Cast: Angus Sampson, Damon Herriman, Anna McGahan
Directors: Colin and Cameron Cairnes
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Running Time: 90 minutes
Synopsis: They're not psycho killers… they're just small business operators!
The recent introduction of human cadavers to the Morgan Brothers' blood and bone fertiliser blend has been a huge boon to business. So when Reg Morgan, the undervalued junior partner in the company, comes across a dead car crash victim while out on his deliveries, it's only natural that he sees an opportunity to bolster dwindling supplies. It's been months since their last find, and an important new customer has just put in a big order for their -new blend' fertiliser.
Meanwhile, twenty-something musical festival-goers James, Sophie and Wes find themselves stranded on a remote country road when their car breaks down. James is all set to propose to his high school sweetheart, but Sophie's not sure that James is -the one'. Her doubts are only compounded by a recent secret dalliance with party boy Wes.
Then Reg Morgan comes along and offers to take the kids to the festival"as long as they don't mind a little detour past his property. Little do they know Reg is eyeing off another -business opportunity' here. Until now, murder has never been part of the Morgan Brothers' modus operandi, but that big order of -new blend' has to be filled. This daring little initiative is also a way for Reg to prove to his domineering big brother that he's not just the grunt, but an ideas man too.
Sophie hops in the front of the truck with Reg. Against his better judgement Reg starts to take a shine to Sophie when she reveals she grew up in the bush. In the back of the truck Wes gets into the festival mood and pops some acid, while James tells of his plans to propose to Sophie. But then the guys discover the bloodied body of the dead driver under a pile of fertiliser bags. However, their efforts to alert Sophie are in vain. She and Reg are having too good a time up front singing along to a Slim Dusty classic.
Reg returns to the property now slightly torn, but still eager to impress his bossy brother Lindsay. But Lindsay goes berserk when he learns that Reg has gone over his head with this new business initiative. It looks like Reg will go on being denied the recognition he has desired for so long.
Held captive in the shed, James, Sophie and Wes watch horrified as Lindsay runs the corpse from the truck through a massive meat grinder. But it turns out the -dead' man isn't all that dead"he comes to as he's fed into the machine. Reg finally shows his true colours and tries to save the man, but Lindsay, ever the pragmatist, is having none of it and goes full throttle on the grinder.
Lindsay checks the potassium levels of their latest -render'. The levels are incredible"you could fertilise the Nullarbor with this gear. Now it's Lindsay who's getting ideas: to meet the demands of their big new customer, Sophie, James and Wes will be processed alive… or -hot-boned' as Lindsay coins the new process.
Then an acid-fuelled Wes escapes.
Lindsay goes after Wes, intent on keeping him alive, but in the process is forced to kill local cop and old pal, Sergeant Burke. If this is what being customer‐focused is all about, then so be it.
Back at the property, Reg is not only starting to regret his actions, he's also developing real feelings for Sophie. He wants to help the kids but he's also scared of upsetting the increasingly unhinged Lindsay.
Amidst all this mayhem, James learns the horrible truth about Sophie and Wes. This revelation couldn't have come at a worse time, but James demands to know all the gory details. In fact getting to the bottom of Sophie and Wes' affair far outweighs his need to get out of this place alive.
Then, Lindsay returns, with Wes in the boot.
Inspired by the connection he seems to have made with Sophie, Reg decides it's finally time to confront his big bad brother"tell him that all of this madness has got to stop. It might mean the end of the business, but it's time for Reg Morgan to do the right thing.
100 Bloody Acres
Release Date: August 1st, 2013
100 Bloody Acres is the debut feature of filmmaking brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes. Lifelong fans of horror genre films, the brothers began turning their long--‐talked about ideas for a pure horror film into a script in 2005.
In 2008 the Cairnes brothers were participants in the Australian Film Commission's development lab IndiVision, where they first met producer Julie Ryan. They stayed in touch after the lab and in 2010 Cyan Films picked up the project just when the brothers won both the horror section of the 2010 Slamdance Screenwriting Competition for 100 Bloody Acres and the IF Award for best short film for Celestial Avenue.
But their pure horror film had somehow become a horror comedy…
Developing the script: when horror and comedy meet
Julie Ryan, producer: -100 Bloody Acres is a must--‐see for people who like gore and love to laugh. It has that perfect balance where one minute you're wincing and the next minute you're rolling around the floor. When I read the script back in 2008 I loved it immediately and wanted to produce it under the Cyan banner. Maybe I identified with the story because I'm from the country like Sophie... or maybe it's because I'm a fanatical gardener and understand the benefits of blood and bone on my pumpkins!'
Says Colin Cairnes, elder of the filmmaking Cairnes brothers of award--‐winning short comedy Celestial Avenue fame: -We wanted 100 Bloody Acres to be pure horror. We just wanted it to be a really scary Texas Chain Saw Massacre type of film.' But somehow as work progressed another less sinister element found its way into the script. Cam Cairnes picks up the story: -As we were writing it we found ourselves writing jokes: we just couldn't help ourselves. But as the characters and the situations developed it seemed to be going down a slightly different path and we just embraced that.'
The comedy/horror hybrid is a genre with a lot of vigour. Growing up, Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes's favourite films were genre hybrids like An American Werewolf in London and Re-Animator, of interest to critics and movie audiences alike. The comedy-horror has always been an appealing genre. Loved by hardcore fans of horror, it also has much broader appeal. Think Fargo, Sleepy Hollow, Shaun of the Dead, the Scary Movie franchise, Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The list goes on.
The comedy instinct of the Cairnes brothers has always been an essential ingredient of the film and television recipes they've cooked up in the past. IF Award-winning short film Celestial Avenue centres on a Melbourne girl who falls in love with a boy who works in a restaurant in Chinatown. The story is fall-down funny. But at the same time it's told warmly; we come to love the main characters. As Colin Cairnes says -Regardless of what the project is we tend to fall in love with our characters, even the evil ones. Once we flesh them out they become a lot more complex and interesting-and funny.'
Cameron Cairnes explains that the first draft of the script was written six or seven years ago, and the shooting script -is essentially the same architecture.' There's an element of innovation, of pushing boundaries, in 100 Bloody Acres. Early drafts toyed with ambitious ideas of continuous action, à la Hitchcock's Rope or the more recent Russian Ark. The notion of real time interested the brothers. -Yes, how naïve we were,' laughs Colin Cairnes. -But whether or not it was one shot, the idea of continuous action appealed to us. The actual story hasn't changed much since that second draft where that was the plan. But I think as fun as that concept was it was potentially going to deny us the opportunity to explore all the characters as fully as we wanted to.' The film does retain some of that sense of real time, as events reach their inevitable, inexorable conclusion. Colin Cairnes again: -So I think we've hung onto some of that original vision while giving it more of a classic cinema structure. We have definitely been respectful"to a large degree"of horror film conventions but what will set this film apart is how we play with the audience's expectations of the genre.'
Some sequences within 100 Bloody Acres could almost stand alone as short films, so perfect is the internal structure and sense of completeness. The Cairnes brothers are drawn to a criss‐crossing of stories, themes and characters: short stories within a bigger story each serving to reflect and reinforce the other minor characters who exist in compelling little worlds of their own, themes that re-erupt, completing the circle.
Cameron Cairnes refers to one of the supporting characters: -Wes and his trip-being on acid he thinks he's the hero-and I think that's one of the fun things about it. When you think about it, every character thinks they're the hero of the story. Even the villains are quite motivated in what they're doing and feel justified"and the heroes are probably even more self-centred than the bad guys. It's all about shades of grey and these different strands and stories criss-crossing and impacting on each other. You could make the film from almost any character's point of view"any character could be the hero of the piece… But unfortunately we do have to kill some people [laughs].'
With a wealth of compelling (and funny) characters driving the action, just who is the protagonist? Colin: -Sort of the last man standing I guess…' Cameron Cairnes: -He's the character who's transformed the most. The character on the classic hero's journey…'
We meet Reg first"he's a bullied younger brother who wants to make something of himself, to move out from the shadow of domineering Lindsay. Reg and Lindsay"the Morgan brothers"have a family business making fertiliser. But they have a secret. On the quiet, they've been picking up roadkill for years to augment the more traditional but slightly less piquant ingredients available to them.
-Reg is an ideas man,' says Colin Cairnes. -He's a flawed human being. But when he messes up, he tries to redeem himself.' Unfortunately, Reg only has himself to blame for what follows. (What follows involves a car accident, a hapless roadie and a huge industrial mincer.) -I mean, it's a graphically horrific moment,' says Colin Cairnes. -But it's a transformative moment for both Reg and his brother. Lindsay becomes a monster. And Reg? Reg becomes the hero of the piece.'
Most slasher movies begin with an established killer preying on a group of innocents. But in 100 Bloody Acres, the killer is born before our eyes. Cameron Cairnes: -Here are guys killing for the first time. What was it like for Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, killing their victim for the first time? I think that's kind of an interesting idea. You know, you can imagine those early kills not going too smoothly for Jason"he might have left a few clues behind.'
For the Cairnes brothers, writing a horror screenplay that takes place outside the usual conventions was a challenge they wanted to explore. -Three beautiful young kids out in the bush, you know, get lost and end up at this awful location. But the fact that it is the killers' first kill, and that they're doing it for a -good cause'"for the business and to uphold their name in the community"is what makes it a challenge to write, because you are taking it out of those simple conventions. It's them grappling with the idea of becoming killers… with the driving force behind it being the desire to keep their business afloat.'
Growing up, the Cairnes brothers loved seventies classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the ultraviolent Wes Craven stuff like The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Leftand I Spit on your Grave. As kids they were blown away by Raiders of the Lost Ark. But they also have a deep appreciation for films like Scorsese's After Hours, where story and intricate plotting build to something verging on farcical. About After Hours Cameron Cairnes says: -It just builds and starts feeling very credible but as the plot thickens it becomes a bit more of a farce, which is what happens with our work.' He invokes Fawlty Towers, Larry David, the Coen brothers. -And of course, for horror and character, we keep going back to Psycho.'
The rich variety of inspiration has led to some complicated plotting in 100 Bloody Acres. As Cameron Cairnes says: -Everything's in there for a reason and if its significance is not absolutely clear at first, it should be by the end of the film, and that is one of the film's pleasures... It's almost like the fun is writing yourself into a corner, and then how do you get out of that? Sometimes it is just being totally logical and going 'What would this character do in that situation?' and hopefully, if the story and characters that force you into that predicament are authentic, then there's always a solution. Sometimes it might seem ludicrous but it really is the only way out if you're in that situation. Layer upon layer of good old absurdism [laughs].'
Writer brothers, killer brothers
The obvious question is, is there a link between the Cairnes brothers and the Morgan brothers? -I don't know that the idea that we might share some traits with these guys occurred to us early on,' says Cameron Cairnes, -but as the script developed and as we were getting closer to shooting it, I think we started to notice some, err, parallels. Broadly speaking, there's a pinch of me in Reg, there's a pinch of Lindsay in Col, but you know that seems to flip and flop all the time. There's also quite a bit of our father in Lindsay… We've told him that, and he's actually quite chuffed that we've likened him to a crazy serial killer.'
A good deal of family background has informed the characters, and the setting. -Some of the more colourful language comes from Dad and his friends,' says Colin Cairnes. -And our grandfather used to work in the bush"he was a traveling insurance salesman who worked across the Wimmera, the Mallee. Just the sense of that world that comes from his stories is amazing.'
The Cairnes brothers write and direct as a team, roles chopping and changing. As Cameron Cairnes puts it, -We'll sit and mull over ideas, figure out the beats of the story, toss around some dialogue. But then one of us will go away and write for a little while. Write a bunch of pages and then handball it to the other guy.' Directing 100 Bloody Acres, Colin Cairnes explains that the roles played by each brother are very fluid. But because the brothers have been working together on this film for some seven years now, since script development began, they tend to be on the same page, share the same vision.
Angus Sampson who plays Lindsay worked with the brothers on short film Celestial Avenue, and says -I am constantly surprised at their simpatico– they're almost like Master Blaster from Max Max "two bodies with one brain"they really appear to be one person. Under these circumstances where it's a tight budget, having two bodies allows them to deal with a much greater amount on set.'
Damon Herriman who plays Reg says -It actually has been really great having two directors, they work really well together, they both have a really clear idea about what they want. There is always somebody who is able to fill in a gap if one is not sure about something, and they tend to agree most of the time, but when they don't that's great too as you get to see different ideas of what the right thing is for the scene.'
The brothers are three years apart in age, and growing up had separate interests and friends. But by their late teens their common ground-movies-drew them closer together. They'd get their hands on whatever video cameras were going around. Their first shorts were all edited in-camera. They'd come up with a premise -with no idea of where it was going' and see what happened from there. Colin described how -it became an art form to press the stop button at the right time and be able to pick it up from there with the right action so it looked seamless when you played it back... It taught us discipline, I think. Making those choices and choosing the best possible angle.'
Since then, both brothers have studied filmmaking and have taken on editing and directing gigs, gaining a diversity of skills and experience. They wrote -a big, epic' feature script before 100 Bloody Acres. It was (of course!) a zombie film-set in Colonial times. -We learnt a lot of lessons from that... and it got us on the right path I guess.'
During the writing process, the Cairnes brothers started tossing around ideas about casting 100 Bloody Acres. -We had a few vague ideas,' says Cameron Cairnes. -But it was really only the last year when Julie Ryan came on board and said she wanted to produce the film that we started having really serious conversations about casting. I don't think we ever really got attached to faces or names writing it.'
Colin Cairnes adds: -Now we've got this amazing cast… a few stars of the future and some familiar faces as well.'
This openness to the casting process meant that as new names came on board the brothers found themselves exploring new possibilities. Re leading man Damon Herriman, Cameron Cairnes says: -Damon Herriman as Reg"a guy we'd met and seen in a few short films"he did an audition for us in LA and as soon as we saw it we were just -We've found our Reg!' This guy just got it, and what's more, he took it to another level.'
Cameron Cairnes reckons Damon Herriman is a great fit for the role of Reg: -I think in Australia we tend not to write great roles for character actors, but in the States those guys can make a living doing quirky eccentric characters and stuff in independent films, but we don't write a lot of those sorts of characters here. But Reg is one of those characters.'
Damon Herriman, an Australian, is a well--‐known character actor in the US. Filming 100 Bloody Acres has been an interesting experience. -From the moment I first read the script I pictured Reg" how he would speak, how he would behave, and it is a credit to the way the guys have written the script that just how clear every character is. When I first started acting I tended to play quite nice guys, a lot of guys who were sweet or dorky, and then I started playing all these bad guys, and characters who did bad things.
I guess Reg is a bit of a combination of the two"he is a really nice guy who does a very bad thing.' Angus Sampson had appeared in the Cairnes brothers' hit short Celestial Avenue, in a role for which he famously had to learn Cantonese (the character is"surprisingly, given Angus' typical Caucasian looks"Chinese), and the brothers knew they wanted him in their first feature.
Colin Cairnes says: -Angus Sampson did a read for us and Cam played opposite him in the role of Reg, and Angus Sampson actually scared us. It's Angus Sampson's rare abilty to be both menacing and funny that will make Lindsay a character to remember.'
Angus Sampson says: -Lindsay is real, and that is the difficult thing, to make the character real and not to go into that extreme caricature. His relationship with his brother is borne out of sibling love, geographical isolation and necessity. I am trying to play Lindsay like a big cat, where you don't know if he is going to strike out, or fall asleep."
Cinematography & setting
Colin Cairnes says: -We're working with cinematographer John Brawley who shot Celestial Avenue, which had a very distinctive look. It's a combination: production design, costume and location, but it's also how you shoot it"how you light it, how you stage the action. We think we've created something just as distinctive pictorially with 100 Bloody Acres. John Brawley is always willing to try something different, but that openness to new ways of doing things is underpinned by a love of classical cinematic storytelling"a passion we share with him and was much of the reason why we ended up shooting anamorphic. Ultimately the key thing is how you manipulate and unify all those elements that influence the look and sound of the film to create a compelling and distinctive world for your characters to inhabit.'
Landscape was always going to be central to 100 Bloody Acres. The film is set in remote rural Australia, and the loneliness of the location is intrinsic to the story. During the writing process this sort of typically and uniquely Australian landscape played a central role in terms of inspiration, too.
Colin Cairnes: -When we'd get writers' block we'd just drive"go into the country for a day or two and see if we could get inspired by the countryside, just get lost down dead--‐ends and you'd never know what would pop up and suggest itself as a story idea or even a location.'
But it's one thing to envisage locale in a film script. It's another thing altogether to pin down your locations. Colin Cairnes continues: -In the end it was all about a location that worked really well for the story, for the brothers having this pretty nasty, serious business concern, but also about having a public face"this quaint old house that would have been their mum's pride and joy. The location was really key to creating an authentic Morgan Brothers world. And we had to find a location. We're small budget and there's just no way we could have built something. It was a matter of finding a place that had all those components that we needed: the house, the sheds, the remoteness, long driveways, hills.'
The brothers and their location scout used Google Maps, real estate websites and good old--‐ fashioned driving around knocking on doors to assist in their search. The very specific requirements of the location"large sheds to house the hideous industrial grinding machine and the like"made it unlikely that they would find everything in one spot, and in the end two locations were found in the Adelaide Hills.
The Special effects were designed by Justin Dix of Wicked of Oz Studios in Melbourne.
Justin Dix tells the story: -One of the funniest things about the job is to do with these directors. We sit around and have coffee and talk about how were going to eviscerate someone, and how much blood will pump out, and the fact that the directors are such big genre fans means I know they are relishing and loving everything we are doing for the film and that makes it a treat.
-This is the first time I have done prosthetics for comedy rather than pure horror, and it was interesting to establish whether the effects need to be realistic or funny.
-The scene where the Roadie goes through the mincer is a 'one-take wonder". We have to grind him up and it needs to happen practical, not digital. We spent two months building the top half of his body, from doing a body cast on the actor, to working out in reverse how the effect is going to work. It's the first time we have made a body from the inside out. After the processing of casting the actor and making the moulds, once in the negative space we start laying in the skin"a really thin layer of silicon skin which we have deadened a bit to make it look a bit more plasticised, and then layers of yellow fat and red fat.
-Veins are usually painted on, but for this body we created muscle, fat and veins that were individually rolled, and go right through each finger and up the arms. He's got about 100 condoms of blood in him, and a urethane skull loaded with everything including a loose jaw bone.
-We hair-punched all the chest, arm and head hair and painted it really well. We enhanced the internal organs with contusions and at the moment it is quite a photo‐realistic prop and it is shame that we are not going to be able to keep it!
-I am particularly proud of the Roadie, as when the actor wrapped on set, and the directors realised they needed a couple of reverses with Damon in shot, we were able to string up the Roadie body and puppeteered it so it seemed to turn and look at Damon, and watching the rushes you cannot tell. For me that is the most gratifying thing. If you can't tell when we have swapped the real body for the prosthetic body.
-The first question I get asked by a DOP on any effect is 'what is this going to do" and I really don't know!
-For 100 Bloody Acres we have created lots of body parts"arms, legs, and we have had to make a couple of doubles for the actors, they are the effects that I really like as they are invisible"no one would pick them as an effect.'
Wicked of Oz needed to create a body double of Oliver Ackland for his role as James. Oliver Ackland says: -You stand there for half an hour while they pour various gooey substances all over you. Your head is fully submerged, and it was quite calming, I wanted to go to sleep, you can't see or hear anything and there is someone busy keeping your nasal passages clear so you can breathe.
-When I first saw the body I didn't think it looked that much like me, as he has a big hairy chest and beard and long hair, but when they trimmed him all down, cut the hair and beard, it was kind of creepy. He was just laying there while I was having lunch and it was like that moment when you catch yourself on the mirror, but I looked really lifeless and was lying shirtless on a table with a bunch of cattle prods"a little disconcerting.'
100 Bloody Acres
Release Date: August 1st, 2013