“We’re not psychos, alright? We’re small business operators!”
Review (text version)
In a past review, for the Australian mocumentary “Razzle Dazzle, I dared to mention, what I saw as poor track record of comedy feature films from the big island down under.
Thank you to those who suggested some titles but I wasn’t really seeking a comprehensive list of all comedy films ever made in Australia – the criteria were those “worthy” of a second viewing… perhaps even by people over the age of 12.
Tom (no last name or location) suggested…
“… take a look at 100 Bloody Acres mate. It’s a side splitter slasher movie.”
Tom, is indeed correct. I love his “in context” alliteration.
100 Bloody Acres, is a truly visceral experience with it’s blood, violence, drug abuse, sexual tension and lashings of bone crunching gross-out humour.
Damon Herriman and Angus Sampson play Reg and Lindsay Morgan, the enterprising owners of an organic Blood and Bone fertilizer business. Mild mannered Reg is the proactive type and does not miss the opportunity to collect the occasional kangaroo road kill to sweeten the recipe but when he comes across a human, victim of a road accident, the opportunity… come on that’s not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer and happens in the first five minutes of the film… Anyway, adding the human remains sets an idea in motion but not before good natured Reg comes across three young city slickers broken down on the roadside in need of a lift – Anna McGahn, Oliver Ackland and Jamie Kristian.
Now it’s an unwritten law in the Australian bush – someone in need on the roadside you HAVE to help and so Reg is faced with a heavy moral dilemma – he can’t leave these guys stranded, not when one of the guys is a very attractive girl. Reg’s hormones of course take over and with only room in the cab of the truck for driver plus one where do the boys end up? Yes, in the back with the concealed but still very fresh road kill.
The set-up is delicious and the scene in the back of the truck as the boys begin to realise the presence of the other “passenger” and their assumptions is a deft bit of comedic set-up and playing, in fact the set-ups in the film are all expertly constructed.
The puppet masters of the mayhem, are Colin and Cameron Cairnes, two brothers writing and co-directing this, their first feature film. It’s very clear they love and caress the genre they are manipulating and with studied dexterity they deliver a dish of delectable debauchery.
There’s a substantial slice of Sweeney Todd, a fist full of Fargo, a few shavings of Shaun of the Dead a healthy sized wedge of Wolf Creek. But the end result is not a sense of “there’s nothing much original here…” but in fact the exact opposite. The ingredients have been so well blended, and seasoned with genuine Aussie spices that it feels like a very original dish indeed.
Now it’s not perfect but it’s 3/4 of the way there with a few pacing problems in act 2. Some elements feel like they’re taking a little too long to play out but the Cairnes brothers have set themselves a very difficult task. To maintain the tension, neatly offset by the humour, is tricky stuff without losing the integrity of the film’s own internal logic. Having a largely fixed location for much of the mid part of the film demands relief from that to add breathing space and some of those breaths, well, are they a little forced? Worth discussion after the fact.
The brothers do however understand the need to infuse their characters with moral and not just physical challenges. This grabs an audience on a much deeper level than just physical peril.
Personally I found most of Wolf Creek an almighty yawn because all we could do was wonder “will they escape?” and “how will they escape?”. There was no effort put in to explaining why the villain was doing what he was doing or the victims becoming enlightened in any way about their situation, their captor or even very much about each other – none of the characters “grew” in any way. It was just a slasher flick. I’m sure someone would defend that and say “Well all that character stuff is what sequels are for.” Mmmmm.
Well right here Reg, Lindsay and the “victims” ALL have their opportunity be something other than two dimensional – we get to know them pretty darn well – and that is to be applauded.
Some running gags – an unreliable radio; the brother’s advertisement for their business; Reg’s odd obsession with a certain celebrity actress and the pampered pooch you just know is gonna make things harder for out anti heroes – are all beautifully placed and in just the right sized doses the perfectly punctuate the plot.
John Jarratt the actor who of course set a whole new standard for bad-ass serial killers in Wolf Creek, pops up in a surprising role. It’s a lot of fun to see
him totally turn his iconic Mick Taylor persona upside down.
Angus Sampson as the bullying and surly Lindsay displays some great moments of light and shade that up the stakes in both humour and tension simultaneously and Damon Herriman, well, he’s an actor who just gets better and better, he makes Reg as the misunderstood accidental protagonist a real delight and it’s great to see he’s trans Pacific career opportunities are accelerating.
And for once, in a blood and gore fest… which actually isn’t all that gory… Except for the severed leg… And the chopped off thingies… And the industrial meat grinder… anyway… THE most shocking moment has all body parts intact and functioning. I’ll say no more but no one walks away from this film without making comment on THAT moment.
Now 100 Bloody Acres is not going to please everyone but then neither does canned asparagus. It’s not my usual kind of movie but you know what? I really enjoyed the experience. Why? Because the character and situation humour is totally believable within the construct of the world the film makers have established. You realise very early on you’re in good hands and willingly go along for the ride.
So, if you’re looking for an in depth exploration of the Stockholm Syndrome with liberal supplies of organic fertilizer and plenty of smiles then take the Daylesford road heading north west out of Franklinford… left onto Yandoit Creek road… just follow the signs to the Morgan Brothers farm. Despite what you might have heard they’re not psychos, they’re just small business operators.
© 2016 Greg Punch
Production company (review):
Hopscotch Films (Australia)
Music Box Films (USA)
Running time: 91 min
Writers / directors: Cameron and Colin Cairnes
Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie, Kritian, Chrissie page, John Jarratt.
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
“Guts and Bourbon”
“Echos of Time”
“Danse Macabre – Big Hit 1”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Yawning wolf image
Wiki Commons Photos Attribution 2.0 Generic
Author: Denali national park and Preserve
NPS Photo / Neil Blake
Wolf Creek (film poster):
FFC Australia/Film Finance Corporation
South Australian Film Corporation
True Crime Channel
Best FX (Boom Sound)
Emu Creek Pictures
The Weinstein Company
A review of the film that nails some of the issues the film may have faced in finding an audience)…
And another… from a more sophisticated North American eye who was less impressed…
Interview with the Cairnes Brothers…
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