31st Jan2018

‘Cannibal Farm’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kate Davies-Speak, Barrington De La Roche, David Lenik, Rowena Bentley, Toby Wynn-Davies, Peter Cosgrove, Joe Street, Dylan Curtis, Tim J. Henley, Kate Llewellyn, Emma Ivy Langwith, Jack Miller | Written and Directed by Charlie Steeds

Cannibal-Farm-Key-Art

The Harver family head out on an idyllic summer camping trip where they can bury past tensions and enjoy some family bonding. But when their camp is sabotaged by an unseen intruder in the night, they head to the nearby creepy old farm desperate for help, where vengeful farmer Hunt Hansen and his hideously deformed son aren’t farming animals…

Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, Cannibal Farm is essentially, at its core, a British pastiche of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; however the film has more than enough interesting story beats and great performances to make this film stand on its own two feet.

For starters Cannibal Farm, whilst featuring tropes familiar to anyone whose seen Tobe Hooper’s classic horror and its sequel, actually plays with the cliches of the genre, character behave like stereotypes but in fact are playing UP to stereotypes, oftentimes as a form of subterfuge both to other characters within the film AND the audience watching. The film doesn’t treat the audience like idiots either, echoing films like Scream, with post-modern references to other creepy small-town horrors like: “don’t talk to the creepy old guy at the side of the road unless you want to be raped and mutilated.” And what do you know, they talk to the creepy old guy at the side of the road. Who, it turns out, isn’t as creepy as he makes people believe…He’s worse! Yes, in comes that subterfuge again!

In fact post-modernism runs throughout Cannibal Farm, not only does the film play with tropes and cliches, it also successfully finds a way to overcome modern horror problems like the “but what about calling for help?” mobile phone issue. Plus, as all good modern horrors should, the film is very much about equal-opportunites – in that the violence doesn’t discriminate. Be it men, women and even the kids, people kill and get killed in equal measure.

Speaking of violence, Cannibal Farm is filled with some superb over-the-top brutal gore: dismembered limbs, people burnt alive, skulls caved in, etc., etc. Yet for all the carnage and all the grue, there’s still some fantastic humour within the violence; violence that carries on a very “British” sensibility, a la the likes of Jake West’s Evil Aliens… Here, in classic British comedy-horror tradition, one of the men gets stabbed in the arse with a rake! And all of the on-screen action is underlined by an absolutely amazing score which echoes the ominous nature of the film in a “John Carpenter meets Goblin” fashion.

However there’s more to Cannibal Farm than the violence and subverting genre cliches. The film also has a powerful message about the current state of the UK.

The film talks on manipulation, in this case by Hansen first “victim”, taking more than revenge on Hansen, instead almost forcing him to accept a different way of life, exerting an influence over him that changes his life – in much the same way that governments, the media and “fake news” is used to manipulate society. It’s the reason the character of Hunt Hansen, played in a superb pathos-filled performance from Barrington De La Roche, works. The character is a strange dichotomy – on the one hand he’s a total psycho, unleashing madness, both physical and mental, on himself and his captors. Yet on the other he’s a man turned mad by huge loss, wishing for a time when his family were whole and life was simpler. That aspect of Hansen reflects the feelings of many people in Britain, they want simpler times, simpler lives… Probably why a lot of the older generation voted for Brexit, rose-tinted glasses and all.

Then there’s the idea of personal gain over societal gain. Not only does a character betray others for money, reflecting the “me first” nature of the UK today – where people care more about themselves rather than those around them; who would rather buy new shiny objects and feel instant, personal, gratification rather than help those in need – but the films true villains, the “meat eaters” (and no, Cannibal Farm is not, despite what some might say, vegan propaganda) are literally feasting on other humans, provided by a man who is manipulated into capturing and killing others in a LITERAL dog-eat-dog fashion. If that’s not one of the purest metaphors for the “elite”, the 1%, then I dont’ know what is!

One of the best, brutal, British horror in years and a perfectly-timed metaphor for the current dysfunctional state of the nation, Cannibal Farm, aka Escape From Cannibal Farm, is available on VOD now from High Octane Pictures. The film is released on DVD in the UK on April 23rd.

***** 5/5

Roll on the next Steeds/Davies-Speak collaboration, The Barge People, I say!

 

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