In any other context, to “get duked” means to get punched or attacked, but a new film contains another, somewhat less common meaning: getting pursued by the Duke of Edinburgh himself.
The ridiculous, in-your-face, comedic satire “Get Duked!” was released by Amazon Studios on Friday and shined at its South by Southwest screening last year. The film presents director Ninian Doff in a way not yet captured cinematically.
The film, a new type of horror black comedy that challenges the basic tropes of both categories, is Doff’s first feature-length film. A Grammy-nominated director known for his music video and commercial work, Doff said in a roundtable Zoom interview Aug. 26 that he was ready to move into filmmaking that speaks to his personal life and experiences as a Scotland native.
He said it was “inspiring and exciting” to travel back to Scotland to film “Get Duked!”.
“I felt this really strong urge to go back up home and hear the accents of my childhood, and reference that,” Doff said. “Maybe that’s a natural voice that you can more easily write in, and that you know it by heart.”
Originally titled “Boyz in the Wood,” the film follows four troublesome Scottish high school boys embarking on a Boy Scout-esque hiking trip through the beautiful Scottish highlands to receive the Duke of Edinburgh award, a United Kingdom honor for young people that involves volunteer work and physical excursions.
The trip is met by dangers, however, that include a pair of old people who follow and attack the boys through their journey, with scenes set to a hip-hop musical score. The eclectic band of boys includes delinquent Dean, wanna-be hip-hop star DJ Beatroot, self-described pyromaniac Duncan and reluctant nerd Ian.
The four relatively unknown actors had an on- and off-screen rowdy chemistry that kept the storyline of the movie fluid and the plot engaging as they navigated scenes. In the interview, the actors described themselves as “brothers” by the end of the filming process.
Viraj Juneja, who played DJ Beatroot, said he and his co-stars were able to interact so easily that the film’s shooting and production didn’t feel like work.
“It’s like a dream job, it really was,” Juneja said, “and working with these three boys was just like going out with your mates, just having fun.”
The cast’s closeness was evident both in their acting and during the roundtable interview: the actors talked and laughed over each other while discussing the film, and they had similar energy on screen, filling each scene as a captivating, energetic and charismatic group of friends.
Samuel Bottomley, who played Ian, said the offbeat styles of humor and different comedic influences coalesced, creating an on-screen dynamic that captured the individuality of each character.
“I think there’s very different styles of humor in the film,” Bottomley said, “so I think there’ll be a joke that’ll land with different types of people.”
Lewis Gribben, who played Duncan, the happy-go-lucky, sporadic, maniacal delinquent, delivered many of the eccentric lines and unconventional comedic moments. He said his favorite scene involved a minivan crash, which the rest of the cast enjoyed destroying off-camera for fun together.
The film lacked tense, scary moments and replaced them with comedic, more realistic confrontations between the boys and the duke, who is the killer.
Doff said he used “off-the-wall” ridiculousness in his film to draw more serious comparisons to the current political climate and youth engagement.
“One genesis of my ideas was in traditional horror, the teenagers run for their life from the bad guys. And I was like, ‘Yeah, in the 80s, maybe,’” Doff said. “But nowadays, what’s happening, what we’re seeing is people doing a 180 and being like, ‘I’m not going to run from you.’”
Doff described his movie as a “secret Trojan horse,” saying it hits the viewer with its absurd, rapid-fire humor.
“I was so angry and frustrated with the arrogance of what was happening to the environment and politics for everyone who’s going to inherit this world,” Doff said, “that I kind of wanted a revenge story in that energy and in that world, in a very strange, creative way.”