Saturday Nightmares: Cut (2000)
More often than not, the modern slasher film often feels as if its filmmakers have zero understanding of what makes the subgenre tick - best intentions be damned. Somewhere along the way, many of these poor misguided souls figure it’s best to provide a mixture of laughs and gore, with the most crucial element – suspense – falling by the wayside. Most recently, Sorority Row’s filmmakers decided that their straightforward (and fun) slasher effort would work best as a comedy, abruptly morphing into one during the third act, resulting in one seriously confused offering.
To be fair, there are plenty of examples from the subgenre’s “Golden Age” that failed just as miserably (right, Savage Weekend?), so a botched slasher movie is hardly a new concept. With 2000’s Cut, a late Australian entry in the post-Scream slasher revival, it appears that there’s nothing much in store for the viewer besides an unpleasant array of stupid jokes and ‘clever’ dialogue but, thankfully, appearances can be deceiving from time to time.
The premise is that, in 1985, the production of a slasher film called Hot Blooded was halted when the actor playing the masked slasher snapped, brutally murdering the film's abusive director (Kylie Minogue, top billed in a very brief cameo) only to be put down by the film's spoiled star, Vanessa Rand (Molly Ringwald). Forward fourteen years later, a group of ambitious film students plan to finish the infamous flick for their final collegiate project. Ignoring warnings that Hot Blooded’s celluloid is actually cursed (each time it’s screened, the viewer is found slaughtered), our fodder successfully recruit Vanessa (now, a washed up has been) and set out to complete the picture. Of course, somebody or something doesn’t want the thing to be finished.
Cut takes itself pretty seriously as a straight up slasher and, in today's age, that alone works to its credit. Its ideals seem to have been culled from an older school of horror despite the post-modern approach. Characters do a little genre name dropping here and there, exclaiming that their film will be "scarier than Halloween...", but it's slightly less annoying than usual since they’re film students working on a horror picture. It doesn’t feel as forced or out of place as it sounds, and while the very idea of a line like "face/off Wes Craven style!" is an understandable cause for concern, this isn't a condescending dissection of the genre. Everything in Cut is all in good fun, no matter how dumb.
As far as the leads go, this is a fairly well cast movie. Molly Ringwald and Jessica Napier really outshine the rather obnoxious supporting players. Ringwald has a ball with her spoiled bitch of an actress, creating a character one can’t help but enjoy watching, despite a few terrible pieces of dialogue strewn throughout the proceedings. Napier plays a more traditional horror heroine, the spoft-spoken, good-hearted director of the doomed student project – an easy gal to root for.
Director Kimble Rendall keeps the story moving, ensuring that that the pacing never slackens. Clocking in at 82 minutes (with credits), Cut never outstays its welcome and, aside from one unfortunate murder set piece (a decapitation where the detached head looks around briefly being severed - at least it doesn’t speak!), the slayings are reasonably gory. This stuff isn’t going to make anyone forget Savini’s Friday the 13th magic, but it's nice to see some messy throat slashings and impalements back in play.
Unfortunately, this one gets stingy in the exploitation department. Not that the lack of nudity takes away from the reasonably enjoyable nature of the story but, being such an obvious nod to the 80s, it’s sad to see the film buckle here. With a cast featuring several attractive ladies, it's disappointing that director Rendall couldn’t have thrown a little skin our way (why couldn’t Kylie Minogue at least flash a little ass?). Cut tries very hard to embrace the ideals that made yesterday’s slashers so successful, but its unwillingness to embrace every element required in exploitation filmmaking makes it feel like a somewhat half-hearted effort.
At least there’s a fun killer to make up for the areas in which Cut is lacking; it’s all at the hands of a madman called Scarman. Clad in jumpsuit and a menacing mask with a wicked grin, the killer wields the most menacing pair of shears since Cropsy slashed the hell out of Camp Blackfoot. His appearance is a little too polished, meaning that the filmmakers obviously were hoping to spin him into a new slasher icon (remember, this was before Hollywood decided against making new killers when you could just remake the old ones), but there was potential to explore this character a bit further in a sequel that was promised, but never made.
The climax doesn’t work as well as it should, and it’s not hard to see how our villain will be bested before his killing spree is even underway, but this fusion of straightforward with the supernatural is more successful than most similar attempts. Admittedly, nothing about Cut is great but, in the right mindset, it can be fun. Not fun enough to bring any new fans into the genre, but it’s a harmless and easily digestible way to get your slasher fix. And sometimes that’s enough.
*Interestingly enough, there was a VCD of this one from overseas in which it was titled, Scream 4. Furthermore, a region 3 DVD exists, claiming to be ‘uncut’, but I have no idea how much gore was actually cut from this stateside, R rated release.
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