Studio: Fangoria Presents
Director: Daniel Krige
Writer: Anthony O’Connor, Jonathon Green
Producer: Jonathon Green, Sandy Stevens
Stars: Nicholas Hope, Kelly Paterniti, Sam Reid, James Mackay, Alan Dukes, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Krige
Accused of multiple murders, a deranged office manager kidnaps the people responsible for his conviction and forces them to work on proving his innocence.
When the system fails an unstable man with a devious mind, he takes matters into his own hands. The people he deems responsible for his situation are captured, bound, tortured, and given a task that will either prove his point, or result in their deaths. Should they survive their twisted experience, they will have a newfound appreciation of the fact that every action has a consequence that should never be taken lightly.
The above synopsis could describe the premise of “Saw” in vague terms. Actually, it is a description of the Saw-inspired Australian thriller “Redd Inc.” At first glance, it felt as though another carbon copy of the “torture porn” genre’s crown jewel had appeared on the screen. And then the movie moved past the premise of six people chained in a room with the threat of a violent death looming over their heads, and moved into its own territory. Once there, I found myself genuinely interested in how the scenario would ultimately play out.
Unlike other “Saw” clones, “Redd Inc” has a story. Convicted of being the notorious “Headhunter,” a serial killer who targeted corporate heads and CEOs, Thomas Reddman (a.k.a. Redd) brings a new meaning to the term “office hell” when the people who put Redd away are forcibly given new jobs to prove his innocence. Anyone who has ever felt chained to a cubicle will see what that expression literally means.
There is a timely bit of wry commentary that vilifies corporate greed while wagging a cautionary finger at how merely going through the motions on a job can cause more trouble than could ever be expected. It is a brief subtlety, and perhaps unintentional, but the office setting with put upon workers and a threatening boss is a horror that makes the unlikely premise at least partially relatable. The setting pulls double duty as a wise choice because the economical production is staged primarily inside one singular conference room.
Nicholas Hope plays the demented Redd. Reminiscent of a cross between Sam Neill and Hugo Weaving, Hope delivers the right blend of character traits to make Redd an intriguing persona instead of a soulless killer. He is at once despicable and admirable. Sinister and studious. Redd has a perverse logic motivating his deranged actions that almost makes sense, and he elicits some sympathy towards his circumstances when the backstory behind his dementia is revealed. His passion for running a productive office is almost respectable, until he starts cutting off heads for poor performance. There are complicated facets to Redd, and Hope conveys all of them at once, even in singular moments.
Kelly Paterniti as Annabelle, who at times you are likely to forget is not Danielle Harris, is equal parts resourceful heroine and Pauline in peril. In fact, most of Redd’s captives have more than one note to their characters. In another film, they would have been props for bloody murder. Here, they have sustained individualities.
To be even a passable “Saw” clone, two things are required. Story is first. Without interesting characters or a unique spin, all that remains is a skeleton for showcasing shocking death scenes. Speaking of death, unique kills are the second requirement. “Torture porn” is popular in part because of the elaborate ways an audience can see a human head torn apart. It is the climactic release for the built-up anticipation of watching imminent doom creep closer towards its victim. “Redd Inc” does not have the checkbook for slaughter to compete on the levels of an Eli Roth film. So it does the next best thing.
“Redd Inc” enlists the reliable makeup FX talents of genre legend Tom Savini to employ his special brand of movie magic on the blood work. There may be no better name for providing gore on a budget. I cannot even remember the last time I saw Savini’s hands dirtied with makeup (IMDB says it has been 10 years since he was last credited in the Makeup Department), so that alone is a draw to the film (as evidenced by his prominent credit on the DVD cover). Just do not expect his patented brand of over-the-top carnage as the work done here is on an intentionally smaller scale. There is more than one decapitation in the film. However, the makeup FX are otherwise effective because of their subtlety. In one instance, Redd brands victims for perceived transgressions by slicing a mark on their foreheads. These thin cuts even wound slightly in a realistic fashion as time progresses. A simple effect, done very well.
Cary Elwes sawing off his own foot is not required when you can provide an even greater armrest-gripper with a pair of pliers and one fingernail. A fountain of blood is equally unnecessary. Plucked out eyeballs and a bag over the head are far more effective ways to make an audience squirm in their seats without resorting to an over-the-top gore shower.
Where “Redd Inc” lets its audience down is in the last act. The tone of the movie makes a change so abrupt that a chiropractor may need to perform neck realignment afterwards. The film ends in a manner that becomes obvious well before it happens, and then thumps itself down on an absurd thud that is out of place with the rest of the movie. A serious attitude can only go so far when the subject matter involves a hook-handed escaped mental patient who thinks of himself as an office manager instead of a serial killer. But “Redd Inc” abandons its demented morality play for rim shots of black comedy that would make more sense in a Troma film. It created intrigue from an implausible concept and then gave up that it could make it all the way through without making fun of itself.
Still, the journey to that end is entertaining. Reliable performances keep the film from straying too far into the silliness zone. That is, until it intentionally goes there on its own. Although along the way, whenever the twisted fantasy starts becoming a comfortable place, there is usually a Savini gag around the corner to reel “Redd Inc” back into a world of grimace-inducing pain.
NOTE: "Redd Inc." is also known by the title “Inhuman Resources.”
Review Score: 60