Scum (1979)

ScumA damning depiction of rehabilitation, hierarchy and corruption.  

Despite being released over 30 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Scum has lost none of its punch. ‘Scum’ is an unforgiving portrait of the British borstal system – 1 hour and 30 minutes of both physical and psychological abuse.

The film examines the hierarchy of the borstal, looking at the behaviour and roles of both the officers and the inmates, questioning who’s worse. This hierarchy is ruptured when Carlin (Ray Winstone) enters the borstal. Carlin claims to be looking for ‘no trouble’, but really he is equally or even more pugnacious and skullduggerous than the rest.

Much like ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Scum’ explores the infuriating frustration of injustice in ‘correctional’ institutions. Personally, I find few things worse than the abuse of power, whether it’s within an institution, a family or any other context. I’m sure many would agree, subsequently making ‘Scum’ an engrossing and unpleasant watch for all.

Asides from Carlin, the most significant character is Archer (Mick Ford), an intelligent, disaffected vegan who is a habitual troublemaker. Archer serves as an interesting plot device; he offers intelligent, biting monologues on the flaws of the institution, most notably to an officer’s face, who retaliates by reducing their civil conversation into another officious, hostile procedure.

It’s Carlin’s arrival, growth and ultimately tenure as ‘The Daddy’ that serves as the central narrative of the film, but thematically the film acts as a condemnation of the borstal system and its corrupt, vindictive employees. One may wonder if the film is hyperbolic, but the borstal system was abolished by government in 1982, replacing it instead with ‘Youth Custody Centres’. This corroborates Scum’s credibility.

80%

The Loved Ones (2009)

The Loved Ones

‘The Loved Ones’ is ultimately an exercise in frustration and indignation.

‘The Loved Ones’ is a well-made film, but it’s also hollow and nasty. It takes a developed, sympathetic character and subjects him to an array of torture and humiliation at the hands of Lola and ‘Daddy’, a vile father/daughter serial killing partnership.

The film drew significant parallels with ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, a film I like. The difference between the two is that ‘The Loved Ones’ is far crueler; the protracted scenes of humiliation and violence left me utterly indignant. ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ is also an iconic, genre defining piece of work; this film is merely one of its many imitators.

Tough films such as the fellow Australian horror ‘Wolf Creek’ serve as an endurance test; they’re full of tension, suspense and eventually unflinching brutality. They’re straightforward and not particularly good, but they do have a purpose, albeit a doubtful one. ‘The Loved Ones’ however is just overbearingly frustrating; how can anyone derive anything but negative emotion out of watching an innocent character being tied to a chair and tortured?

As I watched their exploits, I realised that Lola and ‘Daddy’ were such reprehensible characters that no come-uppance would be satisfying enough, my growing bloodlust would have only been satiated if I’d been able to jump into the frame and exact hyper-violent justice myself.

The effect the film had on me is clearly testament to the power of it. There’s no doubt that it’s taut, well made and well-acted, however ‘The Loved Ones’ is ultimately an exercise in frustration and indignation.

55%