Fight to Survive, or get Eaten Alive!

Escape from Cannibal Farm (UK 2017) Dir: Charlie Steeds
Kate Davies Speak, David Lenik, Rowena Bentley, Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Toby Wynn Davies

The Harver clan head out into the English countryside for a camping holiday in an attempt to bury familial tensions and patch up their differences. Clearly no one told them that family holidays are usually the worst recipe for promoting such harmony, but this being a horror flick, we know that our fresh faced middle class protagonists will soon be plunged into some nightmarish scenario that will indeed force them to discover unforeseen strengths and work together to survive. Just your average bank holiday in the UK then…
Said nightmare begins when the Harver’s mobile home is sabotaged by an unseen intruder and mum Katherine (Bentley) narrowly avoids being killed when her tent mysteriously catches fire. The bickering band of soon-to-be-victims head to a seemingly deserted nearby farm, in search of help and contact with the outside world (anal retentive step dad Wesley has suspiciously banned mobile phones from been taken on the trip…he’s played by Toby Wynn Davies, so we can be pretty sure he’ll turn out to be a wrong ‘un.)
There the Harvers encounter the owner, the demented Hunt Hansen (De La Roche) and his hideously disfigured son (Sam Lane), and soon enough the whole family find themselves caged like animals and awaiting slaughter by the Hansens for delivery to ‘The Meat Eater’, a mysterious figure organising a steady supply of longpig to secret ring of discerning customers…
ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (CANNIBAL FARM in the US), is the debut feature from writer/director/editor Charlie Steeds’ Dark Temple outfit, a UK retro horror studio that has already seen its second feature WINTERSKIN recently released to the US market and reviewed here on this very site. Various issues with distributors have delayed the release of Escape  to the UK market, but happily, the excellent 88 Films have finally submitted a release date of October 21 this year.
I’ll freely admit I was expecting a Chainsaw Massacre set in the Cotswolds pastiche, based purely on the snippets served up in the trailer, but I was pleasantly wrong footed as Steeds’ script piles on the plot twists and is surprisingly sympathetic towards the films villains, portraying them as victims of tragic circumstance, driven insane by their misfortune. Even a dash of social commentary about generational wealth divides is thrown in for good measure. The director is certainly not shy on the gore either, favouring practical effects (much to his credit!) and piling on the severed limbs, cooked bodies and bone slicing power tools with relish.
From a production values standpoint, the  direction and camerawork are very assured for a debut feature and Steeds has a great eye for colour and lush visuals which go a long way towards compensating against the film’s tiny budget. The cast is uniformly excellent with British horror’s new favourite ‘final girl’ Kate Davies Speak valiantly holding her own against scenery chewing villainous  turns from De La Roche, Cosgrove and Wynn Davies, last seen in Richard Rowntree’s excellent folk horror update DOGGED.
If there’s a fault to be had with the movie, it’s that the script maybe piles on one two many plot twists and thus risks overreaching. Much of De La Roche’s and Cosgrove’s dialogue too, is at times incomprehensible (I guess that’s what subtitles are for.) These seem like minor quibbles in what is an assured debut from the new studio, which curiously felt like a more rounded experience than its follow up feature WINTERSKIN. Although I doubt it will do  much for west country tourism ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM is a glorious technicolour love letter to the golden age of much maligned lo-fi straight to video horror flicks of the video nasty era from an exciting new player in British horror film making. Long may they reign!

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The Stricken Land

Hello there, and welcome to The Stricken Land! Here I indulge my life-long love of genre movies, trash cinema and tv, the product of an 80's childhood inhabiting dingy video shops in the gloom of northern England. I'll be adding reviews, retrospectives and downright opinionated missives on all things cinematic in an irregular and haphazard fashion as and when the vicissitudes of modern life grant me the all too precious commodity of spare time. Enjoy!

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