Also known as Cannibal Farm, this is the first 2018 horror movie that tries to replicate the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) formula. As you might remember from my most anticipated horror films list, the other two are Buzzard Hollow Beef and Los Olvidados, which will be coming out later this year.
For now, let’s focus on Escape from Cannibal Farm, written and directed by Charlie Steeds – a director with a peculiar infatuation for ultraviolent throwback movies that wink to the 70s and 80s slasher classics.
Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Cannibal Farm revolves around the Harver family that go on a journey in the British countryside, aiming to create a stronger bond between the family members: conveniently travelling on a camper, the Harver get stuck in the middle of nowhere until they find a farm. From the title, you might be able to figure out what the family will come across in the farm…
If you’re wondering why the premise to the movie sounds familiar to you, well, that’s because Escape from Cannibal Farm can be described as a mashup of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the poster leaves no room for the imagination…) and The Hills Have Eyes. Furthermore, several scenes take inspiration from more recent horror flicks, such as the Wrong Turn franchise, Saw (2004), The Descent (2008) and Eden Lake (2008). Believe it or not, there’s also a rather obvious homage to Psycho (1960)!
This might seem like a complete and utter rip-off, instead Steeds partially succeeds in making his own movie for three main reasons.
First of all, Cannibal Farm is filled with subtle British humour and self-awareness, thanks to the characters who make continuous references to the notorious horror films mentioned above. Also (and this might just be my personal sense of humour) I found a few sequences subtly hilarious: look out for the campfire scene, towards the beginning of the movie, if you decide to give this title a chance.
Secondly, the filmmakers claimed in more than one interview their will to pay homage to a few classics of the genre, which makes every reference look more like a respectful imitation rather than a cheap knock-off.
Thirdly, there are enough twists and turns that feel extremely original and which the director came up with out of his own imagination, without using any other source material.
Yet, the pacing is very well balanced (I didn’t doze off a single time, which is quite an achievement for such a low-budget, 105 minutes long movie): the action kicks off at 25 minutes, which gives the viewer enough time to get involved in the main characters.
Being rather fast-paced helps Escape from Cannibal Farm to create effective ultraviolent sequences, where the gore is the show-stealer. The gruesome scenes are numerous and well distributed throughout the whole runtime, enhancing the entertainment, and they’re extremely over-the-top, making them more funny than disturbing. Makeup and practical effects are praise-worthy, considering the low budget the filmmakers could rely on, and perfectly work in combination with fantastic locations (the farm is amazing) and set-design.
The acting goes from decent – for the most part – to very good, and it’s simply a shame that, at one point, the movie starts to welcome more and more characters: on one hand, this overabundance of protagonists makes for many more entertaining killings; on the other, though, it confuses the plot and turns the action into a bit of a mess.
However, my biggest complaints about Escape from Cannibal Farm revolve around two other aspects, the first one being the music. Some people don’t think a soundtrack is very important in a horror movie… but they’re completely wrong. Here, for example, the music is all over the place, becoming distractive and quite annoying. Furthermore, at parts it’s really misplaced, emphasising the condition of confusion in the audience.
The other huge problem with the movie consists of its last 20 minutes, which are unbelievably convoluted and anticlimactic. This is really a shame, because Kate Davies-Speak (the Final Girl and lead character) gives an amazingly over-the-top performance! Besides her, though, the ending gives up on every attempt to comic relief, betraying the overall tone of the movie itself. Yet, some of the stuff that happens is simply nonsensical.
Despite these downsides really downgraded the movie in my opinion, Cannibal Farm still deserves a bit more attention than what it got so far: plus, I’m really intrigued to check out the other Charlie Steeds flicks (Deadman Apocalypse, 2016, and the upcoming The House of Violent Desire and Winterskin), because I believe he might become an interesting horror filmmaker in the future.
Escape from Cannibal Farm 6.5/10
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In two days, my review will be also available at IMDb – Escape from Cannibal Farm