“Beyond Bedlam” is an ambitious Brit horror schlocker that seems to have mislaid its script halfway. Careening, often stylish meltdown of everything from Thomas Harris shavings to Elm Street and Clive Barker offshoots starts with a bang but trails off into a whimper as the pic abandons all logic in the second half. Genre nuts may want to check out this curio, but pic’s longest lockup will be in the vid bin.
The movie’s release on home turf ironically coincides with draconian new guidelines for homevideo enforced on Blighty’s censors by politicians responding to a tabloid-led outcry against overly violent home viewing. Pic has had its temporary vid rating withdrawn by the British Board of Film Classification unless cuts are made to certain sequences. Theatrically, however, “Bedlam” uncut got an “18”– Britain’s most restrictive rating.
Biggest surprise for auteurists is that the film, based on the novel by Harry Adam Knight (“Carnosaur”), emanates from the same producer/director team (Paul Brooks, Vadim Jean) as the cheeky 1992 low-budget comedy “Leon the Pig Farmer.”
As self-professed members of the “multiplex generation,” dedicated to making commercial rather than traditional Brit fare, producer Paul Brooks and director Vadim Jean, who co-scripted wtih Rob Walker, here essay solid genre territory, with decidedly mixed, sometimes comic results.
Slickly mounted opening reel has a doctor at a research institute, Stephanie Lyell (Elizabeth Hurley), injecting herself with a drug, and a man in a sleek apartment building experiencing hallucinations, jumping out a window and self-combusting on the way down. Cop on the case Terry Hamilton (Craig Fairbrass) is still haunted by a psycho he put away seven years ago — Gilmour, dubbed the Bone Man (Keith Allen), who happens to be the doctor’s prize patient.
Stephanie has been testing a mind-calming drug, BFND, on herself for possible side effects, and feeding it to Gilmour. Result is some kind of dream transference into which Gilmour can tap, causing the deaths of people in his doctor’s dreams.
In a long climax that takes up the whole of the picture’s second half, Stephanie and Terry team up to take Gilmour out, working through the institute’s labyrinthine corridors in between being menaced by hallucinations generated by the Bone Man in his cell.
If all that sounds like grade-A nonsense, the filmmakers, to their credit, never pretend otherwise. Shot largely in an abandoned sanitarium in north London , the $ 3 million production has an umbral, high-gloss visual style in its early going that cleverly relies on closeups and spare, lightly dressed settings.
Problems sprout like mushrooms on the way to the final showdown between hero and villain that relegates the supposedly spunky Stephanie to the sidelines and throws overboard the primary asset of Gilmour’s character, his Hannibal Lecter-like mind control.
As the leering loon, Allen (gangster Jack Doyle in “The Young Americans”) comes off best, if starved of dialogue to match his brain power. Hurley, briefly impressive as a terrorist in “Passenger 57,” is photogenic but uneven, rarely living up to the sexy, daring doctor sketched in the opening. Fairbrass (“Prime Suspect,””Cliffhanger”) is standard hunk as the cop, too often stranded by the thin script.
Tech credits are largely good given the limited budget, with some stylish lighting by d.p. Gavin Finney and atmospheric, in-your-face music by David A. Hughes and John Murphy, who have clearly done their genre homework. Liz Webber’s cutting is trim.