Director: Warren Dudley
Writer: Warren Dudley
Producer: Warren Dudley, TJ Herbert
Stars: Parry Glasspool, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Lydia Orange, TJ Herbert
Three college students filming a documentary about a missing girl uncover a serial killer’s hidden torture lair.
College kids Jess, Raz, and Raz’s girlfriend Charlie not only have to create a documentary for a class assignment, but their instructor also wants to see behind-the-scenes footage of them filming themselves filming, too. With that simple starting point, “The Cutting Room” solves what is frequently the first complaint of “found footage” by justifying why omnipresent electronic eyes are recording anything and everything in sight.
That’s one problem down. Too bad the film stops there and does little to address other common questions of the format such as why not one of these Media Studies students can hold a camera without having an epileptic seizure, how a music score ended up accompanying suspense scenes, or who edited this raw footage together not with the usual hard cuts, but with quizzical dissolve transitions fading to and from black.*
*The laughable “twist” conclusion retroactively squeezes in an explanation for these last two, but by being an end point reveal, “The Cutting Room” effectively asks its audience to reframe an experience they have already had. By this point, the perception is formed and the damage has long since been done.
Raz wants to do a feature about football. Charlie wants to do one on bullying. Jess takes it an additional step by suggesting cyberbullying and after diligent discussion, the trio reaches an agreement. Recording continues. Research begins. Preliminary work takes them back to their teacher and he suggests fine tuning the focus even more by investigating the disappearance of 17-year-old Rosy Clarke, who reportedly ran away following a cyberbullying incident. 15 minutes into a 70-minute film and the premise is finally formalized.
That’s only the first goose this trio chases to inch the plot further forward. Jess already has an in on Rosy’s story thanks to a journalist sister who reported on the case. Except Jess doesn’t want her sibling involved, so finding a different route is in order. The name Mitch Camlin comes up over the course of research, but ringing him on the phone turns out to be a false lead. Serendipitously, an anonymous text suddenly points the team to Rosy’s father. He has little to say, but Rosy’s sister Christa asks them to find a shady chap named Seth Bridger. With the film forgetting to connect her particular dot and clarify her involvement, someone named Helena somehow appears and tells the group where Seth works. Raz and the girls go there and discover that Seth is no longer employed, but his replacement provides Seth’s address. After all that runaround, the intrepid trio finally tracks down Seth only for him to literally tell them to “f*ck off” before slamming his front door in their faces. 38 minutes into a 70-minute film and progress returns to square one.
Having hit a full stop, the three students acquire a new lead in a non-sequitur sequence of Raz researching a different missing girl, 18-year-old Clara Jenkins. Clara’s mother tells them about an abandoned army barracks in the forest where her daughter would go to do drugs with a mystery man. There’s nothing imperative about the location or the timing requiring a dead of night investigation of these woods, but Raz, Jess, and Charlie do it anyway, presumably so they can make it as hard as possible for both them and the audience to see what is going on with only a solitary flashlight lighting the way, and with that flashlight rivaling the camera to see which can sway farthest and fastest. 48 minutes into a 70-minute film and at least something is finally happening.
“The Cutting Room” plods slowly in so many uneventful circles that drumming up interest in its nearly-neglected core storyline is next to impossible. Raz pointlessly ogles his girlfriend’s mum while she washes dishes. Footage is filmed for the class project that is never used. The group goes to a pub and chats about the quality of cameraphone used for behind-the-scenes coverage. At least “The Blair Witch Project” (review here), which “The Cutting Room” openly references to get out in front of ripoff criticisms, spends its slow build first act establishing backstory and relationships. The first act of “The Cutting Room” is also its second, and leaks into the third as wheels spin without moving momentum anywhere.
There’s even two minutes wasted on an unnecessary opener of Raz and Jess interrupting Charlie’s dance class. Never mind that this is being filmed before actually receiving their assignment. The greater concern is that “The Cutting Room” has only that thrice-mentioned 70 minutes to fill, yet can’t find anything worthwhile to slot in it.
Perhaps the one thing initially going for “The Cutting Room” is that it starts in the minority of “found footage” films by foregoing a focus on paranormal activity or featuring an amateur investigation of a haunted building. Then the climax takes a turn in a matter of seconds, ripping out the grounding in reality for a supposed shock that is senselessly silly, not sadistically scary.
What could have been a creepy chiller with a real-world root or a compelling commentary concerning online dangers settles for meaningless meandering to arrive at a cheap pseudo-surprise. Poorly put together as a first-person film, the only speed “The Cutting Room” has is along the fast track to Dullsville. For truly suspenseful “found footage” featuring kidnapping through computers, seek out the unnerving “Megan Is Missing” (review here) instead.
Review Score: 30