Revisiting McFly's Vampire Film
After an entire decade, British pop/rock band McFly are releasing their first studio album of new material. Danny Jones, Dougie Poynter, Harry Judd and Tom Fletcher’s 2010 album Above the Noise kickstarted a small but important change in the band’s output. Adopting a more electronic and synth-based sound in order to keep up with the changing musical climate, the band would later look back on this period in their lives with a tinge of regret over the fact that they changed themselves in order to remain popular.
I’ve loved the boys through thick and thin, and whilst Above the Noise does sound different from their earlier work (but not different enough to be of any real concern) it’s still a great piece of work. Upon purchasing the album on CD however, I noticed a small leaflet inside for a unique piece of marketing to promote the album. A ‘feature-length film’ that promised the show McFly ‘like you’ve never seen them before’. Its name? Nowhere Left to Run…
Now, I’d be remiss to talk about McFly’s vampire outing without first mentioning their previous work on film in 2006’s Just My Luck starring Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine, in which the band play a fictional version of themselves that Pine’s character is trying to help break into America. The film was intended to, much like their fictional selves, introduce the band to an American market but sadly underperformed at the box-office (though the band now have a huge following in South America). Nowhere Left to Run is different, however. McFly themselves are front and centre, and the project was being released exclusively for their website ‘Supercity’ before being released on DVD.
The plot follows the band struggling to finish their latest album in the build-up to its release, so their sleazy manager (Luke Healy) rents them out a massive recording studio/mansion in the middle of nowhere for the week in order to finish their work. However, drummer Harry has been acting strange. He’s constantly being aloof and can’t stop smouldering and breaking away in order to spend private time with every lady he comes across – to the point where it’s getting in the way of work. Little do they know however, Harry’s actually been a bloodthirsty vampire ever since the boys visited that strip club after a show in Romania! He’s been turning all the girls their manager’s been bringing around into his army of the undead, and the only way to stop him is to remove the ‘un’ from ‘undead’.
First of all let’s get this out of the way. Nowhere Left to Run isn’t a feature film. It’s about 40 minutes long. Much like the band’s trepidation with their then-new album, Nowhere Left to Run was designed to adhere to the then-manic fanbase of The Twilight Saga. But hey, injecting vampires into a boyband scenario, especially one as cheeky and fun as McFly could at least have been good for a laugh, right?
“Harry, are you trying to be a bad boy? You’re much too nice for that!”
The film’s biggest problem is that it takes itself deadly seriously. The promised McFly ‘as you’ve never seen them before’ is literally just to describe toned physiques of the band members, which was new at the time. The ‘15’ certificate also promised their predominantly teen-girl fanbase a good dose of hot boy action and to be fair, if that’s what you go in for it for you won’t be disappointed. Harry’s kit is off for the majority of the film, and there are multiple scenes of the boys working out or flexing towards camera in order to emphasise their looks. All of this would add to the entertainment if it embraced the schlocky, camp attitude but instead it comes across as flat for the majority. Screenwriter Joe Barton (who later went on to write Humans, The Ritual and create Girl/Haji) sprinkles in elements of parody within the script, but it’s evident that this tone wasn’t picked up by the production. It's a shame too, because the film isn't even interested in attempting to play the vampire angle for scares. Sure, there's gargoyles and a creepy mansion for about 30 seconds, but it repeatedly manages to hit you over the head with the 'vampires are hot' stick over and over again. There's even a split second of a wolf thrown in for good measure and no reason whatsoever.
Shot over the course of three days, Director Julian Gibbs honestly had his work cut out for him. The shoot for Nowhere Left to Run also incorporated two separate music videos for the band (Party Girl’s music video consists almost entirely of clips from the film) and the majority of it was filmed in front of green/blue screens. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the editing style, because Nowhere Left to Run feels like a 2010 Youtube video at times. The barrage of After Effects designs such as mystical fog, a rotating full moon (for some reason?) and a refusal to include any shot without digital interference makes it feel like a cheap version of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow at times. The film could have easily leaned into this aesthetic harder and gone for a rather dreamlike quality too, as the film’s soundtrack (composed of songs from Above the Noise) occasionally means we get semi music video interludes whilst Harry’s off seducing women and sucking on their necks.
But is it all bad? Of course not. Whilst Harry, Danny and Tom all seem to be ‘acting’, Dougie’s clearly aware of how ludicrous the entire production is and manages to sneak in some of the funniest lines. For example, when Tom is attacked by a vampire version of the cleaning woman he fancies (Leanne Michael) Dougie playfully sneers “she pushed you over? That’s not very nice…” The band’s individual archetypes are also succinctly laid out. Harry’s the womaniser, Danny’s the laddish boy, Tom’s the workaholic and Dougie’s the loveable rogue; if the film had played to these archetypal strengths more the entire thing would have felt like an actual film.
There are elements of playfulness littered throughout that just make you wonder if this had been a success if it was a spoof. Once the boys decide to kill Harry, Tom magically concocts a Ghostbusters-esque trap to electrocute him from an amp, and the entire sequence of them pinning down vampiric Harry is a ball. As sparks fly in slow motion and Tom’s forced to hammer a jagged guitar neck into his bandmate’s heart there was some genuine excitement. In fact, I think the boys would’ve done rather well in a ghostly comedic affair rather than a solemn vampire outing. It probably would have aged better too. As Harry dies and his scantily clad female army of minions descend upon them, their track End of the World makes for a rather fitting accompaniment and actually bolsters the material. It helps too that the 15 certificate allows for some nice blood work, with a handful of vampiric screams into camera that would fit rather snuggly in something like 30 Days of Night.
The DVD release of the film also features a behind the scenes compilation of b-roll and footage from the boys goofing about on set that’s about the same length as the film itself. It’s half an hour of them cracking each other up and making dick and fart jokes, and it’s kind of what Nowhere Left to Run was missing. It’s difficult to go from a boyband synonymous with kids’ networks like CBBC to a respected grownup band, but McFly (or it should be said, McFly’s management) thought a vampire short film would be the way to do that. It also, bizarrely, goes against the futuristic sound and promotion of the album elsewhere.
It was never destined for anything more than hardcore fans however, so many of its shortcomings are purely down to the hasty nature in which it was produced. No matter how many times the DVD cover claims ‘everybody’s talking about’ it or how ‘boundary pushing’ and ‘big budget’ the production is, Nowhere Left to Run feels too much like a manufactured by-product of meddling management to actually fully represent the bad themselves – but at least it looks like they had fun filming it.
Time will tell if McFly ever choose to grace the screen again. But if they do, I’m hoping they’re more involved with the creative process…
Nowhere Left to Run is still available on DVD.
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