18th Aug2013

‘Sawney: Flesh of Man’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Elizabeth Brown, Lisa Cameron, Lindsay Cromar, Shian Denovan, Samuel Feeney, David Hayman, William Houston, Jean-Paul Jesstiece | Written by Rick Wood | Directed by Ricky Wood Jr.

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The legend of Sawney Bean has been the inspiration (at least partially) for a lot of horror movies over the years: The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even the Wrong Turn franchise, but until now there has not been a film directly influenced by the legend. And there still isn’t. Based on the (in)famous legend of Sawney Bean, the patriarch of a cannibal family that killed over 1,000 people near the end of the 15th-century, Sawney: Flesh of Man instead updates the tale to modern-day Scotland and sees religious psychopath Sawney (Hayman) stalk Glasgow in a black cab, abducting unholy souls for his communion of sacrifices. With his insane family of inbred killers, Sawney tortures and eats their victims saving the best morsels for a chained-up figure in their cavernous Highlands lair.

As the Missing Persons list rises investigative crime journalist Hamish MacDonald (Feeney) writes sensational and damming headlines against the police, due to their incompetence in handling the case. After his fiancée is kidnapped by the cannibal clan Hamish investigates the heinous crimes on his own with disastrous results. For there’s something he doesn’t know about the case that’s crucial to solving it…

So this may not be a period piece, faithfully adapting the legend of the Bean clan but it is a great example of low-budget filmmaking. Much like the characters in the film Sawney: Flesh of Man keeps it in the family when it comes to behind the camera. Father Rick Wood co-wrote the film with his son Rick Jr., who also edits the film, whilst cinematography comes from Rick Wood’s brother Ranald! And the film is one hell of a directorial debut for the young Wood – shot on digital the film looks fantastic (no doubt thanks to having a great DP in Ranald Wood), the hillside setting is remarkably murky looking, perfectly capturing the dreary rain-swept look; whilst the Glasgow streets have never looked creepier. This looks so good in fact that it puts a lot of similarly-budgeted horrors to shame. Sawney doesn’t scrimp on the special effects either. Yes there’s a smattering of CGI to “enhance” the on-screen effects but that’s forgivable in a film that features so many mangled limbs, dismembered heads and sliced up corpses all rendered in gorgeous practical FX.

Yet for all that’s good about the film it is not without its problems. There’s little to the script beyond the straight “reporter tracks down cannibal family” story and not even a few plot twists can save it from being merely above-average. And then there’s the acting. Whilst David Hayman, as the head of the cannibal clan, acts up a storm, obviously relishing his free-spirited psycho role, his filmic counterpart, Samuel Feeney – as the intrepid reporter on the case – does nothing to convince in his role. Whether his character was underwritten or not I don;t know, but what I do know is that stubble and a worried look on your face do not a hardened reporter make.

Still Sawney: Flesh of Man is a solid debut film from Woods and co. that is ideal for those who want to switch off and enjoy a bit of gory fun. The film is released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 19th.

*** 3/5

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