Review by: Jay Kay
As streaming platforms and more distribution companies pop up, the need and increase in horror film content grows. CUT SHOOT KILL is another piece of horror content that takes the basic slasher formula, adds a few clever twists, well-constructed gore makeup and excellent cinematography but still fades into the bloody forest of horror film history. Let’s be honest, who am I to criticize the creators, cast and crew that have created another modern day twisty and gory slasher film? I have never made more than a few short (and I mean short) films. However, like the film as I viewer, I want a sense of something more and a complete feeling of reality to immerse me. I want the time that I am investing to mean something and not deal with the nearly old slasher troupes and model like so many times before. Sorry to say but CUT SHOOT KILL did not fulfill that.
CUT SHOOT KILL’S story surrounds a young, arrogant and insecure actress named Serena (Alexandra Socha) who decides to take on a horror film found for her by her new agent. She is very reluctant to delve into the shallow end of the acting pool by being part of a horror film. Serena meets the director Alabama (Alex Hurt) for coffee and listens to the pitch for his first ever feature film. Seeing the upside, she takes on a leading role. Deciding her craft is more important, she also alienates her boyfriend before heading out to the middle of nowhere for the next three weeks. Serena is joined by a group of beautiful people… I mean actors who contrast the down home and family like indie horror crew that has been making short films forever. As everyone comes together, tension and pressure mounts. Demands are made and dark secrets come to the surface with the production taking some sinister turns. With each take, cut and change of the script, the line of reality and macabre filmmaking begin to blur with a series of murders and mayhem that fill the screen in an effort to create the most realistic horror film. As the cast and crew are slowly dispatched with, Serena begins to realize that perhaps she is missing the bloody passion to take her performance to the next level. Will Serena reach a killer level or will she just be another victim of a production that will do anything to make the ultimate horror film?
Where to begin… CUT SHOOT KILL is your late 90’s style cookie cutter slasher film. It has many of the similar elements, formula, and usual process to create another project for anyone who just wants the horror norm. However, there are some aspects this film excels at overall. First, the DP Ray Flynn has talent. Flynn has primarily worked on short films which has garnered him experience and understanding on how to frame, move a scene and capture more than what is on screen. His visual eye no doubt comes from being on sets for several huge productions like BIRDMAN, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, THE VILLAGE, TV’s 30 ROCK and more. Flynn’s framing is very satisfying as he allows the motion and performance to fill up each of his frames on a variety of levels. Flynn crafts a canvas with in concert with the set design, shadow and lighting he is given which aides and enhances the scenes mood, visual detail and impact of the horror. A great example is the scarf scene or in the cellar.
Second, while the story at times is confusing and the editing creates too fine of a blurred line between reality and fantasy, writer and director Michael Walker shows some talent within his writing. Walker shows his love of the genre on so many levels. Whether it is the drama, conflict and reality of filmmaking or the twisted and satisfaction of justice, Walker crafts a script that is less objective and more personal. In the same breath, Walker needed more development in several areas of the film. A couple of examples includes your lead character Serena and her boyfriend’s tension. This would have added more depth to the character as well as story if we saw a different side of Serena instead of the “actor” and very unlikable character (like many in this film). Perhaps more substance about the sleazy producer or the Alabama’s love interest. You need sweet as well as savage for today’s jaded audience.
One thing I loved about this film and it hooked me was the idea of justice at the end of the film. Walker creates a slow burn but it’s a satisfying twist of justice that rewards those who survive the runtime of the film. Why the idea of final and brutal justice in horror/revenge films is not a new revelation, for some reason in CUT SHOOT KILL the buildup, execution of the final scenes and kill hooked me. It made me wish that this film had more of that pop and substance throughout the previous two acts. I am not sure if again this is because of the edit or perhaps the lack of depth in many areas throughout the story or even just my oversaturation of the slasher/Scream sub-genre of horror that really did not capture me until the last act?
Finally, CUT SHOOT KILL embodies the angst, emotion and gory life of indie horror filmmaking which is both a curse and blessing in this film. Why I do not have many credits to my name, I continue to hear the war stories and nightmares from numerous talents that go through this on a regular basis. CUT SHOOT KILL taps into that reality from not only the filmmakers side but the stigma and arrogance of performers who feel they are above the genre that offers more creative freedom, more roles, more money overall and more opportunity. Walker does a solid job of crafting dialogue and situations that bring this reality to life. However, it seems he is so focused on it, that while it is great to see the passion it at times drags the film down to the point you want to see development in other areas. Oh, before I leave you to decide on whether to spend your sitting on the film, props to the practical FX makeup! Overall, it is well done for the level film, range of kills and no doubt lack of budget. From the variety of kills to the blood splatter to a visually altered body, the makeup team should be proud of the work they did to bring some visual substance and raise this film.
Watch the trailer for CUT SHOOT KILL