Friday, 4 April 2014

Al-ta'weeza (1987) Mohamed Shebl

Well, this was my first experience of Egyptian horror and I do hope it won’t be my last. But this hope does come with the significant caveat that I also hope Al-ta'weeza is not too representative of its fellows. The basic plot is quite reasonable, a villain wishes to acquire a flat for reasons that are not entirely clear, but the father of the family cramped within isn't interested in selling or moving so the villain sics a bit of the old supernatural menace on them. And the supernatural visitations are amusing enough, with objects moving of their own accord, room shaking, pyrokinesis and the like. We also get some nice moments as the camera takes the eye of the demonic, prowling through the flat low and sinister. A little disappointingly there's little in the way of local colour to the terror but much as they may be the most basic of Western generica the tropes are solid enough, I mean no one wants mystery tremors or unexplained fire, that shit is dangerous. And I guess maybe in a culture removed from the secular mythology japing of horror in the West to explicitly tackle local custom may have been less palatable. Could have worked OK, but the pace, oh dear oh dear the pace. I’m not fundamentally opposed to big clunking chunks of soap operatic filler but they have to be done right, either building and maintaining tensely churning and hence hilarious melodrama or at least poised at enough of a skew from reality and relatable human behaviour to be perplexingly compelling. Al-ta'weeza opts simply for a banal facsimile of real living, there’s some potential in the characters and basic conflicts established (between young and old, change and tradition, global and local perspectives, etc.) but nothing is developed and most of the time just feels like dead fat, with corresponding just about workable but basically flat performances. And it bulks up the film to nearly 100 minutes!  I'm sure it's more relatable to Egyptian audiences and perhaps more interesting too but the fact remains that you just can't really get away with a horror film in which at least half the run time isn't the least germane to the actual horror. Much the more frustrating because this actually ends on a memorable high note, a bit of bloody lunacy that isn't often seen anywhere that shows that the film-makers weren't too afraid to shock and spread their wings but just didn't. All in all this isn't something I'd recommend even to the most dedicated of obscurity searchers, it's just too long and not very good. Didn't make me want to poke my own eyes out or anything but at times I did wonder why I never seriously pursued learning French or other languages and whatnot. Take of that what you will...

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