The investigation at the core of Moore’s screenplay is fascinating, yet feels like a tool to allow for exploration of the phantasmagorical playground that is his Northampton netherworld. It is a place overflowing with outrageous characters, quirky locations, and sinister secrets. Seeking the silver-haired thief, Dennis comes across a stud drug dealer (Sheila Atim) who uses voodoo as a marketing tool, a flamboyant front-man (Eric Lampaert) who wears a Hitler mustache on stage, an erotic-asphyxiation enthusiastic (Siobhan Hewlett) with a ravenous need to make sense of mystery, and a pair of pint-sized private eyes (Oaklee Pendergast and Ethan Rouse) who crack cases before bedtime and demand payment in energy drinks.Around them, Northampton is a visual feast of blight, back alleys, and bonkers billboards. A cramped library brandishes a sign that reads, “That’ll lern yer…” A car’s bumper sticker proclaims, “I break for poignant moments,” and an ad on the side of a building boasts in big bold letters: “Escapism: more fun than a box of spiders!” Director Mitch Jenkins, who previously collaborated with Moore on the 2014 prequel Show Pieces, runs with the surreal tone of this story, offering a production design that bleeds with violent hues and is so rich in details you might wish the plot would slow down so you could sit and take it all in. Every inch of the frame seems relentlessly stuffed with details, like Terry Gilliam’s neon-colored dystopian drama The Zero Theorem. In both, the overwhelming visual clutter is part of the message, a bombastic criticism of a world gone mad.
The Show packs in visual flourishes with an oddball subplot about a masked superhero alongside a mystery of murder, mayhem, and the damned. Likewise, it is stuffed with dialogue. Moore’s script delivers an all-you-can-eat buffet of half-snatched conversations, from cab drivers, bar patrons, landlords, and hospital staff. As Dennis seeks answers, he’s caught up in musings on everything from near-death experiences, vampire names, and veganism, to the connection between art and magic.
Bringing this weird world to life is a cast that gamely embraces the dreamlike vision Moore and Jenkins establish in script and style. With an expressive eye and otherwise restrained expression, Burke plays a detective that feels like a mix between Humphrey Bogart and art-house Robert Pattinson. Centered around such an enigmatic figure, the movie feels a bit emotionally anemic. However, Hewlett arises as his Girl Friday, offering the rapid-fire delivery of a fast-talking dame with a vulnerable dose of understandable bewilderment.
Christopher Fairbank pops up to spit F-bombs and savage villainy with a dark relish, while Atim offers an eerie cool and smoky sensuality as the high priestess of the party drug scene. Young Pendergast score laughs as his child-detective narrates aloud as if in a black-and-white noir, “He was as inconspicuous as a werewolf at a christening.” Then, as icing on a cake of too-muchness, Moore himself appears as a literally moon-faced menace, who speaks in riddles and occasionally croons.