100 Bloody Acres (2013)

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100 Bloody Acres (2013)Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan

Directed by Cameron and Colin Cairns

The first act of 100 Bloody Acres, the very Aussie horror comedy from brothers Colin and Cameron Cairns, does little to distinguish itself from other horror comedies that follow the “stupid kids get killed by hillbillies” model of horror film. A trio of young adults find themselves stranded in the Australian countryside on the way to a music festival and, after some convincing, hitch a ride with Reggie, an affable yet awkward fertilizer supply trucker. The catch? He and his brother Lindsay, a hulking man with a deep voice and massive beard, make the fertilizer out of dead bodies.

It’s not until the trio find themselves caught in the middle of this sordid business does the film break convention and put the focus on Reggie, the more passive of the two brothers who has simply found himself in an unfortunate situation. Often finding himself on the receiving end of abuse at the hand of his brother, Reggie believes that delivering the three concert-goers to his brother for “processing” would serve as a sign of initiative. Naturally, things don’t really go as planned for the two small business owners as Lindsay reveals himself to be a bit more sinister than his more timid brother.

From here on it the film becomes less a violent gore flick than it does a character study, shifting focus from the stereotypical teenagers-in-peril to the plight of Reggie. His intentions, admittedly only good for his business, result in several unfortunate deaths and a period of introspection and personal growth for a timid man who simply doesn’t want to be pushed around anymore. Unlike Lindsay, he’s never truly villainous, and is simply torn between pleasing his domineering brother and doing the right thing. This is emphasized by the stellar performance of Damon Herriman, whose shy awkwardness and endearing Aussie accent sells the character, making him an exceedingly likable fellow. This certainly helps to distinguish the film from its contemporaries, which all too often are an excuse to let the blood fly at the expense of characters in which you can become emotionally invested. Despite his murderous shortcomings, you want Reggie to succeed, to grow, and ultimately, to become the unlikely hero.

Although dramatic at heart, 100 Bloody Acres is exceptionally funny. For many horror comedies, finding the balance between the two is difficult, with the serious tone often coming late in the film as the protagonists seek to find a way out of their plight. 100 Bloody Acres opts for pure black comedy through and through, successfully weaving the dramatic horror with the humor in a way that never feels forced or inorganic. In the middle of the film, however, the dark humor that pervades the film takes a backseat to surrealistic and juvenile humor as Wes, one of the three young captives, ingests acid and goes on a bizarre and hilarious trip through a fairy-themed tourist trap. It seems slightly out of place, but it’s too damned funny for you to care.

100 Bloody Acres is a bait-and-switch, seemingly designed to appeal to those who want gore piled atop more gore in their horror before revealing it to be so much more. It breaks convention through the reversal of archetypal character roles, and is bolstered by incredibly solid performances, dark humor, and the catchiest commercial jingle you’ll ever hear.

4 out of 5

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