I am not certain about the cultural prevalence of snuff films in countries outside the U.S. , but I am rather certain that, even in this debauched land, snuff remains a seedy underground taboo which rarely, if ever, pokes its horrific organs through a hernia in the mainstream. Sure, you and your black metal friends may have watched with sadistic curiosity some sketchy clips online when your parents were sleeping; you may have even stumbled across the film “8mm” or maybe you are just a fan of Nine Inch Nails and their early snuff-y videos. But snuff has not reached household name status and probably won’t unless Lindsay Lohan becomes the star of one.
And with that off color comment, let’s introduce the British film “Footsteps”, which was written and directed by G.H. Evans. Oh, but first, the essentials of snuff. Basically, snuff films are the exponential extreme of pornography; girls, and I assume guys as well, are shown in sexual situations and then one of them is brutally killed to satisfy either the whims of some Patrick Bateman-type rich sicko whose indefatigable bank account has put him in states of perpetual ennui, or your average burgeoning psycho-path doubling as an average person. “8mm” made it seem as if snuff films are not made for mass consumption, but rather the idiosyncratic tastes of those customers who specially commission the work.
“Footsteps” chronicles the footsteps a young man named Andrew (Nicholas Bool) takes to enter the guttural hell of a local snuff ring. Andrew is just a working man: he spends his days toiling with monotony in a factory and his nights feigning interest while his live-in girlfriend makes love to him. Something fatally tragic has happened to both of his parents, the details are not explicitly given, and the last muscle of meaning and hope is slipping from his life as his best friend lies critical in a hospital bed from the severe torture he endured at the hands of the snuff people.
Most of these introductory details and vital strains of plot info are presented sans direct dialogue; the director, rather, chops up melancholy and bloody scenes in a very coherent order with the industrial edged soundtrack speaking for Andrew’s bi-polar jaded angst. A reoccurring theme of Picasso “blue period” blue lights are also used frequently over silent scenes, adding a lugubrious uncertainty that makes up for the film’s few set changes. And just when you have pieced together Andrew’s life circumstances, they disintegrate like he was shoved into a centrifuge. His boss lays him off, his woman leaves him, and his hospitalized friend may wake up from a coma paralyzed. And thus, his sociopathic side is awakened.
For an independent film which appears to have been made on a humble budget, the gore and realistic bodily carnage which demarcates “Footsteps’” turning point are executed with a shocking — “you’ll be uncontrollably replaying the scene where the dude gets a knife jabbed into his throat, then sliced through his vocal cords until he gags atrociously and dies, for the next two days” — brilliance.
With a dark turn of coincidence, Andrew stumbles across his estranged girlfriend in a bar flirting with another guy, right after Andrew has just beaten the shit out of a different guy in the bathroom. The guy from the bathroom comes back to interrupt this awkward moment and Andrew again beats him, this time enough to warrant reconstructive surgery, before he himself is thrown into an alley and roughed up by security. With Andrew bloody and half-conscious in the alley, a nameless man wielding a camcorder starts ordering around his partner to kill Andrew with a pipe. Camcorder man’s partner doesn’t have the heart to eliminate Andrew and, in a moment of true tact, camcorder man recruits Andrew to join the team.
From here, Andrew meets snuff lackey Paul (Mads Koudal), whose job is to kidnap his company’s movie stars and then get rid of any body parts of theirs that remain after shooting wraps. Paul also seems to be a domineering pimp or crack dealer, but that is again left for the viewer to figure out. Andrew then becomes a part of the twisted group who left his friend for dead, and is left with the choice between reestablishing his conscience and eradicating it for good.
“Footsteps” is a very well-made indie psych/horror film which deserves much merit, for it can easily compete with its peers which are disseminated from major studios with astronomical budgets every other week. The acting in “Footsteps” is subtle and never overdone, and the writing is vague but efficacious and never banal. My only personal admonishment for the film concerns the soundtrack. While the music fits the subject matter perfectly, most of the pieces are derivative in a very conspicuous way. One of the last songs in the film is the exact replica of the second to last song off of Nine Inch Nails “The Fragile”, but the credits don’t say Trent Reznor, they instead say Graham Hellis.
Gareth Evans (director) / Gareth Evans (screenplay)
CAST: Nicholas Bool …. Andrew
Mads Koudal …. Paul
Jared Morgan …. The Cameraman
Emma Powell …. Sera
Sarah Lloyd …. Stepmum
Richard Jones …. Dean