Based on the title alone, you’d be forgiven for dismissing formerly titled Boyz in the Wood as a non-genre riff on 1991’s acclaimed Boyz n the Hood. Even the limited marketing for the film points toward a comedic Highlands set spoof, far removed from horror. The truth is that director/writer Ninian Doff’s feature debut is a little bit of both of those things and much more. Following in the footsteps of UK horror comedies like Attack the Block, Get Duked! brings another solid effort, combining irreverent coming-of-age comedy with deadly mayhem and gory horror thrills.
Delinquent teens Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) enter into the Duke of Edinburgh Award orienteering expedition to avoid severe punishment for burning down a bathroom. Homeschooled loner Ian (Samuel Bottomley) volunteered for the challenge and has been assigned to this group for lack of any other willing partners. The goal is to navigate their way across the Highlands, relying on each other and a map to guide them to various checkpoints where their chaperone, Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), awaits at camp. That this bumbling foursome doesn’t have their act together is only half of their problems. The young teens find that survival in the wild also entails being hunted by a masked aristocrat, The Duke (Eddie Izzard). Peripherally, The Witch’s Kate Dickie plays the rural sheriff on the trail of this cat and mouse chase.
Doff uses “The Most Dangerous Game” setup, pitting bitter Baby Boomers against rule-breaking Millennials, as a foundation from which to create a high-energy, anarchic cocktail where anything goes. Of our teen protagonists, Ian is the sheltered smart one, playing it straight against his three new delinquent friends. Dean, Duncan, and DJ Beatroot are trouble magnets so deeply embedded in their own little world. Thanks to the actors, the script, and Doff’s music-infused comedic style, this trio bypasses the pitfalls of becoming unlikeable punks. They’re comical idiots that manage to grow more endearing the more we get to know them, and the more they manage to mess up even the simplest of tasks. Making them fleshed out characters full of quirks and engaging antics, rather than caricatures, goes far in grounding this wacky narrative. Like Boyz n the Hood, at this film’s spunky center is a story about four friends leaning on each other against the overwhelming pressures of societal expectations.
There’s no shortage of antics, either. Doff puts this group through ridiculous circumstances, and they meet it head-on with the precise type of bumbling confidence you’d expect from a stoner comedy- look for rabbit shite to offer plenty of hallucinogenic head trips. Doff’s music video background is infused into just about every fiber of his debut, from the visuals, rhythmic energy, and, most overtly, DJ Beatroot’s musical aspirations that factor into the events in a big way.
What’s most impressive about Doff’s debut is just how easily he blends all of the elements, and so seamlessly. An excessive splatstick horror-comedy, thriller, and coming-of-age story swirl together in a blender with hip hop and smart satire. He’s created such a unique genre mashup that it’s no wonder the marketing behind this film has been unable to figure out how to sell it. The easiest way to sell it is this: Get Duked! is the perfect midnight movie, full of laughs and violence that’s best seen with a crowd.
A silly stoner comedy about teen delinquents bumbling their way across the Highlands contains every bit of the stupidity and hijinks you’d expect. All with major style. What you don’t expect going in, however, is the sharp social commentary on the generational divide, shocking bloodshed, tense thrills, and a group of characters that worm their way into your heart. It’s so bonkers that it’s hard not to leave this film with a smile plastered across your face.
Get Duked! releases on Amazon Prime Video on August 28, 2020.