A Thousand Cuts (2012) Review

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The debate over violence created by media has been a long and arduous one. It’s been fought in schools, churches, congress, and apparently little indy films such as A Thousand Cuts. Unfortunately, A Thousand Cuts isn’t a commentary on the state of the mentally ill in this country or the over-simplification of issues created by politicians, lobbyists and the news. Instead this is a hateful little film that wants to be a hell of a lot more clever than it ultimately ends up being thanks to the poorly thought-out writing.

A Thousand Cuts follows around narcissistic horror director Lance, played by Michael Newcomer, doing his best Ewan McGregor impression. The film opens on an overly long party scene where Lance drinks, harasses women, and brags about how much money his “A Thousand Cuts” franchise has made. The party is interrupted by a blackout, during which a sparkler with a picture of Lance’s dead mother appears. Lance is understandably angry, but not enough to let the party stop, that is, until another blackout turns out to somehow be the last straw. After all the attendees clear out, the only two people left are Lance and the electrician Frank (Michael O’Keefe). Lance invites Frank in for a drink and as the two talk, Lance slowly realizes that Frank may be up to something. He tries to leave, but Frank pulls a gun on him and explains Lance needs to be punished for causing the death of Frank’s daughter: Susan.

Thus begins the action for the next hour of the film: these two talking. Frank threatens that Melanie, Lance’s sister who Frank has locked away, will run out of oxygen before the cops could find out where she is. Stuck in a standoff, the two slowly exposit their backgrounds and debate whether Lance is at fault for Susan’s death. Susan was murdered by a serial killer inspired by Lance’s films and although Lance followed the trial, he never publicly apologized or stopped making films.

This is the argument that the film is very obviously making. Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about the consequences of its actions and while they are most certainly not to blame for the crimes of serial killers like the one in the film, that doesn’t mean they’re not assholes about it. The idea of making stupid movies for a general audience is also a major theme as during the party scene there are continual references to how you either make movies that sell or get critical acclaim. This angst against the state of film indicates that the filmmakers here are fresh out of college. On top of that, this film is amateur in how it’s made, written, acted, etc… and there are many lines of dialogue that make mention of snooty graduate students or how USC is the biggest school in California. Lance even got his idea for “A Thousand Cuts” from an artistic short film he made that clearly was too pretentious for modern audiences.

The film climaxes with a timid screenwriter (who had previously shown up to give Lance his script) returning to give him the correct draft. He unties Lance and Lance quickly finds out that all of Frank’s plans turned out to be fake. Melanie was in the other room, gagged up and he hadn’t done anything to her. In desperation, Frank tries to kill Melanie, forcing Lance to shoot him. When asked “Why?”, Frank replies “I wanted you to feel what it’s like to actually kill someone,” before expiring. This is completely inconsistent with the actions of the character up to this point, making this idiotic ending the bow on top of a poorly written, paced, and thought-out script.

I make it a point to never hate films, as they’re are made with passion and love by the filmmakers, no matter how bad they are. That is, except for films that have some kind of palpable disdain for someone or something. I hated Chain Letter because it hated technology and my generation, and I hate A Thousand Cuts because it hates Hollywood with all of the passion that it claims that Hollywood has towards the critical audience. Not only is it insulting to say that the masses will consume any garbage you put in front of them, but it’s idiotic to spread hatred against the people you’re pissed at for hating you. An actual criticism of Hollywood or commentary on the violence in our society “caused” by media would make for an interesting movie, but A Thousand Cuts does nothing but regurgitate the same arguments we’ve heard about violent movies before and re-portray the Hollywood assholes that have existed in film for decades. I’ll admit that it sticks to its morals by having little violence in it, but all that makes for is a boring and anti-climactic film that isn’t worth anybody’s time.

Devil Times Five (1974) Review

I love the LA times quote, I'm pretty sure it's for a different movie
Five extremely disturbed, sociopathic children escape from their psychiatric transport and are taken in unwittingly by a group of adult villagers on winter vacation. -imdb.com

The Devil Times Five or Peopletoys as it was originally called is a low budget, very indy horror film from 1974. It stars… no one. Is directed by… no one special… and has a legacy of… being a low budget indy horror film from 1974. And sucking. Ah yes, The Devil Times Five does indeed suck, mostly due to its amateur filmmaking. Now I’ve dealt with amateur film makers before, in my video review of The Legend of Sorrow Creek, but I wasn’t as fair to it as I should have been. It was the first directing and writing job of Michael Penning, so some tolerance should be given. I was planning on giving the same fairness to this film’s director, Sean MacGregor, but then I discovered that this was his third movie as a director, and that he had done both writing and acting for quite a few years before this. And yet he some how managed to make a movie that makes Chain Letter look like fucking Citizen Kane!

The technicals in this film are a nightmare, with too many visual and audio mistakes and continuity slip-ups to count. Just the very camerawork itself screams basic film school, with different takes noticeable to a snob like me. While the average viewer won’t notice that, what they will notice is the almost constant snow on the lens whenever they’re outside! The special effects are… nonexistent, with the exception of a rather good fire stunt. The rest of the kills are fairly bland, most of which being impossibly intelligent, but unique traps. To compensate for his $0 budget, MacGregor uses different camera “tricks” to little effect. Such as putting the footage in slow motion, in order to create a “surreal effect” that will somehow convince us that the beating the victim is getting is real. However, it clearly wasn’t shot for slow motion so we get a choppy mess for wayyyy too long as the kids spend minutes wailing on this guy, who’s identity is only properly explained after he’s dead. Another kill uses a freeze frame and slow motion to get away with an axe to the back of the head, almost making you think it’s the end of a 80s sitcom. The audio work is not terrible, but it’s quality overall is fairly low, leading to you having an even harder time understanding what’s going on.

The acting is, big shocker, a fucking nightmare. The adults either over or underact, all the while being generally unlikeable. Shoutout goes out to the actor who did a good job as Lenny from Of Mice and Men, I mean the housekeeper. The kids do an occasionally good job coming across as psychotic, but the majority of the time they are just obnoxious little shits. Speaking of the child actors… they do a lot of fairly traumatizing stuff for kids that these days a filmmaker might not be able to get away with. They see someone on fire, they swear, one of them cross dresses, they hold guns, the list goes on. I know it’s a weird, but if you are dumb enough to watch this film after reading this review, imagine doing that stuff as a kid and you’ll see what I mean.

The writing is probably the second worst part of this movie, because it wouldn’t be as bad as it was if the technicals could back it up. The pacing of this movie is all over the place, with scenes going incredibly slowly or just being completely superfluous. This is usually almost immediately compensated by a huge time skip, leaving us confused as to what just happened and it takes a good while to catch up. That’s something you’ll do a lot of with this movie, catch up. It’s hard to follow, as the nonsensical dialogue teams up with the aforementioned issues to confuse the crap out of you if you stop paying attention for a few seconds. The beginning was the worst example of this. I must have missed some dialogue in the first scene, because the lack of basic exposition on the characters and their relationships, coupled with the dialogue and awkward scene transitions, had me confused for a half an hour. Even if you do pay attention to the story, there’s not much to actually derive from it. It’s a fairly simple movie, perpetuated by genius children and outright stupid adults to keep the plot going. Actually, if this movie were any complex, odds are I wouldn’t have been able to follow it at all, so maybe simplicity is for the best.

The Devil Times Five is… a movie. It’s not that much fun to watch, even for its weird premise. It’s a dull movie at its best and a confusing movie at its worst. It may or may not be nunsploitation, but it definitely is childsploitation. The credits of this movie say it all. Instead of “The End” it says “The Beginning” displaying its stupid and cheesy nature and the extremely short crew list show how lacking this movie is, not just in budget, but in skillful filmmaking. If you really want to waste your time on a cheesy low budget 70s horror film, then do yourself a favor. Skip this waste of time and go see Death Bed: The Bed That Eats instead. You may or may not thank me later. You know, if you think Death Bed sounds like an interesting watch, or you’ve seen it, then you might as well give this a watch since you’re prolly the kinda person that would like this kind of movie and appreciate it’s offbeat crappy horror style.

Wake Wood (2010) Review


The parents of a girl who was killed by a savage dog are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter -imdb.com

Sometimes the biggest detractor from a movie is not its flaws, but its lack of strengths. Wake Wood falls victim to this in the biggest of ways. This is a clearly low-budget production and it’s well made considering that, however the lackluster nature of pretty much everything in this movie prevents it from rising above what people would normally expect from a low budget horror movie.

The acting is fair, even if we don’t care much for the characters. A stand out performance is Wormtail as the leader of the Wakewood cult as well as the little girl, who while stoic, is a good child actor. The movie manages to create enough atmosphere and use odd sets and angles to occasionally get you to feel a touch uncomfortable. The effects are okay, even if there’s not much there. Again, everything technical in this movie is, to an extent, fair.

Where this movie fails is its complete failure to do… anything… to make you interested or scared. The film’s borrowed plot from Pet Semetary is barely accentuated, just replacing an unexplained force with a cult using an unexplained force. The girl has a ticking clock to evil from the beginning, so when the movie’s transition into such isn’t subtle we know exactly what’s going on. There are so many caveats to the rules that defeating this zombie should be easy, so when it comes time to climax we’re faced with a solution we say from a mile away. There are lots of little inconsistencies that perforate this movie, leading me to give even less of a shit about what’s going on. The film does have, to its credit, a lot of strangeness. Little details and twists throughout this movie that do make it unique, but not enough to be special (if that makes any sense). The strange-ass ending should be noted as it’s a wonderful homage to the 70s british horror movies this film is trying to emulate.

Overall Wake Wood is worth your time if a) You’re a fan of 70s british horror b) You’re okay with low budget movies and c) You’ve never seen Pet Semetary. Other then that I’m afraid that this movie just doesn’t due enough to justify the time, even if it’s not an all out bad movie.