During a cricket match at an insane asylum between inmates and local villagers, patient Crossley (Bates) explains to a visiting doctor why another patient, Anthony, hates him so much; the other patient, Anthony, being played by a very young looking John Hurt.
It turns out that sometime ago Crossley had turned up at the church where Anthony played the organ and followed him home. Little by little he’d ingratiated himself into the lives of Anthony and his wife Rachel (York) and soon used ancient magic to gain control over the wife.
Within days Crossley had demonstrated what a human cuckoo he really was and is soon sleeping with Anthony’s wife and pushing the poor experimental musician around. Apparently he’d managed to frighten Anthony off by demonstrating that he had powers, in particular that of ‘The Shout’, which enables him to kill with a single powerful shout. Obviously, as the cricket match continues, the doctor finds himself not really believing what he’s hearing, but then proceedings take a more sinister turn as a storm brews overhead.
Truth be told I’d been wanting to see The Shout for a long time; well actually since I’d read an article about it in House of Hammer magazine back in the late 70s. From what I remember of that article it made the film out to be quite enigmatic and somewhat open to interpretation, but I could be wrong. So was The Shout worth the wait? Well, in a nutshell, no!
While the film is fairly well shot, for the most part, barring several weird arty shots for the sake of artiness, it trudges along with turgid dreariness and is made almost insufferable at times by its overarching art-house pretentions and the fact that the main character, Crossley, is rendered almost inaudible most of the time by bad sound design or maybe just not being mic’ed up properly! There are way too many pointless shots of people trudging over rugged terrain (actually in Devon) or dreary shots of people not really doing anything of interest. For a relatively short film, this really does outstay its welcome…
On a more positive note I really liked some of the ideas that the film toyed with such as a man trained by a shaman to be able to kill with just the power of his voice. But this idea is so poorly handled here, and in such an extremely dull way, that I quickly lost interest in what should have been a fantastic device to hang a plot on. The scene where Crossley demonstrates his power is quite cool, but because it’s never really returned to, one has to ask, what was the point?
Another plus point was the music score, which did actually suit the film, being somewhat Tangerine Dream-ish in nature and suiting the visuals for the most part. I also quite liked the idea of how Hurt’s character tries to bring Crossley’s short-lived ‘reign of terror’ to a close, but it was all rather clumsily handled, which made me think afterwards how much better this film would probably have been if Nicolas Roeg had directed it as the producer had originally wanted. Director Jerzy Skolimowski (Deep End, Essential Killing, The Avengers) has a lot to answer for here, me thinks.
Note to self – must find out why so many Polish film directors make overly pretentious, arty-farty films!
The Shout has recently been released on DVD and Blu-Ray and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles. Here they’ve done a good job with the restoration of the print and it generally looks good in its original theatrical ratio.
Extras on the review disc consist of a commentary track with journalist Kim Newman and author Stephen Jones, a booklet by Kim Newman, the original theatrical trailer, an image gallery and a short interview with producer Jeremy Thomas, during which a very sweaty looking Mr Thomas reveals that he really wanted Nicholas Roeg to direct the film but he was too busy at the time, and the film was shot over six weeks for not much money. He also admits that the film is more of a festival type of film and it, not surprisingly, received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike.