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Stars: Jim Sturgess, Clémence Poésy, Noel Clarke, Luke Treadaway, Joseph Mawle, Ruth Sheen, Timothy Spall, Justin Salinger, Imogen Church

Director: Philip Ridley

There are demons in Shoreditch. Or are there? How much of this horror film that plays with the Faust legend is in the hero's scarred mind and how much is real? You may not know the answer even when the film ends.

What is certain is that, demons or no, people are getting torched to death in east London's ghetto streets at night. Jamie (Sturgess), a troubled young man in his mid 20s, who takes after his late photographer father (Spall), lives with his mother (Sheen) in an area notorious for its violent hooded gangs.

Jamie has a prominent heart-shaped birthmark on one side of his face that has left him a loner. He believes the gangs in demon masks are real demons, especially when several of them hold him down while others torch his mother. Turning vigilante, he soon encounters Papa B (Mawle), who promises him a new face with which to court the girl he fancies (Poésy), in return for a gruesome favour...

Hard to know what to make of this extremely unpleasant movie. We might laugh because it's preposterous, but, if the fantastical events are visions of a deranged mind, it might not be so funny. A relatively intelligent story that will also satisfy addicts of gory slice and dice, the film never quite grabs its audience by the throat, despite some carefully calculated (and orchestrated) jumpy moments. Eddie Marsan does well to keep a straight face in a cameo as a 'weapons man' who detects 'the' kill weapon in our hero's apartment with the help of a divining rod.

Alan Frank

UK 2009. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by deluxe.
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 May 2010