Film Review: 100 Bloody Acres

The feature writing and directing debut of the Australian brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes, <i>100 Bloody Acres</i> is a fitfully amusing, mildly shocking and clever entry in the sub-genre of horror comedies.

The premise may sound off-putting: Two brothers look for fresh meat of the human variety to feed their organic fertilizer business in the Outback. Yet brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes carry it off with a good deal of energy and style, providing just enough blood and guts to satisfy horror fans, leavened with a large dollop of black humor to appeal to those who are not usually partial to the slasher genre.

Music Box Films’ genre label Doppelgänger Releasing acquired North American rights and is launching the film in 15 cinemas across the U.S. and on video-on-demand platforms. Hopscotch eOne is handling Down Under.

The absence of recognizable names in the cast, apart from Damon Herriman and John Jarratt (the serial killer of Wolf Creek, soon to be seen in the sequel, and Quentin Tarantino’s redneck sidekick in Django Unchained), may not be a negative for U.S. audiences because the concept is the key and the cast delivers convincing performances.

The script won first place in the horror section of the 2010 Slamdance screenwriting competition and went through further development after the brothers teamed up with experienced Australian producers Julia Ryan (Red Dog, My Tehran for Sale, Ten Canoes) and Kate Croser.

Herriman (who stars in the FX series “Justified” and as the hit-man Mr. Jones in CBS’s “Vegas”) plays the cretinous Reg Morgan, who runs the family fertilizer enterprise with his brother Lindsay (Angus Sampson), a gruff, ill-tempered bully with a bushy beard and booming baritone. There’s enough human roadkill in the vicinity to keep the business ticking over, but when they run short of raw materials, Reg comes up with a solution.

He picks up three travelers whose car has broken down en route to a music festival and delivers them to Lindsay, hoping for once to earn his stern brother’s approval.
The hapless trio consists of stunner Sophie (Anna McGahan), her uptight boyfriend James (Oliver Ackland) and their English mate, irritating party animal Wes (Jamie Kristian). While James is trying to summons the courage to propose to Sophie, she reveals she has a thing for both lads, which predictably becomes a source of tension, albeit minor as they face the prospect of being shoved into the brothers’ grinder.

Without giving too much away, suffice to say that among the ensuing events there is an escape, the severing of several limbs, one character embarking on an imaginatively filmed acid trip, and an encounter with the laconic local cop (Jarratt).

All the action takes place in one long day during the Australia Day weekend, but the brothers don’t allow the pace to flag so the jokes keep coming, punctuated by bursts of violence and a couple of plot twists which some viewers may find beyond bad taste.

One inspired running gag revolves around a cheesy commercial for the brothers’ fertilizer business, which airs around-the-clock on the local radio station. Another refers to James’ fondness for the music of John Butler. The title refers to the expansive size of their remote property.

Herriman is a hoot as the nervy, insecure but well-meaning Reg, an endearing oaf who has been led astray by his brother. He’s well-matched with Sampson’s psychopathic and increasingly desperate Lindsay. Reg unexpectedly shows a prim moral stance at one point, while he insists to the intended victims that “we’re not psychopaths, we’re small-business operators.”

McGahan, who received the Heath Ledger Scholarship from the Australians in Film organization in Los Angeles last year, shows plenty of spunk and charm as the free-spirited Sophie. Chrissie Page has a brief but effective cameo as the brothers’ unconventional Aunt Nancy. John Brawley’s crisp cinematography, the editing by Dale Dunne and Joshua Waddell and a soundtrack spiced with quirky Australian country songs are further pluses.
—Don Groves