Isabelle (Jemma Dallender) is introduced as being an ambitious young film student with a penchant for highlighting "social injustices". Her latest project entails a visit to the notorious Draymen Estate – a run-down housing development that even the police dare not set foot upon. Along with cameraman Will (Elliott Jordan), she takes the only bus that ventures as far as its outskirts, intent on finding out why this community has been left to rot in a Hell of crime, poverty and drugs.

The morning bus makes its drop off and the driver warns the pair that his last pick-up is at 4pm – after that it starts to get dark.

Undeterred, Isabelle leads Will across a field and towards the graffiti-strewn community centre. It’s all boarded up and dilapidated, as are many of the houses nearby. The whole estate seems eerily quiet as they continue to the home of a contact that Isabelle has made – Mr Lowman. She’s keen to interview him as she’s been told he has a secret to share about the estate. But, as they knock on his door, they’re accosted by a group of young kids who inform them that Lowman recently committed suicide.

Sensing suspicion from these territorial juveniles, Isabelle coaxes them into appearing in her documentary and they happily lead her and Will into the woods to show them their collection of dead or dying animals. Suitably shocked, Isabelle asks where their parents are. "They’re all on weed", answers lead kid Mac (Ben Neagen) in an unnervingly casual manner.

Mac takes the filmmakers to his mother’s (Jo Dyson) house, and she is indeed spaced out on the settee. While Will films with increasing unease, Isabelle quizzes the woman on where the weed comes from. She becomes fixated on the whereabouts of its origins – and only we know why.

But Isabelle’s insistence on tracking down said drug den leads to lethal consequences, as the sun goes down and she’s trapped on the estate with a petrified Will, a group of growling Neanderthal-like teenagers and their even weirder parents. Presiding over the whole thing is a strange transvestite who likes to be referred to as Auntie (Paul McNeilly).

My first bit of advice to anyone considering COMMUNITY is: stick with it. It opens with bogus members of the public looking into the camera to offer their opinions on the infamous (fictional) estate. These clips are unconvincing, and the proceeding 15 minutes-or-so really do nothing to quell the notion that this is going to be yet another sub-standard ‘found footage’ turd.

Happily, however, there are very few shots from Will’s camera point of view, and director Jason Ford’s screenplay is capable of keeping the audience constantly guessing as to where the action is headed next. It kicks off like a cross-breeding of EDEN LAKE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but by the midway mark has added a dash of MOTEL HELL while temporarily fooling me into thinking we were going to see werewolves, before nodding to the likes of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS and PSYCHO in its latter half.

The cast are generally very good (Terry Bird gets top honours as menacing creep Dumpy), as is Ford’s screenplay. The dialogue is self-reflective at the right times, adding a knowing nod and wink to the more clichéd lines. But if that makes COMMUNITY sound like some post-ironic ‘comedy’ a ’la SCREAM, it’s not: there is occasional humour of the absurdist variety (two characters stripping to their waists and scrapping over who gets to tend to their latest victim next, for example). But, aside from that, the tone of the action is satisfyingly dark and mean.

Despite an apparent low budget, the film also looks very good. It’s slickly edited, well-lit and Aaron Reid’s cinematography emerges as an atmospheric highlight. The estate location, filmed in Basildon, is striking too.

True, there is little logic in the finer points of the script. How come, for example, the estate’s youth are shown as uneducated hicks but can pick up a smartphone – surely an alien concept to a community this deprived and isolated – and use it so knowledgeably? Some may also call Ford’s depiction of the lower-class estate residents as inbred psychopaths as naïve and pompous. Or is it simply his way of having a swipe at right-wing fears? There’s certainly an element of the "hoodie horror" myth running through COMMUNITY’s blood.

These are issues that aren’t satisfactorily answered. But if you’re not one to overthink such aspects of a film’s screenplay, and if you can forgive the odd ill-placed scream effect on the soundtrack, COMMUNITY does actually entertain with occasional tension and minor gore.

Matchbox Films present the film uncut in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is enhanced for 16x9 televisions and looks very good with crisp images and strong colours. Blacks are solid and there were no obvious compression issues to be found.

English audio comes in a robust, clean 2.0 mix.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a static scene-selection menu offers access to the film via 12 chapters.

The only extra is a 2-minute trailer for the main feature. This perhaps doesn’t do the film justice, but does at least repeat scenes of Dallender in her underwear. Very nice!

At 78 minutes in length, COMMUNITY is a decent British take on modern urban terror with a few surprises and some interesting characters thrown in for good measure. It’s not a classic, but it’s better than a lot of the low budget crap coming out of America at present.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Matchbox Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review