Film Review: Heartless
One sub-genre of horror that is on the rise especially in the UK is the ‘hoodie horror’. Films such as Eden Lake and Harry Brown inject the genres of torture films and revenge films respectively with a dose of social realism, ripped straight from the headlines. Heartless, directed by Phillip Ridley, is another in the latest line of British horror, but chooses to do something much different with it, lacing his film with lashings of the occult and Satanism.
Jamie Morgan, played sympathetically by Jim Sturgess, is a shy, reclusive young photographer whose lack of confidence is caused by a heart shaped birthmark on his face. Witnessing strange creatures in hoodies at night, Jamie’s life is ruined by the gang murder of his mother, until he is invited to the apartment of the creepy and intriguing Papa B (a slightly over the top but nevertheless grotesque Joseph Mawle), where Joseph makes a Faustian pact in return for a job. All goes well until The Weapons Man (Eddie Marsan) turns up, and tells Jamie he must commit a murder.
While Heartless falls into the ‘hoodie horror’ genre, it only flirts with social realism, before diving head first into a world of satanic gangsters and controlled fates. Marsan, playing an associate of Papa B, has a whale of a time as he casually reveals that Jamie must commit a brutal murder. As a whole the cast are solid, like cameos from British stalwarts Noel Clarke and Timothy Spall, although it is leading role Sturgess who carries the film with his emotional performance.
Ironically, for a film called Heartless, it actually has a strong heart, with real emotion and feeling. The scene in which Jamie must murder a young male prostitute is gruelling, not in terms of violence, but in the sheer sadness and emotion played. Clearly, a lot of time was spent making the character of Jamie likeable, and here is where Heartless succeeds.
Where it does downfall, however, is in the final fifteen minutes, as twists are casually thrown out but never really backed up, and the film starts to get messy. Happily, the film has enough strong performances, emotional core and one of the best jump scares in modern times to hold it all together.
By Harry Ford