Beyond Bedlam

In years to come, people may well talk of the “Fairbrass trinity” of British horror films in hushed tones, but probably only because they want to say how crap they were and are frightened that Fairbrass himself might beat them up if he hears them. Craig Fairbrass is a big bloke. You might remember him from Eastenders, where he played Dan, a musclebound Cockernee gangster, easily identified from all the other enormous Cockernee gangsters in that soap opera because he was the only one with hair. To be fair to the bloke, he was actually quite good in Eastenders, but during the 1990s, someone obviously had him pegged as the new Peter Cushing, as for a brief moment he was the leading man in three truly dreadful Brit horrors – the execrable Proteus, the astonishingly poor Darklands, and this, one of those films that was made famous because its leading lady got ‘em out for the lads. Yes, Beyond Bedlam is that film, the one where the luscious Liz Hurley decided it was time to do her bit for tabloid journalists everywhere and stripped. Unfortunately, she had to do it in a film which also features Fairbrass, and the astonishingly powerful drag factor of Keith “I’m mates with Damien Hurst, you know” Allen, in what for him is a dream part – an annoying twat who shouts a lot.

Beyond Bedlam – basically a British riff on A Nightmare On Elm Street (no-one had told them it had already been done, in the better-but-still-not-good Dream Demon) was at the centre of a renewed “video nasty” outcry upon its release in the early 90s, and I have to say I’m behind the moral majority on this one. Ban it now. Not because of its horrific content, you understand… just because it’s a terrible film which pretty much sums up the 90s Brit horror malaise in every blue neon-soaked, over talkative scene.

There’s a certain amount of irony in producing a film about dreams which actually sends you to sleep, but the chances of anyone, even the smallest child, having nightmares after a viewing are slim in the extreme. Beyond Bedlam is not at all frightening, doesn’t make you jump, and hasn’t even got much blood in it (apart from a couple of nasty drug injection scenes). About the best thing I can say about it is that Jesse “Eldorado” Birdsall dies in the first minute.

Any possible interest the film may hold depends on your view of Keith “can anyone explain to me why he’s in the World In Motion video?” Allen’s slightly over-ripe acting style. If you like it, there might be something to gain from Beyond Bedlam (so that’s an audience of one, then – eh, Keith?). And at least with Allen on the team, Fairbrass can breathe a sigh of relief, because unlike Darklands, he’s not the worst thing in the picture.

The film itself starts with a close-up on a needle being thrust into an arm, followed by lots of shots of people asleep. Then Birdsall’s character bursts into flames and jumps through the window (like you do), hitting the ground outside like the proverbial bag of wet cement he is.

It’s a mysterious death, or possibly a murder, and luckily (for the murderer, if there is one), DI Hamilton (Fairbrass) has been put on the case. And he’s looking moody. Moodily, he stomps into a room. Moodily (and silently), he looks around for a bit, wanders off down a corridor, changes his “moody” face for his “puzzled” one, and wanders back. What an entrance. The dead man happened to live in the same block of flats as Stephanie (Hurley), a scientist(!) who’s busy testing dream-altering drugs on both herself and a nutter up at the nearby asylum called Gilmour “The Bone Man” (Allen), who’s also Hamilton’s arch nemesis. Keeping up?

Basically, Stephanie’s laissez-fair attitude to her work is causing other people to dream her dreams and then kill themselves (which, one supposes, explains Birdsall’s flaming exit at the beginning). So why she’s also giving the drug to a certified nutcase is anyone’s guess. Women, eh? As Hamilton explains to her: “You want to fuck with his mind? Well let me tell you something, doctor… it’s fucked already!”

Yes, people say “fuck” in this film. A lot. It’s like they’ve just discovered they’re allowed to say it on camera so they all have a go. Even Hurley, although when she says it, it comes out “fack”.

There’s a tiny sub-plot which involves Hamilton conducting a steamy affair with a feisty female reporter, which gets forgotten about half way through the film, but seems to be an excuse for the camera to linger on Fairbrass’s enormous man-boobs. He also does a lot of sit-ups, for pretty much the same reason. Meanwhile, Stephanie continues to accidentally kill people in her block of flats (the attractive dolt) and then finds that her and Gilmour’s dreams appear to be merging.

The next thing you know, both Hamilton and Stephanie are inside Gilmour’s dream – a scenario so hackneyed and clichéd you’d think the film makers might attempt to do something original with it, but they don’t. People get knocked down by cars, then disappear. Angie from Eastenders turns up with a spreading gunshot wound in her chest. There’s a delightful scene (repeated after the end credits, for some utterly unfathomable reason) of Gilmour being fisted by his podgy nurse. Basically, “dead people” keep turning up, and Hamilton keeps telling them to “fuck off”. And when he’s not doing that, he’s repeatedly shooting them with the limitless ammo contained in his tiny handgun.

As if this lack of invention wasn’t bad enough, each scene is extended to ridiculous length by lots and lots of talking. People drone on and on about who shot who, and any the plot is moved on by people talking about things they know or, things they’ve seen, without any of it actually appearing on camera. What’s supposed to be a nightmare just looks like what it is – a bunch of actors wandering around a deserted hospital in the middle of the night. There’s absolutely no surrealism at all involved (surely the point of such a film?), and everything’s resolved by that 90s staple – a big punch-up and eventual skewering.

And let’s not forget the final “shock” ending, which is so crap that even Hurley looks like she’s about to burst out laughing (seriously – if you’re going to watch this, and I heartily do not endorse that you do – keep your eyes on Liz in this scene). Beyond Bedlam? Beyond endurance, more like.

Updated: December 13, 2008

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