Dir: Michael Booth
Starring: Carol Roach, Joseph Curdy, Natalie Danks-Smith, Corin Barnett-Curdy
Made for a paltry £250 in 2011 this stylish little Brit Horror manages to rise above its budget and become much more than the sum of its parts. Shot initially in colour but converted to monochrome as director Michael Booth felt that it better suited the films atmosphere, it draws favourable comparison to David Lynch’s bizarre but brilliant Eraserhead, and whilst it may not quite match that films ‘classic’ status it does make a good fist of it and stands as a hell of an achievement for all involved.
The story follows a young couple, Claire and Ethan, living in the English countryside. Expecting their first child they seem happy despite tensions that begin to arise over a possible wedding in America with Ethan’s family. But their lives are soon shattered when Claire suffers a belated miscarriage. Unable to deal with the reality of what has happened to her she begins to alienate her boyfriend and those around her. As she becomes more and more isolated her mind becomes more and more twisted and her changes and emotions begin to manifest themselves in ever more unpleasant and shocking ways.
The title (Kuru) seems to refer to a rare neurological disease that affected tribes in Papua New Guinea during the 1950’s that was allegedly passed via funerary cannibalism. It is an interesting choice of title and its relevance is open to debate, it does however play into the films ambiguous nature and offers a hint of things to come. Weaving a complex emotional landscape and dealing with some very hard hitting themes, Kuru is a rather unique take on the Vampire myth. Watching Claire gradually succumb to the pain inside her and its eventual physical manifestations is genuinely affecting and the director creates an intelligent visual backdrop filled with possible hints and ideas as to what is going on.
The story is structured with a mixture of present day action and bizarre flashbacks that offer insight into the decaying state of Claire’s mind and suggestions about her motivations. This method adds to the surreal, nightmarish atmosphere the film tries to create, and like the afore mentioned Eraserhead, it spins a disturbing, yet touching web of ideas and director Michael Booth shows a deft and sometimes subtle hand.
The performers here are excellent. Both Carol Roach and Joseph Curdy give the film an emotional grounding and are thoroughly believable as people whose relationships are collapsing around a shared tragedy. Roach in particular is good making the tragedy seem all the more potent as she comes face to face with the dark inside her. The scene in which the miscarriage first happens is utterly devastating and will rattle even the most hardened of viewers. It captures the moment with an intense simplicity that sets the tone for what is come.
Where the film sadly falters is in its pacing and its desire to stretch its central idea into a feature length film. Around the mid-section it begins to sag a little and it introduces unnecessary sub plots and characters that seem to serve no other purpose than extending the running time. Particularly problematic are the Jehovah’s Witnesses that knock on Claire’s door and become unwitting victims of her new found cannibalistic tendencies. Not only are they irrelevant in the wider meaning of things, but they also exhibit a stupidity that is completely at odds with the rest of the films creepy intelligence. Thankfully it isn’t enough to completely derail the film, and it manages to stay on track, but it does feel like padding and could easily have done without it.
Technically brilliant Kuru feels like a much bigger film than it is. Its ideas are bold and its execution is assured showing once again that the British film industry is sitting on a hell of a talent pool. In the last few months I have seen more than enough to convince me of the superior flair that our home grown talent possesses. Kuru is disturbing, yet quietly mournful at the same time mixing Lynchian weirdness with the more traditional feel of great British horror. The film may have its imperfections but it is none the less an astounding achievement and deserves to be seen.
NOTE: As I have been writing this the film seems to have gone through a title change. It now appears to be under the less intriguing but more succinct title of ‘Claire’ and I have been informed will be hitting the festival circuits soon. Keep a look out and support UK independent horror.