Fantasy FilmFest (Germany) - July/August 2007
Edinburgh Int'l Film Festival (UK) - August 20 & 21, 2007
FrightFest (UK) - August 26, 2007
Raindance Film Festival (UK) - September 28, 2007
Dinard Festival of British Cinema (France) - October 5, 2007
Sitges International Festival of Catalonia (Spain) - October 8, 2007
Laura Smith's comments from Edinburgh Film Festival:
It’s an atmospheric, cerebral
horror, a blend of "Se7en" and "Pi" that manages to be both
genuinely disturbing and at times incredibly moving. Screenwriter
Clive Bradley came across the algebraic equation – W delta Z or W∆Z
– formulated by American population geneticist George R. Price which
supposedly disproves the idea of natural altruism.
“I thought placing his theory in a heightened emotional context
would provide a compelling basis for a thought-provoking thriller,”
From that initial premise came the story of cynical, unorthodox
Detective Eddie Argo (played by Stellan), well-worn by years of
gangland brutality, and his rookie partner Helen O’Mara (Melissa
George), who find themselves entangled in the horrific murders of a
notorious local gang – forcing Argo to revisit a case he would
rather forget. The result is, as producer James Richardson comments,
“a classic '70s hardboiled thriller flipped into smart 21st century
scare territory”. Shankland cannily avoids any Hollywood gloss.
Instead fluid, hand-held camerawork gives the film a raw,
stripped-down edge, crackling with real darkness.
As the director observes, “behind the violence and sexy plot twists
there is a really smart investigation into human nature. I was
really excited by the way that Clive had smuggled a moving, twisted
love story into a dark and dirty horror-thriller.”
Skarsgård was the filmmakers’
first choice for the role of the enigmatic detective, and there are
definite echoes of his mesmerising portrayal of the Oslo cop's
vertiginous descent in INSOMNIA.
“I was looking for something in complete contrast to the big
blockbusters I had been spending more time on,” says the actor “and
I found the WAZ script captivating and deliciously dark.”
“Making this film would have been unthinkable without Stellan,”
admits Shankland, “He is an actor’s actor and the rest of the cast
loved working with him. Melissa’s alternative title for the movie
was Skarsky and Bitch.”
It's a riveting performance from a consistently superb actor who
brings all his brooding intensity to a complex, challenging role.
Stellan Skarsgård and Melissa George
put in stunning turns as cops caught up in a sleazy rash of slaughter
connecting dark past secrets in this "Saw" by way of "Se7en" feature.
Shot in a raw documentary style (by Pusher trilogy genius, Morten
Soborg) with gruesome special effects (by "The Descent’s" Paul Hyett).
It also features a haunting performance by Selma Blair. Tense thriller
buttons get pushed to the bone-chilling edge in this shock to the
system. It will stay with you long after the poignant climax.
Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:
With his ambitious first feature, director Shankland launches himself
into the industry with energy to spare. It's a little misguided, but you
can't help but admire his fierce sense of style... The central premise
grips us with the idea that love might be nothing more than an
expression of survival--a theory tested in horrific ways. Shankland
creates a startlingly edgy and kinetic visual tone with jarring camera
work and machine-gun editing. He knowingly deploys every cop-movie
cliche, while also indulging in genuinely unsettling torture-porn
gruesomeness. And he cleverly casts a rain-drenched Belfast as the
Though it's hardly a fun night out at the movies, grungy, Gotham-set
WAZ reps a mightily impressive feature debut by Brit TV helmer Tom
Shankland that should put him on Tinseltown's Rolodexes.
Pedal-to-the-metal combo of serial-killer crimer and blood-soaked
hell-ride tips its hat to classics like "Seven" and current gorefests
like "Saw," but carves its own genre identity by adding a smidgen of
heart. Strong Euro flavor (in not spelling everything out) and largely
fake setting (pic was mostly shot in Belfast with a non-American cast)
may limit its appeal Stateside, but at a sheer technical level, WAZ
distastefully delivers... All thesps are carried along by Shankland's
pacey direction, aided by restless handheld photography by Danish d.p.
Morten Soborg ("Pusher") and tight-as-a-drum cutting by Tim Murrell.
Lugubrious score by David Julyan is a further atmosphere-builder.
The aspiring British director Tom Shankland's WAZ is as close as you can
get to a clone of David Fincher's SEVEN without provoking the latter to
sue for copyright infringement. The film boasts a preternaturally gifted
killer, a dark underworld of homicidal sadism, a wide-eyed rookie
detective, a cynical flatfoot, a devious master plan and a jittery title
sequence that could have been remixed directly from the 1995 Brad Pitt
procedural. And yet, thanks to Shankland's sure-footed direction, the
film inspires affection for the original as well as admiration for this
inarguably stylish knock-off.
It is well put together, with darkly lit, close-up camerawork that
seldom strays away from the faces of its leading characters, though the
prolonged final killing scene isn't far short of torture porn.
WAZ is quite the most unusual and original horror film to be made on
these isles in many a year. A harrowing feature debut from writer Clive
Bradley and director Tom Shankland, it avoids using the cheap and
exploitative tricks of the genre, and instead presents an unflinching
vision of the foul deeds that man is prepared to do to his fellow man. A
violent tale of the lengths one is willing to go to for love, the
shocking and violent nature of the story means that it's definitely not
for the faint-hearted. Those who choose to persevere with such
disturbing material however will be well rewarded... The high quality of
the performances also adds to the general tension. Helen is our guide
into this depraved and brutal world, and Melissa George imbues her with
just the right combination of naivety and bravery to ensure the audience
roots for her throughout. Similarly Selma Blair is excellent in an
initially hysterical role that eventually inspires both sadness and
sympathy. But WAZ is Stellan Skarsgård's film, and he dominates
proceedings from start to finish. Eddie Argo is a complex and at times
ambiguous character, and Skarsgård is just the right man for the role,
ensuring that your opinion of the character is constantly shifting until
the film's final, devastating denouement.
Den of Geek:
If you’re wondering what an actor of the magnitude and burning
screen-presence of Stellan Skarsgård is doing in ‘another’ torture
flick, you have your first clue: he’s giving one of the strongest and
most emotionally-powerful performances of a distinguished career,
and…it’s not a torture flick in the sense of "Hostel"or "Saw", but
rather a treatise on the consumptive nature of evil and the redemptive
power of love, couched in the commercial trappings of the moment.
The film was originally
titled "The Devil's Algebra" and refers to a maths equation for
Shot in Belfast, Northern Island and
New York City during the spring of 2006.
was written by Clive Bradley, who first developed the idea through a
workshop at the National Film & Television School about six years ago.
From Vertigo Films:
Do you love someone enough
to die for them?
A serial killer is cutting an equation into the victims’ corpses: ‘wz =
Cov (w.z)...’ And loved ones of the victims, who’ve been brutally
tortured, are tormented and suicidal.
When cynical, unorthodox Detective Eddie Argo learns the killer’s
identity, he understands the awful truth. He is responsible for what
drives the murders. And he will be the next target.
He, and someone he loves.
Do you love someone enough to die for them?
Designed as film noir taken to extremes thanks to
startlingly grisly horror twists, WAZ is based around a mathematical
equation formulated by population geneticist George R. Price disproving
altruism and selflessness exists. Trying to overturn his theory, a
deranged serial killer constructs worst-case scenarios where victims are
given the choice to die painfully or kill the ones they love. Stellan
Skarsgård and Melissa George put in
stunning turns as cops caught up in a sleazy rash of slaughter
connecting to dark past secrets in director Tom Shankland’s SAW by way
of SE7EN. Shot raw documentary style (by PUSHER trilogy genius Morten
Soborg) with gruesome special effects (by THE DESCENT's Paul Hyett).
Also featuring a haunting Selma Blair, all the tense thriller buttons
get pushed to the bone-chilling edge in this shock to the system. It
will stay with you long after the poignant climax and the murderer’s
identity is revealed.