Directed by Danny Mulheron
Cannibalism has been examined thoroughly onscreen over the years (Cannibal Holocaust, C.H.U.D., Motel Hell, Ravenous) but has been largely ignored in history books. Leave it to the bold New Zealand horror-comedy Fresh Meat to shine a spotlight on that country’s own ties to ceremonial flesh eating, completely unafraid of addressing a taboo subject. Of course, this brand of splatstick mania is an offshoot of Ozploitation with ties to Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Meet The Feebles), so it’s a horror export made to appeal to international markets that already dig this sort of thing. Fresh Meat isn’t a history lesson, it just isn’t afraid to use history as a backdrop. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of blood and guts flying around in the foreground.
Director Danny Mulheron sets up a home invasion story with a twist: the perpetrators have no idea they’ve just walked into the house of a family with a taste for meat, human meat. However, there’s a second hiccup in the initial setup and it’s what I like to call Fresh Meat’s sitcom twist. Their daughter Rina Crane (Hanna Tevita) has become a lesbian while away at an all-girls college … and she has no idea that they’re, ya know, CANNIBALS. Some of the fun comes from who will find out the truth first, Rina’s Dad Hemi (played energetically by Temuera Morrison) and mom Margaret (Nicole Kawana), or Rina herself.
Once a desperate gang of dangerously foolish thugs known as the Tans seek refuge with the family, the clock starts ticking (loudly, I might add) down to the moment where the tables finally turn. As the family is tied up and begins interacting with their captors, some of the developments are intriguing but aren’t quite compelling enough on their own. Most interesting is the budding attraction growing between daughter Rina and one of the Tan gang – the fiery, long-legged Gigi (Kate Elliot). Gigi is most definitely a reason to watch, looking like the lead of a Russ Meyer picture if he preferred more … athletic women. The sexual tension between them is inherently watchable but it’s not enough to maintain the momentum gained from an earlier scene involving a prison break that ends badly for the Tan gang.
Luckily, it’s not long before someone stumbles directly on top of the Crane’s new family tradition, causing mom and dad to come clean to Rina. Towards the end the cops even get involved, but are they sure they know which people to protect? Temuera Morrison becomes more and more unhinged as Remi grows convinced that the flesh he consumes has the potential to make him immortal. Fans of the actor can just imagine a bloodier, crazier version of his character in Lee Tamahori’s kiwi classic Once Were Warriors
The few surprises and standout performance of Elliot and Morrison coupled with the connection to the past make Fresh Meat worth recommending but it relies a little too heavily on a situational premise that overshadows the most interesting characters at times. When a movie is selling fun you just happen to notice the moments where it’s not even more. Don’t expect fine dining but Fresh Meat is still a good dinner and a movie option, just remember to eat dinner first.
2 1/2 out of 5