100 Bloody Acres *** (out of five)
There was a time when a low-budget Antipodean “gore comedy” from a debut director (or in this case, pair of directors) would have been schlocky and cheap looking, with poor production values and comedically handspun gore, in spite of whatever inherent wit or ingenuity it may have had. The early films of Peter Jackson and Australian efforts such as Body Melt and Turkey Shoot had their various charms but “slick” they were not. 100 Bloody Acres, however, from brother first-film feature filmmakers Cameron and Colin Cairns, comes fully formed into the world, shot well, with solid and at times truly inspired performances, excellent production design, and a level of cinematic and sonic polish that would be the envy of its ancestors.
Crossing Sweeny Todd with Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, the Cairns boys deliver a lot of laughs, nice and realistic dollops of sticky gore, and quite a lot of heart to boot. Damon Herriman and Angus Sampson play country brothers Reg and Lindsay Morgan, who rely on roadkill to make their organic fertilizer extra potent. The thing is, human meat is more potent, and a few city slickers happen to have come their way…
You can guess the rest, but the proof is in the execution, and this one’s way above average. Sampson and particularly Herriman give terrific performances. Reg is the better role (and the lead) and Herriman really takes it, runs with it and finally lands it deep over the try line; he’s been a regular screen face for so long now he’s become part of the cultural furniture, but here he plays his hand, and it’s a full house of comedic chops. It’s complementary to his role on Justified, but here, he’s lovable, not simply dim. It’s the kind of role that doesn’t get nominated for awards, but should.
At ninety minutes on the nose, everything about the film has been designed efficiently. You can imagine, in an early Screen Australia (who were a large financier of the project) meeting, someone asking the brothers how long the film should be, and them responding, without missing a beat and perfectly simultaneously, “Ninety minutes.” They know the genre, they know the form, and most importantly they know their audience. You don’t serve foie gras to someone who wants a meat pie. This is a very well cooked pie.