement about mindless, unprovoked violence, but at this point it is hard to care – we’ve all seen this fictional nonsense before in the press. Perhaps the only good thing about this entire film is some inventive use of gore, but nothing that even remotely makes F worth wasting 76 minutes of your life on some tabloid rubbish.
As a cardboard, two-dimensional janitor screams in the film’s third act: “I’ve had it with you fucking kids!” When it comes to horror films like this, haven’t we all?