Polterheist Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Tribal Films
Directed by David Gilbank
Written by David Gilbank, Gemma Head, Paul Renhard
2018, 86 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 15th September 2018
Jamie Cymbal as Boxy
Mandeep Semhi as Hassan
Polly Lister as Wilkes
Sid Akbar Ali as Tariq
Few phrases deliver a chill to the blood like the words ‘British horror comedy’. For every Shaun of the Dead there’s a Lesbian Vampire Killers; for each Cockneys vs Zombies a Strippers vs Werewolves; and at least five Danny Dyer movies to counteract the uncharacteristically good work he did in Severance. One tries to support one’s arbitrary country of birth, but have you ever tried to sit through Lesbian Vampire Killers? Patriotism is a lot easier without James Corden in it.
Thankfully, James Corden, Danny Dyer and even Billy Murray have sat this one out – a low-budget British comedy horror about gangsters, their dead mate and the Medium he’s possessed. The title is a bit of a misnomer then: there’s no poltergeist, and barely even a heist. Set in Bradford, Polterheist is a conventional British Idiot movie about bungling criminals, but with the loosest of supernatural trimmings – Only Ghouls and Horses, if you will. Tariq, Boxy and Frank are your traditional trio of menial drug-peddling crooks, except one of them is a dead man in the body of a possessed Medium, murdered after trying to double-cross his drug lord bosses. That’s all the film needs though, as these three (four, if you count the two-for-one Medium and her passenger) distinctly drawn, compelling characters are an entertaining bunch, bungling their way through a funny, engagingly plotted narrative.
However, it’s the smaller touches which propel it beyond the Lock Stock But With a Ghost rip-off it could have been. There’s a refreshing lack of cockneys to its gangster villains, and instead director David Gilbank goes with a colourful bunch of Anglo-Indians, Muslims and Eastern Europeans, somewhat more representative of our multicultural Britain. They’re a more interesting bunch than the usual collection of ex-Eastenders which tend to populate this sort of thing, threatening to shove cricket bats up arses and attempting to bribe their way out of arranged marriages with stolen diamonds. Polterheist isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s not crying-out-loud awful either, and that counts for a lot within these subgenres.
Even the typically straight-to-DVD/streaming acting is charming and befitting the characters; Sid Akbar Ali as Tariq and Jamie Symbal as Boxy are particularly loveable, the former a mumbling, frustrated teddy bear in a sharp suit, the latter a gruff idiot with a heart of gold. Jo Mousley is the best of the three, pulling double duties as the unassuming, nervous medium and then the Northern gangster inhabiting her body. Together the three (okay, four) of them propel this sparse low-budget genre film out of its league, the story twisting and turning so that it nips along at a healthy pace. By the end, I was surprisingly invested in its characters and their relationship, rooting for the boys to come out of it with their arses unscathed by cricket bats. It’s like spooky Shameless; a scrappy, cheap British crime drama with a fun twist and enjoyably low-rent humour.