Get Duked!, 2019.
Written and directed by Ninian Doff.
Starring Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Jonathan Aris, Kate Dickie, Kevin Guthrie, Alice Lowe, James Cosmo, Georgie Glen and Eddie Izzard.
A group of teenagers must evade mysterious hunters in the Scottish Highlands while trying to complete the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
It’s been a strange, tumultuous year for cinema, and that was before Prince Philip became the unlikely inspiration behind a horror comedy about a group of teenagers being stalked by masked killers in the Scottish Highlands. Get Duked!, writer/director Ninian Doff’s zany feature film debut, unearths an abundance of screwball delights and genre thrills in the event that bears the Royal’s title; perhaps the most mundane, most maligned of all extracurricular school activities: the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
In fact, its mere utterance, often abbreviated to DofE, is enough to strike fear into a whole heap of current and former students with far-from-pleasant memories of being made to spend a weekend trudging around the countryside in hiking boots and flimsy waterproofs under the promise of a plush-looking CV. As many of those sorry souls can attest to, spirits are soon dampened by sore feet and substandard navigation skills, and the only thing to dissipate more quickly than the expectation of a Bear Grylls-style adventure is the phone signal.
Such disdain for the great outdoors is mutually felt by all but one of the four outcast teenagers at the centre of Get Duked! For friends and tearaways Dean (Gordon), Duncan (Gribben) and aspiring rapper DJ Beatroot (Juneja)—the self-given moniker that’s both a hip-hop handle and a façade to hide a wealthy London upbringing—successfully completing DofE carries about as much importance to them as exceeding academically. For the introverted, home-schooled Ian (Bottomley), however, it’s a big deal: a chance to really stand out on University applications and in the job market.
But it’s soon apparent that blistered feet, laminated certificates and UCAS points are the least of the boys’ worries. A group of elderly ruling class serial killers are on the prowl: sword and rifle-wielding men and women, clad in hunting gear and skin masks that share an odd resemblance to the Duke himself, who all seem hell bent on ‘culling’ the youthful population.
And so it’s the film’s somewhat clunky original title, Boyz in the Wood, wherein lies the biggest clue as to the direction of Doff’s satirical compass. Like Attack the Block a decade before, this is a quirky coming-of-age romp with playful examinations of generational frictions and the unrest between class divisions that deliberately reinforces many of stereotypes that undermine society’s most marginalised groups only to dismantle them entirely.
Occasionally, its irreverent glaze is applied a little too thickly, but, like the finest moments of Joe Cornish’s urban sci-fi, the film works best when it wholeheartedly embraces the silliness of its own setup. With its director drawing on a background in music videos for the likes of The Chemical Brothers and Royal Blood, Get Duked!, while first hinting at a familiarly-plotted genre flick, is instead a mischievous, visually inventive charmer that neatly subverts horror conventions as much as it adheres to them.
In its own slippery game of generational cat and mouse, Doff’s film is one that brazenly revels in absurdity; unashamedly committing to increasingly implausible sub-plots involving bread thieves, dim-witted police prejudice and the sharpness of forks. Littered in between are episodes involving drug-laced faeces, raucous Farmer’s parties, gags about chicken Cup a Soup and, in the end, what surely has to rank as this year’s most ingenious deus ex machina moment. Quite the CV, after all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
George Nash is a freelance film journalist. Follow him on Twitter via @_Whatsthemotive for movie musings, puns and cereal chatter.