Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Savages Crossing

Savages Crossing
Dir. Kevin James Dobson
Year: 2010
Aus Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 84mins

Savages Crossing is without a doubt a true bona fide contender for worst movie ever made in Australia. Give or take a Footy Legends here or Houseboat Horror there. It features nary a single solitary frame of quality cinema and can boast to having some of the worst acting, directing, writing, editing and sound I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing. Within five minutes I had already guffawed loudly like Edna Crabapple in The Simpsons, stared agog at the names of quality cast-members during the credits and planted my face in the palms of my hands at the ridiculous nature of how the story was already unfolding. It was only the beginning.

Co-Written by husband and wife team of John Jarratt and Cody Jarrett (yes, they have near-identical surnames), directed by Kevin James Dobson (who has worked on A Country Practice, The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years and a movie called The Virgin of Juarez starring Minnie Driver, of all people) and starring a bunch of recognisable, and occasionally quite talented people, names such as Jarratt himself, Craig McLachlan, Jessica Napier, Sacha Horler, Chris Haywood and, strangest of all, Aussie acting legend Angela Punch McGregor. Oh and John Jarratt's son, Charlie. Of course.

Savages Crossing is the sort of movie in which the camera lingers on a sign that reads "ROAD SUBJECT TO FLOODING" as ominous-looking clouds roll overhead. Savages Crossing is the sort of movie in which a character's entire back story can be explained in a 30-second foul-mouthed monologue because it's not really all that important anyway. Savages Crossing is the sort of movie that features a heavy rainstorm that stops whenever the filmmakers could no longer afford the rain machine. It's a terrible movie through and through without a glimpse of hope amongst its, at times, unpleasant and ugly actions.

John Jarratt stars as Phil, a criminal recently released from prison and on the hunt for his wife and son. All he wants is his half of the money she got from... something something. Sue (Angela Punch McGregor) and her teenage son Damien (Charlie Jarratt) escape to the country, but not before a flood halts them in their tracks and forces them to pull into a roadside pub, owned by Mory and Kate (Craig McLachlan and Jessica Napier). Also at the roadhouse are travelling buddies Shae and Mickey (Sacha Horler and Rebecca Smart). Shae's a lesbian in case you needed to know. Soon enough Phil arrives too, as does Chris Haywood's hired assassin character and basically what you have is a "simmering" "hotplate" of "tensions", which slowly turns into a rip-off of The Shining meets Wolf Creek.

Characters do stupid things, stupid things happen to characters, events make no sense and long passages of idiocy make up the scant, and mercifully brief, 84 minute running time. Of course the McLachlan character stops a gunfight that allows Phil to escape into the thankfully not-flooded woods behind the road house. Of course people only think to punch Phil instead of shooting him with the semi-automatic weapons they have on hand and of course people are more concerned with the why of Phil's rampage rather than the fact that he is trying to kill everyone in sight! Some movie characters truly deserve whatever horrible fate awaits them, I swear.

It's quite obvious that this movie was made on the smell of an oily rag since the entire production looks cheap cheap cheap. Sound effects sound tinny and the visuals are continually murky and unimpressive. The writing is frequently cringe inducing with its desire to create stupid catchphrases, while its characters are unpleasant and unworthy of a film. I spent a large chunk of time feeling sad for McGregor and Horler, exceptional actresses each of them and yet stuck here making ends meat in a film so exceptionally bad that it demands its own chapter in Michael Adams' ode to bad movies, Showgirls, Teen Werewolves and Astro Zombies.

It wouldn't be necessarily a bad thing if the movie was at least a bit of trashy fun, but it's really not. After the opening ten minutes I realised that this was all for real. They had actually hired so-called professionals and proper actors who thought they were making a serious horror thriller. As a premise Savages Crossing has a good one and could have been a doozy with a name like Greg McLean behind the camera and someone giving the screenplay a good ol' rewrite. Sean Byrne's upcoming The Loved Ones is an exceptionally well-made movie based around a limited number of cast-members in a single set structure, but the limitations of Savages Crossing's production come through far too loud and clear to be seen as anything other than a waste of time and money.

Whoever saw the final cut of this and thought anybody would want to see John Jarratt recite nursery rhymes in one of the most overblown, overwrought and overacted pieces of garbage performances I've ever seen was clearly kidding themselves. I'm not sure what happened to Jarratt here, but its as if he tried to take his Mick Taylor character from Wolf Creek one step further but ended up coming out on the other side of batshit bonkers. But that goes for most of the movie, really. Consider this before you finish reading this: Savages Crossing is worse than Prey. It's worse than Long Weekend and it's certainly worse than Cut. It is the bottom of the barrel and should've remained there. F

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