Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #455
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 4 December 2014 (Australia premiere), 1 March 2015 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: Australia
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Chris Sun
Producers: Chris Sun, Dominic Crisci, Laurence Duggan, Debbie Rivers, Sean Gannon, Whitney Duggan
Screenplay: Chris Sun
Special Effects: Kayla Arena, Steven Boyle
Cinematography: Scott Kimber
Score: Mark Cyprian Smythe
Editing: Michael Gilbert
Studio: Slaughter FX
Distributor: Monster Pictures
Stars: Tara Reid, Nathan Jones, Allira Jaques, Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Dean Kirkright, Sam Coward, Cameron Caulfield, Allira Jaques, Genna Chanelle Hayes, David Beamish, Lindsay Edgecomb, Darrell Plumridge, Robert J. Mussett, Stephen Hall, Jeff Watson, Mark E Darin
Suggested Audio Candy:
Men At Work Down Under
I’m always prepared for the arrival of a new slasher juggernaut. There have been precious few in recent times worthy of hanging our hat on and, while Marcus Miller, Victor Crowley, Chromeskull, and Jacob Goodnight have led the charge, numerous others have floundered at the very first hurdle. Indeed, perhaps the most iconic of all, Mick Taylor from Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek films, looks like your regular everyday Bushman until you stray off the beaten track and into his extensive playground. This was evidently in the forefront of fellow Aussie Chris Sun’s thoughts when dreaming up the concept for his third full-length feature, Charlie’s Farm and the outback provides the bloody backdrop once again as Charlie Wilson takes to the stage for his primary pig hunt.
6″11 behemoth Nathan Jones, known simply as Megaman on the strongman scene, has had plenty of time to cut his teeth in preparation. The list is endless: Boagrius in Troy, Hercules O’Brien in Fearless, Petr in The Condemned, Humungus in Asterix at the Olympic Games, Akhun in Conan the Barbarian, and most currently Rictus Erectus in Mad Max: Fury Road. When you consider that the tagline reads “7ft, 375 lbs of Pure Aussie Killing Machine!” it appears as though Sun has chosen well as Jones fits the bill and we appear to have ourselves a leviathan to pin our hopes to.
Orphaned at a young age after an unruly lynch mob took the law into their own hands and slaughtered his beloved parents, Charlie has bided his time presumably living off grubs and roadkilled wallabies while hiding away in his warren and grinding his teeth. Back then he was little more than a scrawny retard whose beady eyes offered his best defense but he certainly hasn’t been idle during the interim and now resembles the back of a barn. Young minds are largely wired by both their environment and experiences, and, not being the academic type, the Wilson boy never really stood a chance of reaching his academic apex. After witnessing his sole role-models snuffed out unceremoniously after engaging in a dash of backwoods shenanigans themselves, revenge was pretty much all he could be expected to look forward to.
The outback covers a vast set of coordinates and not many wayfarers are likely to wander onto your turf but that’s where word of mouth comes in handy. Thanks to a little local legend, Charlie’s Farm is well-known around these parts although most of the neighborhood would rather forget about the events of the night when they took justice into their own hands. It’s only a matter of time before people come a sniffing and, thankfully for Wilson, Tara Reid has a little time on her hands in between fighting off a second Sharknado and the inevitable third downpour. She is the lone American here and has found herself some fellow backpackers to cover some ground with.
Natasha joins pals Jason (Dean Kirkright), Donkey (Sam Coward) and Melanie (Allira Jaques) as the group head off in search of a little folklore and hopefully some relevent paraphernalia to flog on eBay. Charlie’s Farm sets up each domino as we take the journey with the unlikely bunch of friends and make our way to a set of anonymous map coordinates, upsetting the natives en route and knocking back a few bevvies around the camp fire. Perhaps the most notable inclusion is the aptly named Donkey as the one dude we just know is going to get it bad. He may be hung like a mule and possess a tongue with just as much penetrative girth, but behind all that blubber is a boy who just craves to be loved. Meanwhile, Reid appears a little out-of-sorts and it’s hard buying into her motivation for selecting her travel companions.
After the customary well-worn slasher prefix provides ample proof that Charlie knows his way around a slaughterhouse, the remainder of the opening act trails the four across the barren badlands, tempering the usual hijinks with a little exposition to ensure we remain in the loop. This provides the first, and most telling, of two crowd pleasing cameos courtesy of Bill Moseley. Along with his potty-mouthed spouse, he brings his very best Otis and the inbred Wilsons make the very most of their limited screen time. It’s not until the second act that we reach our destination and, after failing to navigate a flimsy metal gate with their off-road vehicle, the meat in our sandwich decide to make the remainder of their pilgrimage on-foot.
For taking his sweet time with their deliverance, Sun rewards us with a couple of fellow prime ribs and the six are given a few minutes to jell before Charlie gets to show off his gruff baritone. Alas, here is where a trick is missed. We have played ball to this point and are primed for some good old-fashioned backwoods suspense but, by the time our bearded razorback arrives on the scene, he’s fed up with waiting and not about to play hide and seek. One by one, and in far too quick succession, the dominos drop and his formidability in the field provides something of a twig in the spokes. In this respect, he’s more of your Victor Crowley variety and operates on the tear limb from limb first, ask questions once he’s had elocution lessons level of carnage. At one point, he does utter the word “pretty” but otherwise he lets his calluses do the talking as he wrings the life out of anyone who dares enter his personal bubble.
Sensing that he may be bolting the gate, Sun then calls on cameo #2 and this time Kane Hodder steps up to the blood-drenched mantle. His inclusion as Tony “Hitman” Stewart is a little unusual, never more so than when he decides to follow the group to their burial ground and arrives in the time it takes to drown in a lake. Hodder provides the most stern test for Charlie and it is understandable that our Goliath should wrestle superiority from such a master of madness. However, even the mighty Jason Voorhees can’t put the skids on our unruly orphan for long and it is left to 100 lbs dripping wet Reid to tackle the Savagenado single-handed. Where’s Ian Ziering when you need him most?
To her credit, she wakes up from her waking slumber as the net closes in and displays all the usual histrionics bang on cue. However, the odds are stacked so perilously against her miniscule frame that anything other than inevitability would mean severe improbability. The most frustrating factor is that Sun has done all the hard work by creating a colossus capable of leaving his mark, and then squanders that hard work by refusing point-blank to stray from the template.
Mark Cyprian Smythe Charlie’s Farm
Mercifully, what the film lacks in a willingness to forge a distinctive path of its own, it partially makes up for through some rather bonzer dispatches. It’s practical splatter all the way and, what’s more, there’s plenty of it spraying across the screen during a frenetic final act in which we really get to see how Charlie has been spending his summers. This comes as a substantial relief as, kills aside, this paints by-the-numbers and somewhat fritters its potential as a result of playing it so safe. A few less dick and fart jokes and a little more search before destroy and we could have been looking at potential franchise material. In its current format, Charlie’s Farm may never receive that opportunity.
Having said that, Sun is already hard grafting on Boar which marks a return for Jones alongside none other than everyone’s favorite larrikin, John Jarratt. This could act as something of a stepping stone should he take a few more chances. Ozploitation is alive and well and there are far worse ways to spend 88 minutes than paying a visit to Charlie’s Farm. Alas, having watched Steve Wolsh’s Muck directly beforehand and being pleasantly surprised by the enterprising approach taken, it’s all a bit too safe to stand out from the crowd. When you consider how utterly imposing the mangy mongrel is, it’s hard not feeling a little short-changed. With a little more patience, the virtue would have soon followed. Let’s hope Mick Taylor has some tips for him. Two weeks as a ranch hand on Wolf Creek and I’m sure he’d have him whipped into shape.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: One thing Charlie can’t be accused of is being a one trick pony. He has many methods of decimation at his disposal, whether using his environment, any number of tools from his work shed, or simply his bare bloody hands to whittle down numbers. Standouts include the wheel of an agricultural vehicle being used to crack a particularly stubborn nut, some quick-fire deep throat which makes you glad not to be hung like Eeyore, and a gloriously sickening jaw wrench which almost adds a mark to the overall score all on its own. We are supplied a little shoe-horned skinny dipping but, once again, Charlie just can’t hold his horses and we’re ultimately left clutching our pythons. Rats!
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015