When I sit down to watch a horror film I often find myself thinking that I just don’t like this genre – and then I remember that that’s not true at all. There are just so many rubbish ones out there that I forget about the one gem in a hundred that really gets my heart racing. Comedown, however, is not one of these. In an attempt to mix the urban youth tale with the teen horror, director Menhaj Huda (Kidulthood, Everywhere and Nowhere) creates a gory and somewhat tense tale with the least justified revenge plot I’ve ever come across. In Comedown a group of teens are sent into a derelict building, which a few of them used to live in, to place an aerial at the top for an underground radio station. They stay up in the room and have a few drinks and begin to take some drugs, but as the film progresses, they realise they are not alone…
Part of the fun of the horror film is guessing who will be killed off next and since so many horror films follow the conventions of ‘whoever does something bad or immoral is the next to die’, it can be pretty easy to tell. Clearly part of the wrongdoing in this film is to do with drug-taking, hence the title. A ‘comedown’ is the experience one has after the euphoric effects of a drug has worn off, leaving one feeling depressed or generally down – sort of like the experience of watching this film. Although I have to say that perhaps its one saving grace was that I was really glad to see a woman fighting back for once. So often in horror films the victims, especially the females, are taken out all too easily but there was no sense of this in Comedown. It was pretty brutal in that sense.
It’s difficult to say why this film doesn’t really float my boat without spoiling it for those of you who might actually feel inclined to go away and watch it. However, what I can say is that the revenge plot is flimsy at best and doesn’t really make any sense. There’s no great elaborate twist that you would never have seen coming – just an unsurprising, seemingly unmotivated killer (how dull). Of the two characters left at the end, Lloyd (who is the main character and has just come out of prison at the start of the film) is left as the primary suspect of the killings. In nearly all horror films, the protagonist is portrayed as the most innocent and is the only one to survive. Yet Lloyd is taken into police custody as soon as he escapes from the terrible building and is held as the only suspect since they fail to find the real killer. A news broadcast which is played over the images we see of Lloyd being remanded tells of parents’ concerns that Lloyd’s case is being dragged out due to lack of evidence. Here then, we begin to realise that the film is working towards a moral not about drugs but about the injustice of the system towards young black males. This is certainly a pertinent issue and one that I think should be addressed in film form to reach out to a large audience but it seems that Huda’s misguided attempt to translate this issue to the horror genre has failed quite miserably. The gore and tension of the rest of the film distract from what is clearly the main point and which is better addressed in films such as Huda’s Kidulthood (2006) and Saul Dibb’s Bullet Boy (2004). It’s not that I think horror films can’t be a legitimate vehicle for a strong message, I just feel like this is the wrong genre for the message I saw. Sorry Huda.