Australia has steadily contributed a diet of unpretentious horror movies over the last few years, of which 100 Bloody Acres represents only the most recent. It flirts with serious gorehound status, only to settle into an amiable tone of not-quite-satire. The villains are backwoods bogans who run a fertilizing business by stealing human roadkill in the Outback. Their latest victims are travelling city slickers out for a taste of adventure. Throw in a little romance, add some scary facial hair, and you have… well jeez, what the hell do you have?
I’ll say this much for it: it’s fairly unique. The “no worries mate” tone actually seems to fit an otherwise straightforward hunters-vs.-hunted scenario, giving it everything a properly light tone. The killers in this case are the Morgan Brothers; the senior Lindsay (Angus Sampson) hits upon the brilliant notion of using fresh human carcasses to enhance his home-grown fertilizer business. His dipshit younger brother Reg (Damon Harriman) is willing to go along with the plan, but he lacks the brains to really contribute. That is, until he comes across three young people stranded on the side of the road and hits upon the brilliant notion of adding them to the rendering pile. Complications arise when Reg grows sweet on the girl in the group (Anna McGahan) and the city slickers rapidly realize the danger that they’re in.
The structure is pretty straightforward, and the satire takes a few cues from the recent Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. It benefits from some nice twists in the third act, as well as a small cast who leap gamely into the proceedings with all their Down Under might. Writer/directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes fashion a rambling shaggy dog of a plot that strings the basics out with a mildly clever series of turns and developments. They sprinkle plenty of gore in there as well, but always with an arch sense of humor that more than makes up for the comparative loss of tension.
It’s not an especially scary film, but it definitely invests us in the outcome, as well as delivering a steady patter of laughs for anyone game enough to giggle at the sight of severed fingers. The best bits involve inferred infidelity, as the girl plies her feminine wiles to spring them to the overt consternation of her boyfriend. (Never mind that he’s trussed up like a hog and about to get ground into strudel: she’s being unfaithful!) The Cairnes know how to make such exchanges plausible in the midst of the gore. In a less fun film, it would stretch credibility to the breaking point. Here, it just feels like another day in the Outback; hey if we’re gonna die, we’d better at least clear the air of this unspoken jealousy. (There’s also a flash of stoner comedy to it all, since one of the heroes goes through the bulk of the film in an altered state of consciousness.)
The rest of 100 Bloody Acres follows the same pattern: never in a great hurry to get where it’s going, but happy to keep horror fans amused along the way. It’s neither groundbreaking nor particularly daring, but engaging in such pretensions would remove the quiet absurdity on which it depends. Hollywood could never conceive of something like this. It takes filmmakers with a different perspective to bring it to life, and in the process deliver an experience that’s harder to forget than many ostensibly better pictures. We could use a little of that this summer, when dour pretense seems to be the order of the day. Leave it to the Australians – and something like 100 Bloody Acres – to rescue us from all that.