Packed with references to classic horror thrillers, this Australian film is a gimmicky freak-out that keeps our pulses racing even if it never really gets under the skin. The story may be rather simplistic and contrived, but director China keeps everything so stylishly atmospheric that we can't take our eyes off the screen. Even if we have to watch some chillingly grisly moments through our fingers.
It's set in a small town where Marilyn (Haig) works in a seedy bar. Her sleazy boss Slim (Holmes) has hired a Croatian cowboy hitman (Shevtsov) to settle a debt with an old friend, but on one fateful night things take a very dark twist. On his way to see Slim, the cowboy stumbles into the romantic evening Marilyn is planning with her soon-to-be fiance (Barclay). And in her rambling, isolated home, Marilyn becomes a pawn trapped in the middle of both Slim's nasty plan and the cowboy's violent counterplot. But she's not as helpless as everyone thinks.
There are several points in this movie when characters crawl across the ground, each for a very different reason. But that's about as deep as the title goes. Mainly the film is a chance for China to play around with elements from his favourite Coen brothers movies, most obviously Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men. And with its brightly lit sets and smiling killer, there are also nods to Kubrick's The Shining. Each of these references is very cleverly done to keep us intrigued, although we never care about the paper-thin characters and the essentially random situations the script throws them into.
As a result, the film is likely to bore horror fans who prefer something faster paced that gets to the punch without such elaborate set-up scenes. And the rest of us will simply wonder what the point is. That said, China shows a lot of skill as a filmmaker, so the movie works as a calling card for his bold approach to cinema. After the story winds to an end, all we remember are his stylistic flourishes, which bode well for his next project. As long as he has a more interesting screenplay to back up his visual skills, plus a bit more originality to make his love of cinema resonate with us.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 20th November 2013
Distributed by: Bloody Disgusting
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 4.7 / 10
Director: Paul China
Producer: Brian J. Breheny, Benjamin China
Screenwriter: Paul China
Starring: Swann Arlaud as Martin, Anne Marivin as Corinne, Nina Meurisse as Gwen, Gilles Cohen as Jean
Also starring: George Shevtsov