A Little More Flesh (2020)

little more fleshDirector: Sam Ashurst
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Starring: Elf Lyons, Hazel Townsend, Dante Baptiste, Rob Kemp, Gabriel Thomson, David Houston, Joan Lambert, James Swanton, Sam Ashurst

Making it's worldwide debut at Frightfest 2018, Frankenstein's Creature was a film unlike any other, highlighting Sam Ashurst as a director worth watching out for. Also serving as co-writer, producer, editor, and cinematographer, Ashurst acts as an all-rounder for his follow-up feature. He may have moved away from the one-man show, but this feature is just as experimental, pushing the medium of film in directions both unique, and fascinating.

Presented as a film within a film, viewers bear witness to a fictional movie entitled "God's Lonely Woman". The feature is getting a Blu-Ray release, for the first time since it was banned in the 1970s, and director Stanley Durall (voiced by Sam Ashurst) is recording an audio commentary. He's candid about his financial gain in recording this, and as the film goes on, he's further candid of transgressions made during production. He comes to realise what he's watching is a brand new cut of the film, which has been interspersed with behind the scenes footage, all while hearing mysterious sounds outside his recording booth.

From the initial premise, this is a feature which is one of a kind. The closest thing I could compare it to is the excellent third season premiere of Inside No. 9, entitled "The Devil of Christmas". But where Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith kept viewers guessing where the horror would factor into their story, Ashurst makes his intentions clear from early on. The horror comes from all too real attitudes steeped in toxicity, as those in power abuse their positions, and the poor victims are left to suffer the consequences, while the perpetrators continue about their lives.

There's no ambiguity about it, Stanley Durall is an odious figure. Casually and regularly misogynistic, he's more preoccupied with boosting his ego than considering the feelings of others. He's very open about his influences, likening himself to Lynch or Tarkovsky, while having grand ideas about his own works, claiming Gaspar Noe's Climax borrowed from his film, and even lays claim to his lead actress flirting with him. There's also a systematic dig at critics, while notably highlighting his dislike for one shot the editor added in, which happened to be the only thing about his film which was positively reviewed.

As the picture runs on, viewers are regularly drawn into the commentary, before their nerves are left shattered. The screen keeps depicting brand new scenes involving the women who suffered on the set, their vengeful visage stunningly realised, adorned in a colour palette which screams "danger". Stanley isn't privy to these haunting images before his eyes, claiming the film keeps cutting out, and the viewers are aware of something which he does not. Like Cosby and Weinstein, the net is closing around him, and his actions won't be left unanswered for much longer.

For all the talk of the fictitious director, it's worth mentioning the cast members who are visible on the screen. Due to regular commentary, we don't hear any of their dialogue, but in all honesty, it isn't needed. The tremendous ensemble do excellent jobs depicting their characters, saying all that's needed through body language and facial expressions. On-screen for the longest amount of time is Elf Lyons, as the unfortunate lead, Isabella Dotterson. Every nightmarish minute she must suffer through, each moment made all the more easier thanks to close friends, Lyons' excellent portrayal depicts it all loud and clear.

Through Stanley's recollection, the real life story creeps in, bit by bit. No matter how much he downplays the events, or shifts the blame onto others, the evident horror keeps on growing, as each piece slots into place on this jigsaw of terrors. Up to this point, Stanley has repeatedly waved away the ending as "controversial". By the time we reach it, we understand what is meant, and what occurs will certainly elicit a reaction, and won't leave your mind too easily.

This may be a film about misogyny, but vitally, it isn't a misogynist piece of work. What it is, though, is a wonderful calling card for Ashurst's style, cementing him as a vibrant talent working in UK genre films. There's few talents out there like his, and if you can handle it, this is worth your attention.