It’s been twenty years since a heavily armed police SWAT team led by the hard-bitten Snowdon (Shaun Dingwall) brutally ended serial child murderer Edward Jansen’s (Pete Lee-Wilson) reign of terror, tracking him to his subterranean lair and executing him in a hail of bullets. But for Sam Cross (Charity Wakefield) the nightmare never really ended.

The sister of Jansen’s last victim, Sam barely escaped the killer’s clutches as a child, devoting her life to the police force and rising to the rank of detective but no matter how much she drinks, how hard she hits or how many chances she takes, she’s still haunted by memories of that fateful day. Judged mentally unstable and suspended from the force, Sam is a raging, self-destructive time bomb just looking for a place to go off.

When a young woman is butchered and the prime suspect, the quiet, unassuming, aggressively normal and nice Luke (Danny Horn), the victim’s best friend, goes on the run, it seems like an open and shut case. Except the method of murder and mutilation exactly match Jansen’s M.O. And Jansen’s DNA is all over the corpse and the crime scene. But Jansen’s been dead for twenty years…hasn’t he? And who’s sending Luke cryptic texts and voyeuristic videos of Sam, urging him to seek out the self-destructive young detective (she must be self-destructive she drinks vodka out the bottle!)? With the body count rising, Sam and Luke must join forces to uncover the truth and confront the evil that stalks them. But can Sam really trust Luke?

Around a decade ago, when Channel 5 was still more or less in its infancy, as a favour to a director friend (and for the money!), I appeared as an extra in a couple of episodes of its short-lived horror anthology show Urban Gothic. The show’s scripts for the most part were pretty terrible and often made little sense, felt like the fevered imaginings of a teenaged goth metalhead (which they likely were, the series having been originated by then 23-year-old Tom De Ville), the episode budgets had to stand on tippy toes to be considered low-budget, were approximately ten bob and some Nectar points, and the performances were often, well, a bit naff, treading that fine line between final year at drama school and Hollyoaks cast regular. But the show had a cheeky insouciance, a confident swagger, and, if nothing else, it deserves to be remembered for being the last time a terrestrial TV channel tried to programme some homegrown horror that didn’t involve a member of The League Of Gentlemen.

With Scar Tissue, writer/director Scott Michell (who wrote and directed the passable The Innocent Sleep some eighteen years ago) has successfully managed to recreate Urban Gothic’s low-fi aesthetic, cavalier attitude to narrative and paint-by-numbers approach to character and performance. Grubby and nasty, with a leering misogynistic approach to nudity and gore that feels a little uncomfortable in a movie with a dead serial child murderer as the boogeyman at its dark heart, Scar Tissue fails on almost every level it can. The plot makes little sense, mixing mad scientists and genetic experiments with serial killers and lashings of gore, and the script is risible, particularly the would-be rat-tat-tat dialogue exchanges between the portly goth pathologist (Imogen Bain) and the cops she deals with, Michell obviously aspiring to some level of screwball comedy, His Girl Friday with a potty mouth. There’s also a ludicrously awful hedonistic party scene where Luke and his friends celebrate his 21st by drinking and taking drugs in a lap-dancing bar, a scene that served only to convince me that not only has Michell probably never been to a lap-dancing club, he may never have taken drugs. Or been drunk. Even the continuity is terrible, the pistols in the protagonists hands metamorphosing from shot to shot during a John Woo-inspired climactic, three-way Mexican stand-off.

It’s also pretty obvious early on which characters simply aren’t to be trusted, what with there only being about seven characters in the film and two of them, played by the two most recognisable actors, are a sinister chain-smoking copper and a mystery man with ties to Luke’s childhood. Scar Tissue abandons even a nodding relationship with reality right from the start by casting the beautiful and cherubic Charity Wakefield (paradoxically the best thing in the film) as the world’s most fresh-faced, self-destructive, alcoholic, cop-on-the-edge (seriously, the woman glows with health, she glows!). Saddled with some of the worst tough girl lines in living memory, Wakefield just grits her teeth and ploughs on through it with a weary professionalism that unfortunately doesn’t extend to the rest of the cast who seem to be using the film as audition pieces for panto season in Weston-super-Mare or as background players in Not Going Out.

Like being in a crowded pub and listening to a heroically drunk friend try to recount the plot of the Shaun Hutson novel he’s reading, Scar Tissue is probably better to hear about than experience.


VERDICT: [rating=2]

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