When approaching a film like Eat Locals (AKA. First Blood) it is tonally reminiscent of modern ‘rural horror’ such as Dog Soldiers (2001), The Cottage (2008) and to a degree, The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002) and Hot Fuzz (2007); however, as it transpires the film is neither as warped or as engaging as the aforementioned titles.
The film is marketed as a horror/comedy/action with a dry, British wit and on the surface, offers up heaps of potential in its concept and conviction alone, but unfortunately Eat Locals is a film without any real bite! (Pardon the pun).
Set over a dark and misty night in the backwoods of the luscious countryside, Eat Locals sees a variety of vampire leaders get together for their requisite centennial meeting. They’re a mismatched bunch and not what you’d typically expect when envisioning fanged-faced creatures of the night. Inevitably their night doesn’t go quite as planned due to the arrival of an oblivious Sebastian (Billy Cook); a wide-eyed Essex boy who believes he is onto a promise with “cougar” Vanessa (Eve Myles); unaware of the danger these vicious vamps are about to put him in. The stakes are (literally) raised when the military become involved in a ploy to rid the area of the fanged fiends once and for all.
Eat Locals is the directorial debut from established Britishactor Jason Flemyng (Snatch, Seed of Chucky) with a screenplay from Wild Bill (2011) writer Danny King. On paper the concept itself is a decent yet overdone genre staple at that. The notion of the seemingly ‘normal’ village that inhabits a dark underbelly can come across as both sinister and fascinating. The previously mentioned, The Cottage (2008) and also, Inbred (2011) are first rate examples of this as they manage to unnerve, amuse and gross out the audience to a brilliant effect.
With Eat Locals, it’s as if it just going through the motions. It’s mundane at best, the humour is lacking through the forced ‘comedic’ dialogue. A prime example is the character of ‘meek’ old Granny Alice (Annette Crosbie); an aged vampire who uses her frail appearance to deceive her unwitting victims, who of course fall for her act. A similar technique to Cockney’s Vs. Zombies (2012) is employed where the audience is meant to find ‘old people being badass’ automatically hilarious when it fact it’s quite predictable and cringeworthy in this.
The vampire lore isn’t greatly elaborated on and what little there is has been reiterated in many films that portray this breed of monster before. The character development is practically glossed over; there’s no investment in the characters whatsoever and the film just plays out in a prolonged fashion.
There’s hostage situations, shooting and fighting and that’s pretty much what it amounts to. It comes across as completely hollow and unfunny. It possibly thinks that it is cleverer than it actually is, the most startling example of this is the last-minute attempt to make a commentary on the beauty industry which comes off as unmethodical and is thrown in just as the credits are ready to roll with no real weight to it.
Ruth Jones and Dexter Fletcher are shoehorned into the film in an interconnected sub-plot that brings in a lacklustre twist to the already lacklustre proceedings. With more screen time dedicated to this aspect it could have been well executed and darkly funny.
The most disappointing factor is the film features a calibre of top comedy British actors and actresses. Ruth Jones is immensely talented yet she is just placed in to do a poor imitation of her signature character Stella from her Sky One drama. Eve Myles is without a doubt a remarkable actress, a testament to that is her performance in a little-known Welsh drama series, Belonging (1999-2009) that aired on the BBC. Eat Locals fails to utilize the talent it harbours which is a completely wasted opportunity.
The digital visual effects are done well, namely the facial transformations and the quick healing wounds on the vampires. It isn’t gore heavy, which isn’t a major issue but means it doesn’t even include some eye-popping set pieces to liven things up. Some of the action sequences look like they are straight out of a shoot em’ up video game. The cinematography is the film’s strongest point, capturing the location in high definition. While the melancholic piano score at the beginning is uninspiring and dull.
All in all, Eat Locals is simply designed to be a ‘popcorn’ flick. It’s roughly 90 minutes of what’s meant to be comedic horror/action, it’s not intended to be thought-provoking by any means but should give its audience a little more credit. Hardcore horror fans are unlikely to see the funny side or accrue a thirst for blood from these boring bloodsuckers. It’s a bit of a slow burner from the get-go and doesn’t really reach anywhere as it progresses. Eat Locals needed more depth and direction with jokes that don’t fall flat to an eye rolling effect.