Archive for August, 2016


Having had some pretty good luck with European low-budget “found-footage” horror recently thanks to the rather splendid German indie effort Die Prasenz (or The Presence, if you prefer), I decided to give 2015 UK import The Cutting Room a go when I saw it available for streaming on Hulu (it’s also available on Blu-ray and DVD depending on where you live) just to see if there might be a trend brewing across the pond when it comes to breathing new life into this much-maligned genre. A spot of quick reading beforehand revealed that writer/director Warren Dudley got this thing in the can for the paltry sum of 12,ooo pounds, further piquing my interest, and reviews, while far from great on the whole, seemed to at least be mixed enough to offer some hope. Odds are I wouldn’t be walking into a classic here by any means, but what the fuck — it didn’t sound like it would be anything too terrible, either. Cautiously optimistic, I duly pressed “play” and hoped for the best —


Our less-threadbare-than-these-things-usually-are plot revolves around a group of three media studies students named Raz (played by Parry Glasspool), Charlie (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) and Jess (Lydia Orange), who are tasked by their professor, one Mark Kallis (T.J. Herbert) to come up with a topical documentary feature for the direct-to-DVD market complete with behind-the-scenes extras (thus giving at least some logical pretext for the inclusion of so much footage that would be more appropriate for a “making-of featurette” than anything else). Given that a recent wave of cyber-bullying has been going on in their town (with devastating and tragic results), they settle on that for their subject matter, but almost from jump they find that the story goes much deeper than they could possible have imagined, and a convoluted series of events leads them connect the dots between from the online harassment they’re initially investigating to the disappearances of a couple of local teenage girls to, finally, an exploration of a disused underground army barracks deep in the woods outside of town.

Mystery and suspense are in rather short supply here given that the less-than-good professor seems eager for the two young ladies in the group to tackle the project they’ve chosen but less enthusiastic about the guy’s involvement, and that pretty much telegraphs from the outset that our luckless trio are probably wandering into a trap. Shit gets reasonably sadistic once they’re well within the impenetrable walls of the barracks, but it’s not the clever sadism of, say, the Saw franchise, and more just the garden-variety shit you see in any horror flick about a dude who gets off on torturing youthful members of the fairer sex. A gut-wrenching opening shot ripped straight from the Kubrick playbook gives a tantalizing glimpse of the horrors to come, it’s true, but once things start happening in earnest just past the halfway point, there’s a definite sense of “been there, done that” hanging over everything.

Louisa Adams as Clara

We’re all more than well used to how “shaky cam” horrors operate by now, and Dudley offers nothing particularly new or interesting as far as the overall aesthetic goes on that front, either. The kids are all admirably foul-mouthed, I’ll give ’em that, but less-than-average student filmmakers. The worst of these sorts of flicks tend to be populated with characters who you actively want to die as quickly and as brutally as possible, it’s gotta be said, and I’ll credit both Dudley and his cast for not quite sinking that low with any of our protagonists here, but they’re all drawn in such sweeping one-dimensional strokes that you can’t really force yourself to like any of ’em, either — which means that The Cutting Room ends up inhabiting an uncomfortable middle ground wherein you simply don’t care enough about anyone either way to feel any sort of concern for what happens to them.


Pacing is another problem here as we go from breakneck intro to slower-than-molasses set-up to rapid-fire final act. Things do, in fact, get more interesting than they had been toward the end, but again, it’s all derivative as hell, and you’ve gotta sit through some interminably slow stuff to get to that point — I can only imagine that by then a lot of folks will probably have either tuned out or turned off. The entire flick clocks in at a lean 73 minutes, but truth be told it feels much longer — if a truly original payoff were waiting on the other side of the film’s 25-mile-an-hour zone than would be one thing, sure, but to have our patience rewarded with nothing but uninspired “torture porn” makes the whole enterprise feel like a waste of time.

Which, I suppose, is exactly what The Cutting Room amounts to. I’ve seen plenty worse — and so have you, I’m willing to wager — but we’ve all seen much better, as well. If you pass on this one (as you should, if you couldn’t tell), you won’t be missing a damn thing.