DN went to the Grimm Up North film festival in Manchester and very bravely watched five horror films in a row without once calling out for our mummy. First film of the day was Fragment, an Australian undead detective film that sounded a lot more fun than it was.

The premise for Fragment is a promising one. Lloyd (Wayne Bradley) is a photographer, and while taking pictures in Iraq after Operation Desert Storm is a bit too near to the action and consequently ends up with a piece of depleted uranium embedded in his head. Upon his return he discovers that when he photographs the dead, they return to life. This progresses nicely as he begins with animals but then discovers a snuff film in his apartment and, for reasons not really explained, decides to take a photograph of it when it’s playing. In doing so he reanimates both victim and murderer. He is pursued by the killer and even has a love affair with the blood-covered victim (played by Bree Robertson). The thought of a necrophile, zombie, detective film sounds appealing doesn’t it? The reality is a mess and, less forgivably, a boring mess.

Plot-wise Fragment takes you on detour into the underground world of snuff movies but doesn’t know what it wants to do when it gets there – the killer wants his DVD back (or does he want the girl, it’s never made completely clear), but the DVD plot could have been handled without introducing a character who is an authority on and procurer of snuff. This character is then dispatched in a manner completely incongruous with the rest of the film. By turns the narrative wants to be Eyes of Laura Mars, Final Destination, The Frighteners and 8mm but none of these aims sit well with each other.

Stylistically Andrew Miles’ film owes a debt to Michael Mann and film noir. All the sets are cold and urban, with neon lights flooding through window blinds. Everything is very clean and you spend the film wanting to wash the surfaces every time the oil covered psychopath or bloody victim touch anything. Unfortunately this was the most emotionally engaged I got whilst watching.

What could have been a nice little detective tale with an original, macabre twist ends up weighed down by its own humourlessness, seemingly unaware that the story’s preposterousness could actually have been its strength.

BTW, The trailer’s probably NSFW.

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