Review: 100 Bloody Acres

One expects the requisite allusions to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but an homage to the best scene in Melvin and Howard comes as something of a shock.

100 Bloody Acres
Photo: Doppelgänger Releasing

By this point, horror aficionados can reasonably assume that there’s only so many surprises left in a story about a group of egotistical white youngsters and the deranged hillbilly weirdos who pursue them, but there’s a scene in 100 Bloody Acres that’s legitimately unusual for the genre. The first few minutes introduce us to the requisite self-involved candidates for backwoods victimization: frisky, gorgeous Sophie (Anna McGahan) and her dull, tight-ass boyfriend, James (Oliver Ackland), and his tediously free-spirited Cockney friend, Wes (Jamie Kristian), who Sophie has taken to occasionally sleeping with. En route to a country music festival somewhere in the outback, the trio’s car breaks down, and they manage to hitch a ride with a truck driver, Reg Morgan (Damon Herriman), who co-owns a rising organic fertilizer company with his brother, Lindsay (Angus Sampson). We already know that Reg has a body in the back of the his truck, but the lonely driver is so immediately smitten with Sophie that he risks discovery so she can ride up front with him while the boys weather the stink of the poorly hidden carcass.

These expository moments—crisply staged and mildly amusing—prepare us for the decent horror-comedy that we assume will ensue once Sophie and her gang discover the secret ingredient in Reg and Lindsay’s fertilizer, but a moment between Reg and Sophie in the truck’s cab gently unsettles those expectations. Instead of instantly culturally clashing with one another, Reg and Sophie get to talking about the old country music that comforts Reg on his long drives. Sophie, a country girl turned “city slicker,” to use Reg’s words, has a deeper appreciation for his interests than he could ever reasonably expect, and the two, singing aloud together, come to one of those instant meeting of the minds that are so unusual as to be nearly magical. One sees a film called 100 Bloody Acres expecting the requisite allusions to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but an homage to the best scene in Melvin and Howard comes as something of a shock.

There’s no other scene in the film that’s nearly as unique, but this moment informs the prevailing tone. Directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes are aware of the social tensions that have historically influenced this kind of regionally specific horror film, whether it’s set in Australia or the American South, and they’ve updated the genre’s tropes in order to parody the hypocrisy of comfortable limousine liberals who save the world by buying organic goods at the store each week, as Reg and Lindsay’s fertilizer is, of course, partially comprised of human beings they grind up and serve to the indifferent, presumably upper-class public. Reg, however, still feels trapped by his rural upbringing, and Sophie obviously embodies a dream girl for him, a promise of better things.

The filmmakers somehow get us to believe that Sophie might temporarily see Reg as an appealing romantic option, mostly because we understand this plot development to be a dark joke. All of the other characters are so craven and shallow that we essentially feel as if the last man and woman on Earth are turning to one another out of desperate refuge, and the winning performances, particularly McGahan’s, gracefully sell us this concept. 100 Bloody Acres is still just a doodle, but it’s a promising suggestion of films to come from the Cairnes brothers.

 Cast: Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian, Chrissie Page, John Jarratt  Director: Colin Cairnes, Cameron Cairnes  Screenwriter: Colin Cairnes, Cameron Cairnes  Distributor: Doppelgänger Releasing  Running Time: 91 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2012  Buy: Video

Chuck Bowen

Chuck Bowen's writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, The AV Club, Style Weekly, and other publications.

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