Blu-Review: F (2010)

Directed By Johannes Roberts
Starring David Schofield, Eliza Bennett, Ruth Gemmell, Finlay Robertson and Roxanne McKee


The resounding problem with the recent ‘hoodie horror’ sub-genre is that each entry has been so concerned with ham-fistedly tackling the societal issue of violence amongst Britain’s youth that they forget to be satisfying films as well, usually failing at both. Eden Lake was a tense, gruelling experience torpedoed by a terrible, ridiculously heavy-handed moral coda, Harry Brown was elevated by the presence of Michael Caine but punctuated with and punctured by sensationalist Daily Mail scaremongering, while Cherry Tree Lane was a hollow, pointless and unpleasant film driven by astonishingly primitive racial politics.

Then along comes hoodie slasher F, and it quickly becomes clear that writer/director Johannes Roberts has no interest in exposing the well-picked scabs of Broken Britain and is much more concerned with simply crafting a lean, taut thriller oozing with tension and atmosphere. Shorn of the awkward soapbox politics, swear-filled chav-speak and one-note stereotypes that similar films come overflowing with, the result is an eminently more satisfying, chilling movie and the first genuinely great entry in the burgeoning hoodie horror genre.
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After being attacked during class by a student he gave an ‘F’ to, English teacher Robert Anderson (David Schofield) is hung out to dry by a bureaucratic school board and forced on sabbatical until the offending kid graduates unpunished. Emotionally destitute and increasingly paranoid of the kids he’s supposed to teach, by the time Anderson returns to work, he’s a broken, drunken man whose family have left him and who is barely functioning in his job. Growing increasingly embittered, he lashes out at his estranged daughter Kate and forces her into his after-school detention as a last-ditch effort to spend time with her. Their issues only worsen as the school empties out and night falls, bringing with it a relentless pack of murderous, hooded teens who descend on the school, intent on killing everyone left inside.

Character actor David Schofield (probably best known to genre fans as An American Werewolf in London’s darts player) excels in the meatiest role he’s had in forever, and as the weary, jangled teacher, he’s note-perfect. Johannes Roberts’ tight, economical script is stripped of fat and laced with enough character to make the core relationship between Anderson and his daughter (ably played by Inkheart’s Eliza Bennett) a fairly substantial one, while Finlay Robertson makes an impression as the inept, cowardly night guard. But while the sprinklings of character are welcome and effective, it’s the creeping, silent hooded killers that cut the most imposing, memorable presence.
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Far from the stereotypical mouthy, thuggish yobs you’d expect, F’s teen hoodies creep and dash around silently, their faces completely obscured by darkness. They quietly crawl above their victims, vaulting and clambering around parkour-style with near supernatural swiftness before dropping silently behind them. F might be intentionally divorced from reality at times, but it’s only to the film’s benefit; the almost inhuman movements and the lack of reasoning behind their actions prove infinitely more unsettling than the moral hand-wringing that’s characterised the sub-genre until now, as does Johannes’ tendency to wring every ounce of tension from each scene, keeping the violence largely off-screen before revealing the memorably unpleasant aftermath.

Roberts has spent much of his short career churning out direct-to-DVD horror dreck, and the jump in quality from B-movie schlock like Darkhunters or Forest of the Damned to F is staggering. Wisely borrowing a trick or two from his directorial inspiration John Carpenter (F is a self-confessed reworking of Carpenter’s great siege film Assault on Precinct 13) and exercises some impressive, subtle camerawork and an eerie, minimal score that only accentuates the unlikely creepiness of the gloomy school locations and the looming terror as the hoodie-clad killers stalk their prey. That Roberts caps the film with an unsettling character-driven kicker rather than lumber it with the standard twist ending or a hackneyed bit of social commentary only adds to the film’s unnerving impact.

A lean, chilling, expertly crafted thriller, Johannes Roberts’ F isn’t just the highpoint of the hoodie horror sub-genre by a wide margin, but one of the sharpest, most effective modern Brit horror films in its own right, too.
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Optimum Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray disc boasts a great visual transfer – it’s an intentionally dark film visually at times, and the disc preserves the moody, creepy look beautifully while offering wonderful detail in close-up shots of David Schofield’s distinguished, character-filled face. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is just as solid, with lively use of the surrounds to add an extra layer of creepiness to the hoodies’ swift stalking shenanigans and an added pulse to Neil Stemp’s eerie score. A 2.0 LPCM track is also included, along with English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

An audio commentary with director Johannes Roberts and co-producer Ernest Riera (hidden in the ‘Set-Up’ menu, rather than listed in the ‘Special Features’ one, as a lot of Blu-ray discs are wont to do) offers a fairly engaging chat about the film’s production, on-set logistics and the staging of scenes. It skews a bit too much towards the standard self-congratulatory commentary at times, but Roberts balances it out with plenty of fun trivia titbits, like the actors who were almost cast (including former S-Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens, who was the first choice for the Roxanne McKee role), though unfortunately he stops short of naming the apparently awful, well-known American actors that the studio were pushing for in the lead.
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A 30 minute-long ‘Making Of’ documentary (in standard definition) offers a surprisingly meaty look behind the scenes from conception to completion, and though there’s some natural overlap between it and the commentary, it’s certainly an enjoyable watch. A short, fluffy interview with Roxanne McKee (also in SD) is less insightful, but probably more fun and worthwhile for fans of the Hollyoaks actress. Rounding out the extras is the theatrical trailer (in high definition).

The only noticeably absent extra is an early teaser trailer that was shot in 2008, long before the film, which is wildly different from the finished product. It’s mentioned on the commentary and glimpsed in the documentary, but sadly not included as an extra. All in all, though, it’s a fairly substantial little set for a great modern horror gem.

The Film:

The Blu-ray:




F is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 10th January 2011.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they aren’t intended to reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)