Dir: Mitch Jenkins, Paul Chessell
Written By: Alan Moore
Starring: Siobhan Hewlett, Darrell D’Silva, Robert Goodman, Khandie Kisses
80 mins. total (approx.)
UK release: Frightfest 2014
A trio of shorts, all based around the idea of death, purgatory and the afterlife, from the twisted creative mind of the great Alan Moore.
Legendary comic book artist Alan Moore’s first foray into writing for the screen is a mixed bag of odd little shorts, each of which is designed to thrust the audience further into the depths of the soul, the mind and hell. And, naturally, they all take place over the course of one, ill-fated Friday night in Northampton. What else could we expect from a man who openly, and vehemently, denounces cinematic adaptations of his work?
Act Of Faith establishes the theme with the accidental suicide of a young woman, intending to asphyxiate herself for a romantic entanglement with her man, Jimmy’s End takes place entirely in the titular pub, where people only seem to arrive, not leave – “It’s like something from forty years ago” Jimmy notes grimly – and His Heavy Heart represents the stage of purgatory where a soul is deemed either good enough to go to Heaven or, er, not.
Moore informed those in attendance at his Frightfest Q&A that he envisioned Show Pieces as a TV series, and it’s easy to consider it being more fleshed out that way, and resonating better as a result. As it stands, as a combined feature in three parts, Show Pieces works just fine but, as is the case with most shorts, when taken separately, there are certain aspects that work better than others.
Act Of Faith is the most memorable addition, spooky and atmospheric and impossible to really decipher until it’s too late. Jimmy’s End has good intentions but overstays its welcome, while His Heavy Heart is an exercise in self control, so maddening is the repetition of the two antagonists, so uncomfortable the predicament of the main character.
The central idea of it is horrifying, and the setting is inspired, but it feels overlong and would perhaps be better stretched to two TV episodes, with a cliff-hanger in between. The three could be easily repositioned as individual, one act plays either, with the theatre setting allowing the monologues to breathe so everything wouldn’t feel quite so rushed.
As is to be expected, Moore’s writing cannot be faulted and the visual flair with which his horrible stories are presented is impressive. During the Q&A, he revealed his inspiration as the worlds of entertainment and dreams, and blurring the lines between the two, describing the writing process as “like writing a combic book”
Andrew Buckley is astonishing as an evil clown, but even his nonsense wears slightly thin as His Heavy Heart trundles on. There is an element of very dark humour to the proceedings, and he delivers most of the caustic laughs, but it isn’t enough to garner genuine interest in what’s going to happen to the protagonist.
Much like Moore’s work in general, Show Pieces is a collection that will either inspire or depress. The central ideas are great, and it is defiantly dark in tone, but it does all get a bit heavy after a while. It’s style over substance, to a certain extent, but when this much visual flair is on show, it’s difficult to argue with it. Moore gets his ideas across well, and the acting is consistently great.
Show Pieces won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and it remains to be seen whether a TV series would perhaps do it better justice, but as it stands, it is an impressive piece of work from a genuine artist.