Fresh Meat: Tribeca Review

Fresh Meat Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

Fresh Meat Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

There's little that's fresh about this outrageously over-the-top comic horror film straining for cult status.

A cannibalistic Maori family turns the tables on a gang of criminals in this New Zealand horror comedy.

A gang of criminals gets more than they bargained for when they invade the home of a suburban Maori family in Fresh Meat, Danny Mulheron’s darkly comic horror film. This would-be cult item from New Zealand traffics in the usual exploitation film elements—it even includes the requisite steamy lesbian shower scene—but its strained efforts to simultaneously induce scares and laughs lead to diminishing returns. Screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film, which deserves some points for cheekiness, is slated for a theatrical release later this year.

It begins by intercutting between the bumbling criminals led by the sexy, pink hot pants-wearing Gigi (Kate Elliott), who spring their ringleader from a prison transport by using enough explosives to nearly blow him to smithereens, and the return home of comely teenager Rina (Hanna Tevita) from boarding school. The storylines eventually intersect when the gang makes the mistake of picking Rina’s house to hide out from the police.

The main joke springs from the fact that the clan—including college professor father Hemi (Temuera Morrison, of Once Were Warriors fame), TV celebrity chef mother Margaret (Nicola Kawana) and cricket playing brother Glenn (Kahn West)--have recently embarked on a new dietary regimen or, as Hemi delicately puts it, a “wee lifestyle change.” Said change involves their becoming cannibals, inspired by Hemi’s new-found religious belief that doing so will make them immortal.

It’s easy to predict where the story’s going, as the family eventually turns the tables on the intruders and begins dispatching them in ever-escalating violent ways with the ultimate goal of having them for dinner. Along the way, Rina, after biting one of the crooks in the crotch when he attempts to sexually molest her, develops a strong and clearly reciprocal attraction to the sultry Gigi.

Director Mulheron, whose credits include co-scripting Peter Jackson’s 1989 perverse puppet comedy Meet the Feebles, stages the outrageously violent proceedings--including shootings, stabbings, decapitations, dismemberments and meals containing various human appendages—with gleeful abandon.  But the film lacks the satirical wit necessary to elevate it above its simplistic premise and despite Morrison’s amusingly wild-eyed, over-the-top performance it quickly succumbs to tedium.

(Tribeca Film Festival)

Tribeca Films

Production: The Gibson Group

Cast: Temuera Morrison, Nicola Kawana, Hanna Tevita, Kate Elliott, Jack Shadbolt, Leand Macadaan, Ralph Hilaga, Kahn West, Will Robertson

Director: Danny Mulheron

Screenwriter: Briar Grace-Smith

Producer: Dave Gibson

Executive producer: Derek Diorio

Director of photography: Simon Baumfield

Editor: Paul Sutorious

Production designer: Kevin Leonard-Jones

Costume designer: Nic Smillie

Composer: Plan 9, David Donaldson

Not rated, 91 min.