Beyond Bedlam (1993)

When several residents of a Harrow block of flats meet mysterious and spectacular deaths, hulking Inspector Hamilton (Craig Fairbrass), a copper who looks more like a bouncer, gets on the case. Still traumatised because serial killer Gilmour (Keith Allen) once tricked him into killing his wife (Anita Dobson, no less), Hamilton realises the latest deaths are also linked to Gilmour, who is being treated with an experimental drug by a glamorously inept psychotherapist (Elizabeth Hurley). As reality begins to bend and break, with the dead Dobson continually popping up to make cups of tea, Hamilton realises Gilmour has become a petty God, able to shape the world to his own twisted will, and teams up with the doctor to depose the monstrous mind-bender.

Opening with a squirm-inducing close-up of a giant hypodermic needle, Vadim Jean's follow-up to Leon the Pig Farmer refreshingly takes a new direction, though it still has its quirkily comic elements. Based on a likably trashy paperback horror novel by Harry Adam Knight, author also of Carnosaur, Beyond Bedlam goes for a high-energy mix of headbanging London cop action and Elm Street horror. Gilmour is obviously a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger, but Allen stirs in his own style of aggressively sick humour to create a bleakly British superfiend. As the nightmares close in, Jean goes for shrill psycho-babble as Fairbrass and Hurley are abused by ghosts from their past, but there is always a seam of horrid jokiness that gets the plot back on the action track.

Though the lumbering Fairbrass is a major drawback, his physical presence so outclassing the villain in the climactic fight that he seems less a hero than a bully, this is good, scary stuff. It has big shocks and action scenes, but it also takes the time to throw in some psychological creepiness, as when Allen disguises himself as Hurley and comes on strong to Fairbrass, creating an interesting unresolved, tension between the leads. There are touches of Elm Street and Hellraiser in the trip into Allen's surreal hospital, but Jean never stoops to reprising highlights from earlier horror hits. It's nice to see a British film happy to be intelligent pulp entertainment.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Empire (issue unknown)


Visit Kim's Official Website at www.johnnyalucard.com

 


E-mail us

All text on this page © Kim Newman