Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Zhanym, ty ne poverish (Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It)

Zhanym, ty ne poverish (Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It) (2020)

A Kazakh shaggy dog horror comedy from director Yernar Nurgaliyev, who also co-wrote with Zhandos Aibassov, star Daniyar Soltanbayev, Il’yas Toleu, Anuar Turizhigitov and Alisher Utev.  The bunch of writing credits suggests a gang of guys in a room throwing ideas in at random and someone (Nurgaliyev) having to wrangle the whole thing into shape and more or less giving up.

Struggling bloke Dastan (Alshinov) is out of funds and getting grief from his partner Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva), the sort of unsympathetic whining nag who isn’t that keen on him going on a ‘fishing trip’ with his irresponsible mates on the weekend she’s due to give birth.  What a cow, eh?  Stereotyping women as killjoys and men as feckless is just the start of the film’s playing-to-expectations strategies as the three guys in a van full of blow-up sex dolls find their trip complicated when they run into a) a Fargo-type gang of inept gangsters in the process of doing some crimes, b) a creepy father-and-daughter act who abduct Dastan because the milk carton-shaking father wants to be a granddad (this seems to be a tribute act to The Loved Ones), and c) a one-eyed, shaven-headed maniac who lives in exactly the sort of shack hung with rusty weapons seen in many backwoods horrors.

It’s notable that the supposed innocent victims are actually responsible for much of the chaos that ensues – these three stooges can’t go fishing without grievously injuring each other, tossing a bottle of urine out of the van window causes the gangsters in another car to run over the maniac’s dog and prompt a Leatherface-meets-John Wick revenge rampage, and the crooks wouldn’t shoot the head off someone they’re threatening if the city folks didn’t drift past that stretch of riverbank at exactly the wrong time.  It’s a hard film to get on with because everyone is so awful they deserve what they get – the horror movie maniac is actually morally superior to everyone else in the movie, which would be an interesting notion if the film didn’t get distracted (another two screenwriters pipe up) with some Hangover-lite stuff about the three guys being bros (brats, in Russian) forever and then forgetting that the deus ex machina guy with a shotgun who temporarily becomes the hero is genuinely the worst person in the movie (albeit almost the only one who isn’t presented as physically grotesque).

For all its squirminess, it is sometimes funny and sometimes creepy – and there’s a sweet touch under the end credits as all the actors playing characters who get killed (including the dog) are seen happily posing on the riverbank.  At a guess, there are a lot of locally relevant angles and references that went right over my non-Kazakh head.  Still, it would probably serve the three main characters right if Zhanna slowly poisoned them with ground glass in their bacon sarnies over the next few months.



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