Cut! (2014)

Cut poster2What does it take to scare today’s audience in a horror film? Is it a well-written script that has organic scares which are integral to the plot, or do real scares come from the unexpected? Are real scares derived from reality, like reality-based TV shows, where the victim doesn’t even realized they are in a horror film? These are some of the questions explored in CUT!. Let’s see if the filmmakers were successful.

CUT! is written by David Banks and David Rountree (Rountree also directed), both who are also the film’s leads. Rountree plays Travis, a guy who works at a company who supplies equipment to filmmakers (cameras, lighting equipment, etc). Travis’s buddy is Lane (David Banks), an ex-con who was jailed for beating a prostitute and selling drugs. They have a rather odd relationship and you wonder right from the beginning why Travis hangs around with the explosive Lane. One day Travis is on a movie set making sure the production has all the right equipment when he becomes pissed at the lack of skills of the production’s director. As he tells Lane afterwards, that director couldn’t set up a shot or direct anything to save his life. Travis then decides he’s going to make his own horror movie and really scare people. As he brainstorms with Lane, Travis concludes that a traditional narrative is not the way to go. He wants something more along the lines of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – something audience’s will think is real. He wants to really scare people and get their raw, unscripted reactions.

Cut2Thus is the beginning of a journey that travels down a dark road rather quickly. Since Lane is pretty familiar with all the best spots to get prostitutes in town, they decide scaring the shit out of a ‘tute will be their first scene. Things don’t go well and the ‘tute discovers Travis hiding in the closet and storms out. But it is L.A. and soon enough they find the perfect prostitute, Chloe Jo (Dahlia Salem). They have everything set up and Lane even gets an intimidating, questionably sane homeless guy (Sam Scarber) to scare Chloe Jo. Once again things don’t go exactly as planned for the aspiring filmmakers and the homeless guy really kills the prostitute. What could’ve been a career-ending moment instead becomes a career-defining one and the two decide that this is the kind of realism their film needs and they set off down a dark road.

Cut3The biggest strength of this film is the acting. The two leads, Travis (Rountree) and Lane (Banks) are strong, solid actors who pull off their roles beautifully. Travis comes off as almost a doofus – a likable doofus – and you can’t help but support him and want to see him succeed. Lane, on the other hand, is a powder keg with a lit fuse. You never know when he’s going to go off but you know when he does it’s gonna be bad. Banks’ performance was fantastic. Banks could have easily crossed the line and drifted into the realm of overacting but he has incredible focus on what and who the character of Lane is. In the beginning of CUT! you almost like Lane. He’s a prick but he’s also kind of funny in his own right. By the middle of the film you see Lane for what he truly is; a violent, borderline sociopath. Really great performance. The supporting cast also put in solid performances. There’s not one character who stands out as being a weak or amateur actor.

Cut1On the other side of the coin the film does flounder in a few areas. There are more than a few scenes that seem to be nothing more than padding in the film. The film has a run time of 101 minutes but could’ve benefitted from another go-around in the editing room to tighten it up. Scenes like the one where Travis and Lane are talking to two prostitutes and then incur the wrath of an angry pimp and the scene where a cop pulls them over and Travis schools the cop on proper procedure really don’t go anywhere and only bring the film to a crawl. Losing scenes like these would’ve made the flow of the film stronger.

Cut4There’s also a twist in the final act (don’t worry, no spoilers here) that did address a few of my concerns, but it also brought up a few new ones. Travis is an intelligent man who becomes frustrated by the lack of talent in the industry and wants to make his mark on Hollywood. I get it. He wants realism in his film because the believes that’s what is scary. But what they end up with is a bunch of random scenes of people being killed on film for real. Even the non-savvy filmmaker Lane has to realize they aren’t making a movie but rather a snuff film, and who the hell is going to distribute snuff? There’s even a scene when Lane gets his own prostitute and brings her back to his place and slaughter’s her. There were no cameras around or anything. This twist does address, as I mentioned, some of the problems I had with CUT!, but then the writers decide to go another step and give the viewer another twist on top of the original twist. This was one too many twists and it did nothing for the film. This second twist could be completely left out of the film and it wouldn’t have been missed.

Cut5CUT! is ultimately an enjoyable film with strong acting and a decent story. Unfortunately all the gore was done off screen but I don’t think the filmmakers were going for a bloodbath of a movie. With another round of either a script or film edit I think CUT! could’ve been tighter and as a result stronger all around. CUT! is a fun movie but ya just can’t help but feel there’s a little too much padding in it. I’m recommending this film but be prepared for all the pieces to not fit together in the end.

My Summary:

Director: David Rountree (& co-writer with David Banks)

Plot: 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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