Dir: Ricky Wood
Starring: David Hayman, Samuel Feeney, Gavin Mitchell
The Film: When Mistress Marcey asked me if I would like to review a film about a deranged, depraved cult of inbred cannibals that is based on a true story, do you know what I said? “Well shit, yipee!”. No, seriously, I did. When it comes to films that deal with such a raw, taboo subject I take automatic interest because like it or not, while human beings are capable of marvellous magnanimous things, they are also capable of seriously shitty ones.
Before I go on, tiny history lesson for you, don’t groan, it’s one of those awesome ones.
Since the 15th century, the tale of the semi/quasi-mythical figure of Sawney Bean has been a gruesome urban legend of sorts that had roots in reality- Alexander “Sawney” Bean was a Scotsman who did like like ‘honest labour’ and ran away with an unnamed woman with similar tastes as himself to hide in a cave. During their 25 years bliss of being undiscovered they had multiple children, and grandchildren and it goes without saying, the gene pool only got shallower, IF YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN. In order to sustain themselves, they captured unknowing passerbys, butchered them and ate them. Many people disappeared, but nothing ever came of it because the authorities did not know where to look. However, one fateful encounter involving a married couple, the husband skilled in combat ended up in making Bean and his clan flee when the couple alerted their existence to King James VI who ordered a massive manhunt. Eventually, the Bean clan were captured and executed without trial and you know what kind of executions were popular in the 15th century? Hanging, drawing, quatering and burning, oh what fun! Now, while this tale has been debunked by mythbusters, there is always an element of truth behind the lie, in this case, there was somebody known as Alexander Bean who was a ne’er do well but the multiple acts of cannibalism and such atrocities related to Sawney were greatly exaggerated as a part of anti-Scottish slander on the part of English propaganda, but even that is still left to debate. The main thing is, never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.
Which brings me back to the movie. I was fully expecting to dig this one because of this notorious legend, and even though I would have preferred it to be set in the timeframe the legend took root, as long as it showed us the degenerate nature of these people, I was fine with it.
Geez Louise was I wrong.
The central details remained the same, but it follows the basic formula of a bunch of tourists come through Scotland and are hunted down and picked off by the cannibalistic clan who only do what they do because they want to. This whole idea would have been scary and compelling… but it wasn’t.
This movie is pretty awful and not in a good way. Gore hounds will no doubt delight in some of the creative bloodshed and humans hacking away at other hapless humans for dinner, but it offers nothing that makes it truly frightening. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care what happened to them and I really couldn’t have given two hoots about the cannibals themselves because none of these folks have any personality. That is perhaps the scariest thing that this movie does, and any movie in general- to not allow you to actively care about these people who are being brutally slaughtered like cattle by other human beings. This type of attitude is somewhat sociopathic because the film assumes the audience won’t care about what is happening here. There is only so much entertainment a film about cannibals can offer without any enduring humanity before it becomes so cold. “Ravenous” was an excellent film about cannibalism because you came to care about Guy Pearce’s character when he is saddled with trying to escape Robert Carlyle’s bonkers cannibal. In perhaps the best episode of “Torchwood”, the same premise of the Sawney Bean legend is used but you care about what happens to the main characters, and when the cannibals revealed the reason why they did what they did… it is done so chillingly that you can feel the cold fingers of death tickle down your vertebrae. Not so here. All this movie has going for it is blood, blood and more blood and I felt as if my intelligence had been insulted. If only it had taken the time to establish it’s victims as humans rather than simple cannon-fodder, if only the writing had been more intense, if only the entire atmosphere about the movie was more about the horrors you can’t see… but no, everything is shoved in your face and you can feel the director and writer, who is the same guy, by the way, looming over your shoulder, poking you like annoying children saying “Hey. Hey. You scared yet? Yeeeaah, look at all that blood and guts, that’s all ya need, right?”.
Review written by Bea Harper
The Australian DVD
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
The DVD release will include the extras Director’s Commentary, Interview with David Hayman, Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
1 out of 5 munched on corpses. The single corpse being for some well-executed gore.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill care of Accent Film Entertainment for the copy.