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Lucas Testro [Film Festival 08.06.12] Australia horror comedy

Nein on the ratings.

Australian cinema has a proud history of monsters terrorising travellers on outback and rural roads, from The Cars That Ate Paris to Wolf Creek. You can add two new names to that honour roll thanks to the Cairnes Brothers' hilarious new horror-comedy, 100 Blood Acres.

Reg Morgan (Damon Herriman) runs a small organic fertiliser business with his bullying older brother Lindsay (Angus Sampson). They've recently taken the lead over their competitors thanks to a secret ingredient, which we discover in the opening scene is roadkill of the distinctly human variety. When Reg stops soon afterwards to pick up three city-slickers who've broken down on their way to a music festival, he's torn between his business instincts to take things to the next level by mulching the trio, and pangs of conscience as he starts to fall for one of his captives, the charming Sophie (Anna McGahan). Bloodletting, comedy, and one of the most hysterically disturbing sex scenes in cinema history ensue.

Much like Cabin In The Woods, 100 Bloody Acres goes for laughs over scares. "We're not psychos, right. We're small business operators", anxious Reg tries to persuade Sophie while she's gagged and bound to a chair. The film gets a lot of comic mileage from the brothers' business concerns, most notably having them spend the early stages of the movie fretting about a local DJ who's failing to play their new radio commercial - and then spend the remainder wishing he would stop playing it, when friends and family find it unintentionally funny. Great sight gags also abound, along with a fun cameo from former outback terror John Jarrat, familiar to genre lovers from Wolf Creek. Sadly, the funniest gag of the film won't travel at all, as it relies on the audience recognising a particularly wholesome Australian TV actress, but there are still plenty of other laughs on offer for those who miss the local jokes.

There's also a fair share of gore. Hands and fingers are lopped off left, right and centre, and another setpiece involves Reg trying to wrestle a body out of a mechanical mincer (hint: the mincer wins). Hardcore horror fans may find the film not blood-drenched enough for their liking, but for those like myself with less strong stomachs, the film strikes just the right balance.

Performances are uniformly outstanding, from a young cast who will mostly be unknown to international audiences but who you are sure to be seeing more of in the future. Herriman brings an endearing innocence to Reg - quite an achievement considering the character spends most of the film with his face splattered with blood. Sampson, best known locally for his comedy performances, brings genuine menace to Lindsay, all demonic eyebrows and gutteral growl, suggesting a primal rage lurking beneath a moustache-less comedy beard straight out of The Dictator.

Cinematographer John Brawley does a good job behind the camera, effectively varying moods between the menacing dark of the brothers' dark workshop, the musty domestic tidiness of a rural home, and one character's crazy acid trip through a strange themepark in the middle of nowhere called Fairyland.

The first feature from writers/directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, 100 Blood Acres is unassuming and completely assured. It won the Slamdance Screenwriting Competition in 2010, and deservingly so. Elegantly structured, constantly surprising, and filled with well-drawn, relatable characters, the film has your sympathies pin-balling between the victims and the would-be killers throughout. The filmmakers' love for all their characters is clear, and it's infectious. Don't miss it.

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