I recently had the honor of witnessing a screener which I’m sure will rattle a few cages and leave a lasting impression. Join me as I attempt to utilize my ill educated lexicon and kindergarten level grammar skills to entice you to place it on your list of genre features to keep an eye out for. Without further waffling, distracted meanderings and minimal negativity (insert knowing winky face here!) I give you my thoughts on…
Escape From Cannibal Farm 2017 (UK)
Writer – Charlie Steeds
Director – Charlie Steeds
Runtime – 102 minutes
Dark Temple Pictures / High Octane Pictures
With a title like Escape From Cannibal Farm one might wonder if Disney has finally broken away from the cutesy animated realm and newly acquired mega budget superhero genre to dive headfirst into the cult film market. The moniker obviously leaves a little to be desired. However, on the bright side it doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing the contents of the feature, so much so in fact that the viewer hardly needs a synopsis. Leaving more room for grisliness on the box art. In short, because I sinetimes like to ruin things, a family take a sojourn into nowheresville to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this sounds great right. Well, it would be were it not for the father figure (portrayed brilliantly by Toby Wynn Davies who also featured in the breakout festival film of recent months – Dogged) who somehow has little patience for anything and hates everything more than yours truly.
His ‘adopted’ family meanwhile, get on more famously than oil and water. Scenes featuring the brother and boyfriend dynamic with the mother chiming in with don’t use that ‘S word’ are priceless. The road trip only gets more entertaining when the collective stop to ask for directions, directions that don’t include the purchase of cider or lemonade.
The film progresses.
Our ‘typical family’ unit are shown to have their foibles and plenty of shadowy movement behind the scenes which only make them all the more relatable, for it’s rare for any family to be sans skeletons lurking behind doors encrusted in cobwebs.
Then as the cover art and films title suggests, you guessed it, the situation develops into one where many of the main characters feel the need to exodus. Hastily. If only that were it. The beauty of this film is that it rises above mere parody (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes immediately come to mind) and dives face first into territory that’s rarely seen, in many features of the same ilk in the same genre, or predicted.
Lets backtrack a little (*cue snazzy rewind sound effects please). Before our eyes even come across the family and their happy mobile (which somehow doesn’t have the words Mystery Machine emblazoned on its sides) we are subjected to an introduction of sorts and a cursory little rhyme that wraps the introduction up in a few catchy sentences. Keeping it brief (words often take me away to a special place where I lose myself) a farmer and his wife witness their sons disfigurement. This changes their otherwise cheerful demeanor into one of revenge, madness and the adoration of self immolation in the forest glade. Accompanied by a highly effective emotion laden soundtrack this introduction is excellent, classically shot and bodes extremely well for the remainder of the feature to follow.
Skip to the meaty parts (I’m just oozing with puns today).
The film boasts great pace early on taking the audience to realms beaten to a pulp in the genre throughout it’s inception. However where this film excels is with it’s use of a plot that veers wildly from the direction that the viewer might have originally predicted. Oftentimes this ingenuity and its execution propels it into the ranks of cult features such as the unforgettable Frontieres. Roles get reversed and the storyline becomes heavier than clotted cream (also from Cornwall where I believe this film to be baded, although I might be wildly mistaken). Characters, both antagonist and protagonist, show their weaknesses and surprising strengths when any other filmmaker might have stuck to the more easily consumable, traditional formulae, kudos to the writing and creative team. Standout performances drive the feature into highly recommendable territories. Jessica Harver (above), portrayed brilliantly by Kate Marie Davies, steals the majority of the scenes she’s in from the midway point on in a role that is remarkably reminiscent of other features, whose names if I divulged them would very much give this films finale away.
The ‘excentric’ nature of the surrounding small community is explored also to the point where the viewer might actually think twice about visiting exotic countryside locales in order to merely get away.
Although the film bursts at the seams with great performances, stunning visuals, exttemely well executed tense scenes dropping with tension and potential it also has moments that might pull the viewer away. In instances the story displays tendencies to submerge itself in the more theatrical arena, passages where explanation and emotion are a tad too over enthusiastic and well rehearsed for the scenario. With this being uttered though Escape From Cannibal Farm (aka Cannibal Farm stateside) has a great deal to offer to sate the urges of the more discerning fan, it certainly isn’t a family film by any stretches of the imagination. It sports pace, intricacy, backwoods creepiness (as one might expect in such a feature) and character development not to mention tons of claret and fantastic use of location. In conclusion, this is an experience I didn’t expect especially on account of the mostly cliched genre in which the film resides. A cult film for sure to place the UK on the radar where before it was only the neighbors who garnered all the attention.
Bravo. Seek this gem out and feel free to tell me your thoughts on it.
Escape From Cannibal Farm finds its US VOD release on January 2nd (2018)
The Stateside (mostly uninspired) release cover artwork
Your slave to cinema depraved, diverse, experimental, drenched in carnivorous types and often dripping in plasma.