Studio: Freestyle Digital Media
Director: Michael Walker
Writer: Michael Walker
Producer: Alfred Theodore Sapse
Stars: Alexandra Socha, Alex Hurt, Jay Devore, Nils Lawton, Cathy Curtin, Phil Burke, Zanny Laird, Josh Salt, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Lexi Lapp, Michael Oberholtzer, Henry Zebrowski
A struggling actress takes the lead role in a slasher movie only to discover that the crew may be murdering the cast for real.
How badly does struggling actress Serena Brooks want her big break? Almost as badly as fledgling director Alabama Chapman wants to make the most realistic scary movie that horror fans have ever seen.
Alabama has been at it for years, working with the same grassroots crew on low-budget shorts. He hopes to finally roll his insatiable ambition into a fright-filled feature. Serena thinks slumming it as a prospective Scream Queen is beneath her undiscovered talents. But striking out on countless auditions is taking its toll on her career as well as her relationship.
Luckily for Serena, although not so much for her predecessor, Alabama lost his longtime leading lady when she was mysteriously murdered. At her agent’s insistence, Serena signs on for a plum part in “The Collector” and is reluctantly on her way to a remote forest location for four weeks of secluded shooting.
The only thing more suspicious to Serena than the director’s insistence on no cellphones or internet is the curious cast and crew Alabama has assembled. Oddball “iBall” is the production’s dimwitted P.A. Serena’s main male co-star is a fallen former child actor. When some of these people start going missing, Serena starts wondering if something strange is afoot.
Her instincts are on the money. It turns out Alabama has an unusual plan for pulling authentic performances from his players that takes method acting to a whole new level. As Serena unravels the thread regarding what is really happening, staying alive is suddenly much more important than becoming a star.
Writer/director Michael Walker’s “Cut Shoot Kill” mixes expected woodland slasher tropes with a touch of subtle satire about the indie filmmaking world for a meta-movie that does more with the former than it does with the latter. Similar fictional-fear-becomes-reality premises have been seen in films such as “The Hills Run Red” before, although “Cut Shoot Kill” still puts a spin on the idea that is intermittently enjoyable, albeit ultimately ordinary.
“Cut Shoot Kill” isn’t a comedy, yet there is a hint of humor in having a hillbilly filmmaking “family” being the cabal behind the carnage. The movie recognizes it is dealing with an improbable concept and acknowledges it just enough to wink without risking a break into full-on splattery silliness.
Which is a double-edged machete because literally and figuratively, “Cut Shoot Kill” could use more color. A lot of everything looks the same starting with interchangeable characters and ending with skipped opportunities to expand creativity.
If you can keep blonde actresses Chloe and Candice straight, you’re a better person than I. The only thing making Gordon any different than Francis is the fact that one of them has an English accent. Costumes clad everyone in so many plain wife-beaters and shaggy brown haircuts, telling the plentiful people apart turns into a full-time task.
On one level, I respect how Michael Walker restrains personalities to a point where they can’t turn into overt lampoons. Or worse, into standard stereotypes who can be reduced to “the black guy,” “the loudmouth, “the sexpot,” etc.
On the other hand, the viewer in me who is looking for maximum entertainment desires spunkier variety. Whenever the A story pauses to pop over to one of Alabama’s previous shorts, or to footage from the movie within the movie, all of the scenes look alike. The idea is that Alabama is essentially making the same piece of torture porn again and again, trying to perfect his formula. But for the audience’s benefit, Walker could liven things up by making one short a creature feature, another a black and white throwback piece, and so on. Diversity like that would dilute the disappointment of recycling similar setups.
“Cut Shoot Kill” carves positive notches from the lead performance of Alexandra Socha as Serena. Socha has a blend of both Neve Campbell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead that is perfect for a plucky heroine with a certain amount of resourceful verve, yet retains a streak of a wannabe spoiled starlet. The rest of the cast does what they can to match up with their slimmer characterizations while Socha remains the movie’s glue.
There is an edge to the film that could cut even deeper into the mediocrity if it had a bit more sharpness to its blade. “Cut Shoot Kill” is a decent slasher simply in need of more style behind its straightforward shocks.
Review Score: 60