Heckling.

It’s a staple of the stand-up comedy circuit – a launchpad for those of an acerbic wit to fire back at the audience. In fact, you could argue many successful comics have made as much a name for themselves in their ability to turn the tables on hecklers as their original material.

But what happens if a heckler goes too far, gets too personal – and dials things up from mere heckling to stalking…

That is the central premise of Heckle, a more-than-interesting offering from director Martyn Pick that has plenty going for it, has all the right lines in place – but just can’t quite deliver.

Guy Combes stars as Joe Johnson, a stand-up about to take his career to the next level thanks to starring in a biopic of legendary comic Ray Lewis (played in incredibly lewd-mouthed, cigar-chomping fashion in flashback by none other than Steve Guttenberg).

Joe is recognised where he goes, liked by his fans and all seems great – until a heckler at the end of one of his performances (who Joe cannot make out due to dim lighting) fires off some abuse and triggers a descent into paranoia, with Joe seeing danger at every turn, even if it doesn’t exist.

Things build to a party at a house in the country attended by Joe and his mates – a party that will see many a secret revealed. And things are going to get bloody…

Heckle is something of a strange brew – in essence it is a straight-up slasher movie (heck, we even get a mask-wearing killer), but it also has plenty to say about the cult of celebrity, even mental health.

The writer – Airell Anthony Hayles – who popped up at the summer Frightfest with They’re Outside – clearly loves the material, with the creative decision to stage the house party as a retro 80s bash allowing them to throw in a ‘bring nothing pre-1982 along’ mandate, thereby removing the troublesome issue of mobile phones, while one of the party games has characters describing what slasher movie staple they would be – final girl, jock etc.

Combes carries the film and does wonders, all nervous energy, fidgeting and looking over his shoulder, while able support comes from the likes of Madison Clare, Louis Selwyn, the late Clark Gable III and even Dani Dyer (yep, that Dani Dyer).

Director Pick keeps things ticking over nicely – the film’s pacing is never an issue – but, for some reason, it just cannot claw its way out of the ‘OK’ category into the ‘good’ file.

That may be down to the fact things get very messy (story-wise and literally) as the film draws to a close – somewhat silly even.

But Heckle is certainly worth a watch and is likely to keep most genre fans reasonably happy.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Heckle
3.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle