Just when you think the modern Hollywood horror film has been all tapped out, along comes one of those movies that keeps you guessing even if you think you know what’s coming. Director/co-writer David Rountree tosses some tasty ideas into his chunky horror stew that will keep you hooked in and guessing right up until the double (or is it triple?) back-flip ending. It’s tricky to discuss the film in detail without spoiling a few of its twists and turns, but if you’re paying attention you may see a few of the surprises coming.
That said, if you go in with expectations of yet another slasher film, it’s a good sign that the movie shoots you down a few predictable paths before whipping the red carpet from underneath you much more than you’d think. Rountree also stars in the film as Travis Simon, an employee of a film equipment rental shop who works with Lane (David Banks), an ex-con with a rather nasty disposition and a particularly unsettling hobby. When Travis decides to make a low-budget horror film with Lane’s help, let’s just say things go predictably awry and downhill fast. A little accidental death during the making of their film doesn’t deter the pair from continuing their project and in fact, spurs Lane on as he starts taking things a bit too seriously.
CUT! zips between black comedy and dramatic bits with equal relish, piling on just enough shocks and blood spilled without going too far into the red zone. It also works as a thriller because it drops you into a mystery as you slowly see that not everything is as it seems on the surface. That said, Brooks plays Lane as such a wholly unlikable guy right from his first scene that you’ll wonder how the hell super-nice Travis is even acquainted with him. Of course, this plays heavily into the plot, but saying more enters into spoiler territory. While it may seem like a flaw, the Travis/Lane dynamic is actually one of the things that makes an oddball kind of sense by the climax. The movie toys with the audience like a cat batting around a mouse or bird before going in for the kill and depositing a little gift on its owner’s lap. Somehow, the two continue filming, the bodies start piling up and yes, your brain will go on a neat little spin as the film progresses.
In addition to some solid camerawork and pacing throughout, Rountree’s gets some nice work from his small cast that includes Sam Scarber, Dahlia Salem. Watch out for the cameos from Suze Lanier-Bramlett (The Hills Have Eyes, The Hills Have Eyes Part II) and Gabrielle Stone, both of whom get some icky verbal abuse from Lane when they pop up to pick up some rental equipment for the film they’re making. It’s an interesting scene for the amusing, obvious name-dropping as well as another chance to show what a total creep Lane is to anyone he encounters.
One thing you don’t want or need to do is apply arbitrary rules of reality to anything you see here. It will seem that some scenes are so incredulous that they make little to no sense in the real world. But again, that’s Rountree playing hard with your expectations as he manipulates your mindset. Yes, a few cliches get tossed into the mix and bubble to the surface a tad undercooked or overdone. But what makes the film work are the way it takes what should be eye-rolling moments and hooks you in even deeper thanks to surprises you may not have seen arriving at just the right moment. As things are explained, you may feel relieved on one hand while the other part of your brain is saying “WTF?” at how messed up certain things turn out for some of the characters.
As noted above, if you’re one of those restless movie viewers who likes to get up and hit the snack bar or have a short attention span when watching films at home, not paying attention to the story will have you lost a few times. In a theater situation, you can’t pause the film if you need a bathroom break and this is seriously one of those movies where missing even a minute or two will leave you in the dark if you missed a twist or reveal. Fortunately, CUT! is a cut above the rest and should hold your interest until the very end. While a sequel is probably not in the cards, I’d keep a good eye on David Rountree is he decides to make another genre (or any other) flick. This one’s got teeth (and a hammer) and will nail you to your seat from start to finish.