Sitges 2020 Review: THE SHOW, Alan Moore's Darkly Comedic Foray Into Feature Films
A man of many faces searches for an artifact stolen from a wealthy benefactor. His search leads him to the haunted town of Northampton. It is a town occupied by Voodoo gangsters, masked adventurers, Noir-era private dicks and a violent chiaroscuro woman. This is just what you can see on the surface, for some things lurk in your peripheral, in your dreams, outside of reality.
The Show is part occult noir, part gothic fantasy-mystery written by celebrated author Alan Moore and directed by his collaborator, award-winning photographer Mitch Jenkins. It takes place in Moore's hometown of Northampton, as have other projects that Moore has written in his illustrious career. While his comics have been adpated to film this is Moore's first feature film screenplay.
The Show is more a slow boil dark fantasy and it may not be a true noir in the classic sense. Moore skips some of the conventions of that particular sub-genre and merely uses it as an example of the variety of characters that inhabit this strange world. He uses it more as a tool for the strange and an injection of absurdity and humor.
It features his variety of completely normal characters, for an Alan Moore project. When I think back on it I would say that it occupies the same space as lauded British television series like Blackpool and The League of Gentlemen (the ordinary variety).
The Show could be about the underbelly of small town England. Northampton is where the netherworld and the underworld coexist. I do not dare say that this is a lament from Moore, a man who is a known occultist and ceremonial magician, among other things. Rather, Moore would probably be upset if he were not on the guest list to any of these happenings of the darker nature in his hometown.
Tom Burke is the man of many faces who goes through Northampton in search of this artifact. He walks the streets of Northampton, meeting Moore’s ‘variety’ of characters who wish to be seen in broad daylight. Burke has strange magnetism to him, decked out like a kept Robert Smith, auditioning for a Cure cover band, or, better yet, a Bizzaro Waldo in a black and red striped shirt, because where has Waldo ended up, really? Where has this man of many identities and personas found himself at this time?
If Irish actress Siobhán Hewlett wasn’t already part of a serious acting legacy you would swear she and Helen Mirren might be related. She’s terrific as Faith, the woman who gets caught up in the mystery of the missing artifact and joins Burke in an attempt to solve its disappearance.
Looking through Mitch Jenkins’ portfolio, at what he has captured on film, here you find the similarities. Depth of field and halos of color bridge the top and bottom realms of Northampton. Perhaps as a commentary to the reach of the mass surveillance state of London he uses CCTV as well. You are being watched from above as you are below. By their very nature and placement as an all-seeing eye they create extreme angles of observation to mix up the visuals.
Then, as we move from the benign every day to the absurd netherworld the art department takes over, throwing caution to the wind and dousing the scenes with bright colors, giving more life to this world than to the streets above. This is the world where Moore draws his every day breathes from, after all. Moore himself rightfully plays the most colorful character of all.
The style of humor he weaves into his tale is dark and understated, typically British and offhanded. It happens often, so much so that you risk not catching it on your first go. It should elicit chuckles over guffaws.
As the mystery comes to an end The Show is still left to interpretation. What does Moore have to say here? Is he saying that just because you live far away from the underbellies of the larger metropolitans that they do not reach out that no matter where you live there is always a dark underworld? There certainly is truth in that as everyone can recall a time when something happened in their small suburban town. I come from a suburb in Canada that was also home to a serial killer. Small towns are not immune from the darkness of humanity.
Now, The Show delves further into the strangeness of that world over the corruption. It’s what interests Moore over all. I do not know enough about Moore to know if Northampton was instrumental in his interest in the occult or the benignity of everyday life there is what drove him to seek it elsewhere.
Moore's Northampton may not be a safe place to be but it is a hell of a lot more interesting than the alternative.