100 Bloody Acres
Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes
Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes
Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian, John Jarratt, Chrissie Page, Paul Blackwell, Ward Everhaardt
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With the success of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, it was entirely expected that the horror comedy genre would find new legs. 100 Bloody Acres is an attempt to capitalize on that film’s success with a similar formula.
Filmmaking siblings Cameron & Colin Cairnes conceived and executed this film about a pair of redneck brothers Reg (Damon Herriman) and Lindsay (Angus Sampson) whose fertilizer business has been booming thanks to a new technique that involves taking motorists who’ve died in auto accidents and turning them into a lush, prosperous fertilizer. Their supply is running low and Lindsay wants them to step things up a bit, leading Reg to kidnap three tourists whose car has broken down and perhaps use them for their next batch.
Matters get complicated when the three tourists, Sophie (Anna McGahan), James (Oliver Ackland) and Wesley (Jamie Kristian) begin bickering about the bizarre love triangle that began fulminating just before they were picked up by the good natured, but dimwitted Reg. Reg falls in love with Sophie and ultimately begins to feel bad for what he’s done to them and concocts a terrible plan to help them escape.
With such a long history of various types of horror films, the Cairnes have created something of a cross between The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre without the cannibalistic elements. While not as utterly bumbling as the pair of brothers in Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Reg and Lindsay have a lot of similarities to Tucker & Dale. Whereas Lindsay is a thoroughly despicable character and Reg can’t seem to understand how to exist without the appreciation and support of his brother, Tucker & Dale were best friends that stuck things out through the end.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil deals with society’s quick judgment of character based on appearances, making that film both a commentary on the horror genre itself, but also society’s quick rush to accuse those who look differently of heinous acts. In 100 Bloody Acres, social commentary is ejected in favor of broad stereotypes slightly tweaked to try and encourage sympathy for a killer and antipathy for the potential victims. That isn’t unheard of in the genre, but the film’s tone sets it apart from the rest.
The film does comment on the nature of mental abuse. Reg has spent years at the side of his brother who feeds him just enough praise to make him feel secure, but otherwise derides and demeans him as frequently as possible. With no frame of reference, Reg believes the things his brother says because it’s the nature of family to believe they wouldn’t lie or degrade you. As Reg is exposed to influences from the outside world, he soon discovers that what his brother has been doing isn’t for his protection and benefit, a fact that helps drive the wedge between them and set off the dynamics that propel the last two acts of the film.
Herriman isn’t given a particularly deep character to portray, but he fights to convey the character’s semi-subservient nature as he struggles to step out from under his brother’s carefully-constructed shadow. It’s a thankless role and were it better written, it’s clear he could do something new with it. The same could be said for the three innocent victims. These are caricatures given voice by actors working to stand out from their genre-crippled colleagues. It’s not uncommon in horror to find thinly-crafted people intended only for future slaughter and the overly coiffed, carefully sculpted young actors they pull in for those roles seldom display this kind of potential. Kristian is the one weak point in the film. His character never grows or breathes beyond the written page. We may need his abject villainy to process the plot, but Kristian could have given it a bit more attention and far less glowering. Villainy does not have to be blatant or stereotypical, which is mostly a failure of the script and not the actor.
The Cairnes made their feature film directing debut with 100 Bloody Acres. What they provide isn’t the kind of material that launches writer/directors into stardom. 100 Bloody Acres is a well-intentioned misstep that struggles to find a way to differentiate itself. It feels like a derivative endeavor that could have been even less interesting without a suitable cast to help bring it to life.
In the realm of horror comedies, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is the gold standard. 100 Bloody Acres doesn’t have a lot of competition right now, but as others emerge, it will either rise or fall depending what lessons are learned from its weaknesses.
May 13, 2014