Horror 365 Movie 22: K-Shop

And a Happy Boxing Day to you all.

Traditionally, Boxing Day has been a day where servants, tradespeople, vendors, etc. receive a gift of some kind from their patrons or employers. As the humble scrivener in service to anyone reading this, I don’t mind asking for a small sort of gift either.

So how about this?

Down in the Comments, leave me the name of a horror movie you’d like to see reviewed. I’ll throw it into the box with all the others, and when I draw it, I’ll review it and mention who made the suggestion.

And on to K-Shop. I remember having to wait a good little while for a U.S. release of this one. Oh sure, several friends at the time suggested a few methods, some less savory than others, by which I could have watched the UK version on my computer, and while I’m not the most ethical creature I know, I am one of the more paranoid.

So I waited. And was more or less rewarded I suppose.

First let me say I like this movie. It speaks to my own overdeveloped sense of vengeance and my contempt for the dude bros who invaded my favorite local bar and turned into a place I won’t set foot in anymore.

Here’s how IMDB describes K-Shop: “A kebab shop owner’s son, Salah, turns vigilante after his father’s death in an effort to clean up the relentless onslaught of boozed up thrill seekers waging war on his doorstep.” Sounds kinda simplistic and Batman if you ask me.

But this misses out on some important details. Salah (Ziad Abaza) is a graduate student in socioeonomics. His dissertation, ironically, is “The Role of Social Economics in the Building of Modern Cultures.”

It turns out that helping out at the family kebab shop while his father, Zaki, recovers from an illness is about to provide Salah with some disheartening field research, specifically into binge drinking culture.

Ewww

Shortly after returning to the shop, Zaki is killed in an altercation with some drunk partiers. From there, K-Shop pulls off at the next Sweeney Todd exit.

Not so Batman after all.

But it’s not entirely as simple as that summary either. For one thing, the meat pies in Sweeney Todd were Mrs. Lovett’s idea. The doner kebabs, which I’m tempted to call “long lamb,” are entirely Salah’s doing. Also, though they both kill for revenge, Sweeney Todd is indiscriminate while Salah is somewhat more, for lack of a better word, judicious.

The point is, there are some plot differences. There are undertones as well of Eating Raoul and even Delicatessan. There are obvious Death Wish connections as well. Maybe even Falling Down.

Still, the moment Salah looks at his first victim (to be fair, an accident), then at the kebab meat, you can almost hear Helena Bonham Carter starting into the opening of “A Little Priest.” As for the hard-partying victims, well, there’s no appeal. They’re obnoxious, entitled, and border on subhuman. It may not be fair to say they get what they deserve, but we really aren’t bothered by what happens to them.

And while there’s a fair amount of gore to be had, director Dan Pringle more often seems content to repeatedly show us the end result of what looks like an alarming binge drinking culture, namely drunk people vomiting and urinating in the street. In fact, it’s been mentioned that Pringle used a good amount of candid shots from late nights in Bournemouth.

Still, there’s something cynical not very far beneath K-Shop’s surface, and that’s what makes it ultimately just a little confusing. For one thing, there’s a scene in which, although for significantly different reasons, Salah ends up looking and acting exactly like those very people whose humanity he questioned earlier. And like the murder of Kitty Genovese, nobody helps. In fact, nobody so much as stops to see if Salah is even okay.

What’s more, Salah is Turkish. Jason Brown, the nightclub owner antagonist, is British. If the takeaway (heh) here is not so much that Salah becomes what he despises, then what is it? Is it generational? The basic self-involvement of the self-indulgent binge drinking culture. Some kind of political statement about British attitudes toward immigrants (Salah is Turkish, and Jason, the nightclub owner antagonist, is British)?

These are interesting areas worth exploring. But given the plot’s outcome, you wonder what’s implied in terms of the relationship between immigrants (and their British-born children) and the culture they’re depicted as assimilating to. K-Shop never really makes clear. Then again maybe it shouldn’t.

Body Count
5 onscreen

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