This 1979 collaboration between two of the UK’s brighter rising talents – writer Stephen Poliakoff and director Stephen Frears – is a strange affair. Set in a slightly slipped-reality version of faded seaside Southend, it follows two 12-year-old pranksters (Peter Clark and Richard Thomas) who stage a sham knife fight – just for something to do, or so it seems at first – which ends up with one of them in hospital. What follows is a drab odyssey through all the public spaces the era offered – football ground, shopping precinct, disco, underground car park, Chinese restaurant, cop shop, hospital, caff – as Leo (Clark) is quizzed in hospital by the police, keen to know who his assailant was. Mike (Thomas) on the other hand is drifting through town, being picked up and made the mascot of a gang of punks (led by Gary Holton). If the acting is on the whole terrible, there is the suggestion that it is meant to be. We’re watching a film about a world lacking in affect, populated by people who seem barely to notice what’s going on, populated at the edges by punks and plods who seem equally nonplussed with life. Frears bathes it all in a bleak corridor atmosphere, which after a while begins to sharpen the anti-miserabilist urges. But Bloody Kids also has a morbid, sarcastic humour to it. And it undeniably catch some of the gloom of the post-punk, pre-Thatcher era, of a world going to the dogs, perhaps better even than it intended.
© Steve Morrissey 2008