Review: Bleep

Written and directed by Ben S. Hyland, co-written by Mark Brennan, a couple’s relationship is pushed to the brink as they investigate a strange noise that’s woken them in the night. Starring: Rebecca Shorrocks, Paul F. Taylor, Toby Williams, Phillipa Flynn and Matt Skillington.

Horror can be a great many different things, you know it when you see it but at the same time it doesn’t have to fit into any preconceived box, which means it’s full of possibilities. Ben S. Hyland and Mark Brennan take advantage of that, starting out much more comedy focused with a silly and sit-com styled sense of humour then bringing in tension and unexpected turns. It’s a fun example of a film which hands you a story, leaving you thinking that you know where it’s going. but you actually don’t. Ultimately it throws in a perfectly timed theme which is absolutely classic of horror and supernatural cinema, and uses it to not only push the comedy further but add a smart edge to its silliness. It shows how you don’t have to be limited by tone, having a playful and simple sense of humour doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your audience or evolve the story.

The other aspect which makes that layered approach work is the direction, it’s something you can see sharply with the tension to this story. Bringing it through alongside the comedy is a tricky thing to do, to play to a warmth while also trying to push your audience to the edge of its seat. That’s where a smart use of angles, framing, lighting and colouring comes in. There’s one key shot which shifts that balance, pushing the tension further and switching up the tone to bring through its horror side more strongly. It lets the comedy take the lead but uses the horror to its advantage, in the vein of The Frighteners.

[Side note: If you don’t know that reference, please do yourself a favour and go watch it, Peter Jackson may be best known for his fantasy work but his roots are solidly in comedy horrors]

Another element which helps keep that balance is the performances, again leaning into sit-com territory, an everyday nature but with added exaggeration. Starting with Rebecca Shorrocks creating the classic wife character, full of irritation and frustration for the unfinished tasks around the house and the general ambivalence from her husband. It’s relatable, funny and works every time. While Paul F. Taylor brings the happy-go-lucky side of the couple, typically cracking a joke when the wife isn’t in the mood. They make an easily convincing couple and one that most people probably know a couple exactly like this. While they create the centre to this story, Toby Williams, Phillipa Flynn and Matt Skillington then throw a nicely timed and hugely funny wrench in the works. Williams in particular feels like a parody of such a frequent character of supernatural cinema and it’s enjoyable to watch.

Bleep is funny, entertaining, surprising and both silly and smart. It has a simple sense of humour which nicely evolves into a great horror, comedy blend and cleverly uses its balance of the genres. Its comedy is elevated by Ben S. Hyland’s direction which brings through a solid dose of tension and suspense. The characters, especially those played by Rebecca Shorrocks and Paul F. Taylor, feel familiar and hugely relatable but also original. Put very simply, it’s a good time.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Bleep celebrates its World Premiere at Arrow FrightFest 2022 on 28 August

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