100 Bloody Acres: Film Review
Friday, June 28 (Doppelganger Releasing)
Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan
Colin and Cameron Cairnes
Damon Herriman and Angus Sampson are backwoods brothers just trying to make a living in this off-the-wall Australian splatter-comedy.
Hillbilly horror gets a comic makeover in the assured Australian indie 100 Bloody Acres, a genially twisted tale of organic farming gone very wrong. Melbourne-based brothers Cameron and Colin Cairnes show impressive discipline in their modestly budgeted feature debut, mixing gore and chuckles in equal measure and creating unusually fleshed-out characters that have the film knocking at the door of above-average splatter comedies like Shaun of the Dead and The Cabin in the Woods. Gore hounds looking for something different in their horror-film diet should propel solid business when Doppelganger Releasing opens the film in limited release across the U.S. and on VOD on Friday ahead of its Australian release Aug. 1. The U.K. and Germany follow later in the year.
In time-honored fashion, three attractive twentysomethings find themselves stranded on the side of a lonely backwoods road after their car breaks down on the way to a music festival. They have the misfortune to be picked up by Reg Morgan (Damon Herriman of Justified). An amiable but twitchy dimbulb with a fondness for hokey 1970s country music, he’s partnered with his bullying brother Lindsay (a gruff Angus Sampson, rocking a bushy moustache-free beard) in an organic fertilizer business whose success depends on a secret ingredient: dead car-crash victims.
A comedy of errors sees the trio of hitchhikers bound and gagged in the Morgan brothers’ shed facing death by industrial meat grinder, but the straight-laced James (Oliver Ackland) is more concerned with a revelation of infidelity by his girlfriend Sophie (a winning Anna McGahan). Meanwhile, their annoying Brit mate Wesley (Jamie Kristian) is dealing with an ill-timed LSD trip and Reg is trying to impress Sophie despite being splashed top to toe in by-product.
“We’re not psychos, all right? We’re small business operators,” he pleads anxiously as her boyfriend dangles hog-tied over a blood-filled vat. An absence of malice in the killers’ motives is just one of the ways 100 Bloody Acres upends horror conventions, sneaking in a significant character arc from a key protagonist as fingers and hands are lopped off incidentally and the body count mounts.
The bucolic Adelaide Hills setting, expertly shot by cinematographer John Brawley, contrasts nicely with the gloomy interiors and the surreal lensing of Wesley’s utterly extraneous, but very funny, acid trip through a backwater tourist trap called Fairyland.
Lively performances all round, a shrewdly structured screenplay (it won the Slamdance Screenwriting Competition in 2010) and a fun cameo from Wolf Creek’s John Jarratt separate this from a crowded field of genre mashups. And that meat grinder stays busy.
Opens: U.S., June 28; Australia, Aug. 1
Production company: Cyan Films
Cast: Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian
Writer-directors: Colin and Cameron Cairnes
Producers: Julie Ryan, Kate Croser
Executive producers: Jonathan Page, Bryce Menzies, Costa Theo
Director of photography: John Brawley
Production designer: Tony Cronin
Costume designer: Chloe Spalding
Composer: Glenn Richards
Editors: Dale Dunne, Joshua Waddell
Sales: The Works, London
No rating, 90 minutes
Sundance: On the Scene