Cut Shoot Kill is an indie horror/thriller written and directed by Michael Walker who made a name for himself with Chasing Sleep starring Jeff Daniels and in collaboration with Lions Gate.
After failing a big Hollywood career (so far), Walker stepped back and released Cut Shoot Kill with a smaller budget, independent production companies and a cast of unknown.
This movie features an aspiring movie star, Serena (Alexandra Socha), who gets offered a lead role in a horror flick by mysterious director Alabama Chapman (Alex Hurt).
She accepts the offer due to the inspiring passion Alabama shows during the interview and embarks on three weeks of shooting in the North American woods, where neither Internet nor phone signals work.
Soon enough, Serena realises that the obsession for truth shown by Alabama and his crew might be more dangerous than it seemed.
Although not entirely original, the concept of meta-cinema (making a movie inside a movie that assesses audiences’ expectations) strongly emerges in Cut Shoot Kill.
Yet, contrarily to other films in the past, Walker’s latest flick feels entirely unpretentious. The social commentary is there, but it’s never overwhelming and not in a single scene hides the entertainment value of the film.
Subtly, Cut Shoot Kill asks the same questions to the viewer: What do modern horror audiences want? What point would you get to in order to make a successful film?
This themes are well explored throughout the runtime (97 minutes) and the answers are never given through exposition, instead they are hinted at through dialogues and characters’ motivations/feelings.
In regards to the characters, I believe the message of this film would have been delivered in a much more potent way if the acting was better. The performances in Cut Shoot Kill range from excellent (Serena and Alabama) to awfully over-the-top (Serena’s boyfriend and the producer of Alabama’s movie), with everyone else lying in the middle being quite forgettable.
Regardless, the atmosphere and tone of the movie are spot-on: as a meta-slasher, Cut Shoot Kill doesn’t over-rely on gore (other than one highly effective scene), but builds up tension through good cinematography, excellent score and an overall sense of threat that surrounds the victims.
I might be completely wrong, but I also perceived a menacing sexual sub-text to the film, which heightens the level of tension in the scenes where the three girls (Serena and her co-stars in Alabama’s project) are involved.
Besides the acting, my biggest issue with the film revolves around a sub-plot involving the previous Alabama’s female lead, who starred in the 7 short movies the director made before hiring Serena and mysteriously disappeared after the seventh film was shot. I found it rather useless in the overall story and distracting from the main focus of Cut Shoot Kill.
Yet, I see the ending being polarising: some might love it, some might hate it. Personally, I believe the film should have ended with a particular scene which hints to the isolation of Serena (you know what I’m talking about if you saw/will see the movie). However, the actual ending is not terrible and, although a bit convoluted, fulfils the character’s arc of the lead actress.
In conclusion, there is something I can’t quite grasp that holds me back from loving Cut Shoot Kill. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend to watch it if you’re intrigued by its unconventional plot. Cheers!