DIRECTOR Cameron Cairnes; Colin Cairnes WRITER Cameron Cairnes; Colin Cairnes STARS Oliver Ackland; Paul Blackwell; Ward Everaardt SCREENING Today at 23.30
REVIEW UncleBob Martin
Although 1984’s godawful Children of the Corn managed to spawn no less than eight sequels and remakes, barnyard horror has never been a booming subgenre, nor a particular favourite of mine. In fact, those Children of the Corn films far outnumber the total examples of hayseed horror that are actually worth a non-ironic viewing. On my own very brief list you’ll find Motel Hell, Les Raisins de la Mort, Deranged and Deadly Blessing [and that one only included for being the last we saw of Battlestar Galactica‘s Maren Jensen, and the first we saw of Sharon Stone].
So I expected little of 100 Bloody Acres.
But, it’s a film that endears itself quickly. Its opening scene has Reg Morgan (Damon Herriman) collecting an instance of human roadkill from an accident scene; as he loads the deceased into the back of his truck, hand-painted with the logo of Morgan Brothers’ Organic Blood and Bone Fertilizer [“We’ll Fertilize Ya’!”], he first backs over the corpse, then inattentively severs its fingers as he slams his truck’s rear door closed. As Reg scoops up the fingers to toss them in the back of the truck, the worried look on his face expresses such a hapless lack of control over his situation that you soon find yourself rooting for him, just as you would for any put-upon slapstick hero. A century of movies has conditioned us well.
As Reg tools down the road, a classic 1950s novelty record, “I Can’t Even Do Wrong Right”, by Australian country icon Chad Morgan, comes on the radio to become the credits theme, while a series of hand-painted road signs [“free range eggs”; “hand picked horse poo for you! 50 a bag”; “National Trust, H.B.C. and Tourists piss off”] tell us in shorthand that this is a hard scrabble piece of country, where entrepreneurial efforts are part of a bid for survival.
Into this forbidden zone there inevitably arrives a sexually complicated trio of city slickers, James (Oliver Ackland), Wes (Jamie Kristian) and Sophie (Anna McGahan), who’ve encountered car trouble while en route to a music festival. After nearly mowing the hitchhiking trio down, Reg takes a shine to the lovely Sophie and decides to provide the needed lift. The boys are stowed in the back of the truck while Reg and Sophie bond over Slim Whitman up front in the cab. When James and Wes discover that they are sharing their ride with a corpse, Reg realises he can’t simply drop them off at the festival. He returns to the fertiliser plant he shares with his brother Lindsay (Angus Sampson), a fellow who radiates malice as clearly as Reg broadcasts ineptitude.
Now the principal cast of five is assembled and confined to the fertiliser plant with its chains and pulleys and bone-grinding machinery, like snooker balls lined up on the felt. Our sentiments, too, are part of this game as the fraternal writer-directors, Cameron and Colin Cairnes, bat our sympathies back and forth, while also lining up their grisly shots.
While the comic intent of the brothers Cairnes is clear from the outset, the film is all but bereft of conventional jokes and gags that would undermine the narrative. When Reg protests to Sophie, “We’re not psychos, awright? We’re small business operators”, that’s as jokey as it ever gets. But the comic and upbeat tone is maintained so thoroughly that, even when the blood rises in gouts, it doesn’t dampen the film’s lightheartedness.