Don't ask Judge Clark Douglas what he puts in his fertilizer.
They're not psycho killers, they're small business owners.
When it comes to reviewing or marketing a movie an audience doesn't know anything about, the easiest and most effective approach is usually to compare it to other films audiences are more familiar with. As such, plenty of reviews for the Australian horror-comedy 100 Bloody Acres were quick to compare it to other films in the genre. It was like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil meets The Cabin in the Woods, or like Shaun of the Dead meets I Sell the Dead, or…well, you get the idea. While it's true that 100 Bloody Acres is a horror-comedy, I also have to admit that I've never seen another one quite like it. It's grisly, funny, very Australian, bizarrely sweet, and offers as many twists as a Chubby Checker song.
Our story centers on two Australian siblings: the hulking Lindsay Morgan (Angus Sampson, Insidious) and his shy, good-natured little brother Reg (Damon Herriman, Justified). The Morgan brothers run an organic fertilizer business that has really been booming in recent years. Their secret? They pick up any roadkill they can find and toss it into the mix. It may seem a little icky, but it generally results in high-quality fertilizer. Not long ago, the duo made the bold decision to pick up a handful of deceased car crash victims. After all, they were already dead, so it's not too horrible an offense, right? Ah, but then Lindsay makes an accidental discovery: living humans produce a fertilizer that is far more potent than the plain old roadkill/rotting human corpse blend. As such, Lindsay feels it's time to take their business in a nastier direction. Reg hesitantly goes along with this plan and kidnaps three fresh-faced young folks (Anna McGahan, Undertow, Oliver Ackland, The Proposition and Jamie Kristian, Devil's Gate) on their way to a music festival. The three victims desperately attempt to figure out a way to escape, and the situation gets even more complicated when Reg begins developing feelings for one of them.
I certainly won't spoil where things go from there, as the film has quite a few cards up its sleeve. Every time you're just about certain of where things are headed, the movie wanders somewhere else even more strangely delightful. The film seems intensely devoted to upending expectations, but never does so at the expense of quality character development. In fact, the characterization is one of the film's great strengths. Early on, the three victims seem like little more than horror-movie cliches, but as things proceed we realize they're not as simple as they seem. A character who seemed like a jerk reveals untapped depths of joy and sweetness, while a character who seemed like a knight in shining armor reveals alarming levels of ugly selfishness. The possibility of being thrown into a meat grinder has a way of forcing one to reveal their true colors.
However, the film's best characters are the two brothers at its core. You probably know Damon Herriman from his hilarious, effective work as the hapless redneck Dewey Crowe on FX's Justified. Here, he's the fretful potential murderer trapped between his loyalty to his overbearing brother and his general desire to keep everyone around him happy. Reg doesn't have particularly strong feelings about the morality of killing people, but he certainly doesn't like knowing that his victims are mad at him. Angus Sampson is so very good as Lindsay, perfectly capturing the character's glowering menace early on but eventually revealing some simultaneously lovely and terrifying shades of self-pity and disappointment. The two brothers share a wonky chemistry together; Lindsay seems equally likely give his brother a bear hug or pummel him to a bloody pulp at any given moment.
The film was directed by two Australian siblings, who I assume aren't working in autobiographical mode here. This is the first feature film helmed by Colin and Cameron Cairnes, who claim they initially set out to make a straightforward horror film but soon found that their comedic instincts took over and led them to make something a good deal more unconventional. While the film didn't exactly light up the box office (the flick made just over $6000 during its brief theatrical run—hey, at least my wife and I were responsible for $20 of that), I sincerely hope that word-of-mouth permits the flick to gain an audience on home video and that the Cairnes are given more opportunities to let their instincts take over. While not everyone will respond to the film's strange mixture of gore, tenderness and whimsy, this is a genuinely original horror flick that absolutely deserves a strong following.
100 Bloody Acres has received a stellar DVD transfer, offering strong detail and depth throughout. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is also exceptional, proving crisp and clear from start to finish and delivering a nice balance between the dialogue and sound design. The music is a kick, too, as the soundtrack delivers a handful of bouncy Australian folk tunes that add an extra level of playfulness to the proceedings. Supplements include a handful of featurettes ("Behind 100 Bloody Acres," "Bloody SFX," "Grinding the Roadie," "Col and Cam Do the Shed Scene" and "Recording the Audio Ad"), a gag reel, a handful of audio ads (used in the film to hilarious effect), some equally hilarious public access TV ads (which weren't used in the film), the Cairnes Brothers short film "Celestial Avenue" (also starring Angus Sampson), a storyboard gallery and a trailer. A lot of fun stuff in here; all of it worth checking out.
100 Bloody Acres is a deceptively clever horror-comedy that needs to be seen by a larger audience. Check it out.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Doppelganger Releasing
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