Horror films, like most films, can really benefit from acidic social commentary and Dan Pringle’s K-Shop is one acidic film. The UK’s relationship with booze has always been a problematic one and Pringle turns on the debate with feverish zeal, presenting a bleak glimpse at one town’s struggle with a perilous drinking culture.
The story follows Salah (Ziad Abaza), a dedicated student who is forced to return home and help with the family business after his father suffers a heart attack. After weeks of putting up with violent drunks and mounting pressure from his studies, Salah stumbles across a way to deal with the inebriates on his doorstep, whilst keeping the business alive.
K-Shop feels like a special episode of Booze Britain, borrowing that fly-on-the-wall style to present ludicrous amounts of agro, vomit, and blatant public sex, without losing any of the films pre-gore realism. There are no “good drinkers” here; everyone is a potentially violent racist, rapist, or general scumbag. It’s a dirty and frank presentation of drinking culture and one that milks the fact we’ve all felt intimidated by drunks at one point or another.
The reason why Salah starts turning drunks into drunk-fodder isn’t really dealt with as well as it could have been. Pringle sets up a great level-headed lead but it feels like there’s a missing scene connecting his miseries to his catharsis. On the other hand, K-Shop paints such a hopeless image that it nurtures our victim-hatred from square one, allowing certain character steps to go mostly unaddressed and unnoticed. By the end of the film though, Pringle has salvaged some of that one-sidedness, peeking behind the curtain to look at what propagates the insidious night life in the first place.
Scot Williams is an important part of the puzzle; here playing an ex-Big Brother winner who’s setting up exploitative super clubs and peddling drugs to a fractured community. Darren Morfitt’s (Dog Soldiers) damaged yob takes up forced residence in the basement and helps provide some of Salah’s most tender moments but also gives him the opportunity to fly off the handle in cringingly madcap fashion. But this is K-Shop’s main issue: it layers on so much grit and grime that it forgets how silly it actually is, and how much fun we really want to have with those ideas.
Dan Pringle has lifted the bare bones of Sweeney Todd out of that outdated Gothic fable and plunged them into the deep-fat-fryer of contemporary anxiety. There’s not enough conversation to leave you thinking, but K-Shop is still an impressively nasty debut with a tangible rage at its core.
Dir. Dan Pringle
Stars: Ziad Abaza, Reece Noi, Lucinda Rhodes, Scott Williams, Darren Morfitt, Ewen MacIntosh