Fantasia presents Sweetie You Won’t Believe It, book tickets here.
Yernar Nurgaliyev’s delightfully dark horror-comedy joyously plays with a range of classic slasher tropes at lightning speed. It’s 85-minute runtime barely giving you time to breathe as you bounce from gore to gags and back again. Here, Nurgaliyev’s mashup of horror past and present is laced with slapstick, goofball humour and a delicate conversation on masculinity. The result is an energetic comedy lined with gore and creativity that feels fresh and innovative, despite its tried and tested slasher themes.
Dastan (Daniyar Alshinov) spends his days desperately trying to balance his wife’s pregnancy with his own needs. Her mood swings and volatility, causing more than a few angry outbursts at home. So as a break from all the turmoil, Dastan decides to spend a relaxing weekend fishing with his best friends Arman (Azamat Marklenov) and Muram (Yerlan Prynsetov); much to the disdain of his wife, whose waters may break at any moment. But, for Dastan, a boys weekend away is just what he needs; a chance to reconnect with the friends he has been distant from for a while.
READ MORE: WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE
However, as the boy’s head out to the lake, none of them ever having fished in their lives, trouble is brewing. For a group of ham-fisted mobsters, Kuka (Alamat Sakatov), Petok (Rustem Zhaniyamanov) and Kissyk (Yerkebulan Daiyrov) are also heading in their direction. Their mission; to ‘deal’ with a few locals who have mistakenly crossed their path. And as Dastan and his buddies use a truckload of faulty blow-up dolls as a boat for their leisure pursuits, the mobsters line up one of their victims, shooting him in the full view of our fishermen.
But as Dalsan and friends find themselves a new target for the mobster’s fury, a far more menacing figure (Dulgya Akmolda) is waiting to pounce on both groups. What ensues is a cat and mouse game of hunter vs hunter vs prey that is electric, devilishly funny and gory as the net tightens around Dalsan and his friends.
Like the superb Why Don’t You Just Die of 2018, Nurgaliyev perfectly balances violence with humour. Each gory scene, followed by a beautifully timed gag. But it is within Nurgaliyev’s homage to the slasher horror that Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It truly sings. Its horror inspiration’s clearly on display, while at the same time subverted through comedy. Here, we have a sprinkling of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a splatter of Deliverance and a wonderful homage to The Loved Ones in the final act. The result of this is a veritable feast of horror classics rolled into a comedy that echoes The Hangover. Now, if all this sounds like it really shouldn’t work, you would be right. But, strangely, it does, and while it occasionally trips up on the mayhem at its heart, the final picture is nonetheless impressive.
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This is partly due to Alshinov, Marklenov and Prynsetov, all of whom shine throughout. But, praise also has to sit with Akmolda; his deranged killer not only beautifully brought to life but inspired. Here we have a strange mix of Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes and T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The resulting villain, an absolute delight to watch as his bloody spree cuts through the comedy like a hot knife through butter.
However, Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It offers us much more than just a perfectly balanced horror-comedy. And it is within its discussions on masculinity that Sweetie also excels. Here, Nurgaliyev slowly peels back the shield of masculinity from each character, revealing the scared boy still trying to find his place in the world. The very notion of male superiority and strength slowly dissected with glee as the men become blubbering wrecks. And while this ingenious thread may occasionally find itself lost in the chaos, it remains a clever and timely critique of masculine stereotypes.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is, without doubt, another solid Russian horror/comedy. And while Why Don’t You Just Die remains my top pick from recent years, Nurgaliyev’s movie is nipping at its heels. Its sheer creativity and charm, full of surprises as it takes you on a beautifully designed, wild rollercoaster of laughs, blood and gore.