Cut Shoot Kill


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Cut Shoot Kill
"A bit of a one trick pony, the film doesn't really have enough ideas to justify its 98 minute running time, but there are occasional nice touches that add depth and black humour."

There's a joke underlying Michael Walker's Cut Shoot Kill which may not be appreciated by viewers who haven't worked in the industry themselves. The film hinges on the idea of a film crew (led by Alex Hurt's all too realistically egotistical Alabama Chapman) which makes horror movies in which people are killed for real because, they say, it's impossible to fake anything that looks that good. As every insider knows, if one wants something that will work on film, it often has to be far removed from realism. Indeed, this film itself contains scenes of pursuit and struggle in which the actors slow down or enlarge their movements for effect. It has a streak of playfulness which seems a fitting response to those would-be censors obsessed with the idea that snuff films are a big industry, when in fact there is very little evidence of their existence and several horror films have been wrongly accused.

If one were to make a snuff film, of course, one would want to find a way of marketing it as such, if only to appeal to people's curiosity (after all, millions chose to watch the execution of Saddam Hussein). The reluctance of Alabama's crew to do this is explained by an insistence that they're doing it for Art, which has a certain logic to it but doesn't really fit the characters we're presented with or their make-do-and-mend approach to preparing their set. Ironically, it's this approach that first worries Serena (Alexandra Socha), a serious actress who perceives herself to be slumming it in her first horror film in between proper jobs. The crew reassure her that they've worked this way for years and can get results. They seem to have ready answers to all her questions. Why is there no mobile signal? Duh! They're out in the middle of a forest. Wary of coming across like a prima donna, Serena tries to fit in, but she can't shake the feeling that something is wrong.

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A bit of a one trick pony, the film doesn't really have enough ideas to justify its 98-minute running time, but there are occasional nice touches that add depth and black humour. Notably, Serena and the other actresses on set fail to notice some of the really sinister stuff going on around them because it's too easily confused with the day to day misogyny they're used to in such environments. Walker studiously avoids exploiting this; an argument over whether or not to remove a bra puts the focus on the bullying rather than the breasts. Like many men in his position, Alabama has been using his films to pick up women; discarded footage from a film made with his former girlfriend reveals his need to assert his dominance in ways that are disturbing without the need for blood. This helps to maintain tension even as it becomes clear that he wants to keep Serena alive for a sequel or two. Not being stabbed doesn't mean things are likely to go well for her.

Socha is solid enough in the lead and her grounded performance helps with suspension of disbelief where the story is concerned. Hurt doesn't quite have what it takes to pull off his more complex character and despite a bravura effort by Rebecca Faulkenberry, as his ex, he never really convinces as the kind of man who can subjugate women emotionally, just as the kind who thinks he can. The special effects are adequate but unremarkable and the film suffers from being set mostly at night with the lighting not always up to the job, which means more depends on the actors. As such, it falls short of its potential, and the ending doesn't have the impact it should. It will still find fans within the horror community but nobody would consider it worth dying for.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2017
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An ambitious young actress takes on her first horror movie, but when people start disappearing for real, she has to become her character in order to survive.
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Director: Michael Walker

Writer: Michael Walker

Starring: Alexandra Socha, Alex Hurt, Phil Burke, Jay Devore, Lexi Lapp

Year: 2017

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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