Home Video Hovel: 100 Bloody Acres, by Aaron Pinkston
The opening montage of 100 Bloody Acres gives the audience a pretty perfect setup for the events that occur during the film. No, it’s not your traditional horror opening, seeing one or a group of nameless bodies getting cut down, but instead a collection of road sign advertisements. These signs establish the idea that we are in a part of Australia where the only way to make money is by selling strange wares and goods created by entrepreneurial yokels in the Outback. The Morgan brothers run a struggling organic farm and fertilizer company that has built itself using the blood and bone of unfortunates they find along the roads, dead from accidental causes. Certainly, this is not a renewable or practical resource, so when down-on-his-luck Reg picks up three city slick hitchhikers, they might just solve some problems.
Much more of a comedy than a horror film, 100 Bloody Acres is a small-scope film, taking place over the course of this particular event. Given the nature of the Morgan brothers’ business, the film incorporates a good amount of body horror humor and gore gags, but the humor of the film is mostly wry and off-beat. A very British style of humor, but, you know, Australian. There is lots of blood and gore, so it will appeal to a specific audience, but the film doesn’t offer a lot in thrills or work much with the genre conventions. It plays specifically with the city kids getting lost in the boonies and being threatened by the low-class country folk, but it isn’t nearly as playful with genre construction as its closest film companion, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.
I didn’t find myself laughing out loud often through the film, but its quirky sensibilities keep the film entertaining. The film’s style has just enough goofy without ever overdoing it, which is really key in the film’s success. In particular, there are a number of songs and jingles that play through the film that work every time — they are so far removed from what the audience would look for in this film that they come as a welcomed surprise. Moreover, it’s filled with pretty lively and interesting characters. It’s a horror film where you’ll identify more with the killers than the victims, especially the timid, awkward younger brother Reg. The three victims in the film, despite being little more than necessary for the plot, are far more interesting than most any victim characters we see in many American horror films these days.
The Morgan brothers, however, are the sure stars, fully realized characters whose personas are able to wonderfully play off each other. Reg (Damon Herriman) is a weird mix of religious zealot and sexual innocent, a hard character to exactly pin down. The elder brother, Lindsay (Angus Sampson, who you may know as one of the goofy paranormal investigator assistants in the Insidious films) completely dominates the relationship. Unlike Reg, Lindsay is not afraid of getting his hands dirty — though I don’t think there is any particular indication that the brothers have specifically killed for their trade before, he is much more of a violent and serious personality. Reg sees the hitchhikers as an opportunity to please his brother, which is perhaps more important than saving their business. Sampson deserves special mention for his performance. A lot of this is simply in his look, which is just the right amount of silly to compliment his ultra-seriousness. Sampson also displays an incredible yet subtle amount of face acting, using his eyebrows, jowl and everything in between to its fullest effect. He’s mostly the straight-man of the family (Reg is certainly a more screw-up comedic character on paper), playing the events super seriously. When things get more and more ridiculous, his serious demeanor doesn’t slip — if he was playing obviously silly, it would have easily been too much.
There are definitely better horror-comedy mashups out there, but 100 Bloody Acres is one worth seeing. The new DVD and Blu-ray, released by Chicago-based Music Box Films’ partner company Dopplegänger Releasing, has a number of special features that may induce an investment. Features include about a dozen featurettes exploring the gore effects, interviews with the cast and crew and behind the scenes footage, as well as a short film from the Cairnes brothers.