dir. Sam Ashurst.
As anyone who listens to the Arrow Video Podcast will know, director Sam Ashurst is a man who loves his blu-ray commentaries. As such it seems only natural – yet utterly original – that one should form the backbone of his sophomore outing.
Ostensibly a film within a film, A Little More Flesh presents itself as a re-edited cut of fictitious sexploitation movie God’s Lonely Woman, being released via boutique blu-ray label Deep Cut Videos (the name of Ashurst’s real-world YouTube Channel). Ashurst plays director Stanley Durall, a self-styled-auteur / sleaze merchant who is bodily absent yet ever-present as he records a commentary for his notorious skin-flick. As the film unspools however Durall realises that this new edit includes – and omits – several surprises, whilst all the while something seems to be closing in on his sound booth.
As is clear from the setup this is a film in love with film-making, investigating the rich overlap between text, meta-text and – with eerily malfunctioning equipment – para-text, as God’s Lonely Woman and Durall’s confessional combine to create something new. As with tech-phobic J-horrors such as Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) there’s a sense of danger in watching things transpire, the immediacy of the format destabilising the fourth-wall and placing the audience at risk of exposure. Similarly, as Durall slowly unmasks himself to be the kind of monster all too familiar nowadays, his commentary retro-frames the visuals as an unfolding crime scene, inviting the onlooker into complicity even as we are repulsed.
For make no mistake: Durall is a corrupt and toxic man, blissful in misogyny and unaware of his own hubris and degradation. Referencing Tarkovsky and Lynch not only as inspirations but peers, he also claims to have influenced Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), itself a text about unmasking. But the more Durall speaks the more it becomes clear that he is from the vein of Polanski, Salva and Weinstein; though not in an artistic sense.
Unrepentant and unashamed, the exact nature of Durall’s actions are initially oblique, skilfully drip-fed via hints and allusions. However he does refer to his film’s “controversial” finale, and when it arrives it certainly does hit hard: though perhaps not in the way we – or Durall – expect.
Following on from his debut with FrightFest favourite Frankenstein’s Creature (2018), A Little More Flesh is so radically different in style, form and content that it establishes Ashurst as one of the most exciting and versatile voices working in UK genre cinema today. This may be a strong cup of coffee – bitter and dark – but it’s invigorating nevertheless, and one that deserves to be mainlined into the eyes. If you can take it.