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May 27, 2011

Movie Review: Savage County (2011)

I never thought I was the brightest bulb on the tree. Especially in high school. High schoolers do stupid things. Very stupid things. I think that the smaller the town you live in, the stupider the things are that you do. The kids in Savage County must live in the smallest town ever, because they do some very stupid things. In their defense, though, they are in Texas so we have to take that into account. Texas or not, you just don’t go up to the house where the crazy family lives and knock on the door. I don't care if it is the week before prom and you're blowing off some academic steam. Every town has that crazy family and you can dare each other to go knock the door… but running away once the deed is complete is usually the right course of action. The Savage County braintrust not only stayed, but they ‘accidentally’ killed the patriarch of the psychotic family with a shovel. You know, on accident to the back of the head. Yeah, the old man had a shotgun, but that doesn’t mean the all-star running back needed to swing for the fences. Oh well, I’m sure the cannibal redneck sons will know it was an accident. Yeesh. MTV should have called this The Texas Re-Hash Shovel Massacre of a 100 Corpses at a Hostel. So much for originality.

Buy Savage County on DVD!

When we left our group of honor students, they ran away after killing the old man. The old man’s stereotypically crazy relatives arrive (Long Hair Psycho, Chubby Mute and Cold Blooded Leader). Wait a minute. You know how superhero teams have a certain composition? Like The Fantastic Four: smart leader guy, pretty girl with ethics, hot headed youngster and big lumbering oaf and superhero teams usually follow that formula. Just look at The A-Team (the TV show, not the crappy movie). Crazy redneck cannibal family movies have a similar composition. There is the Old Man, either living or dead or almost dead, that provides the impetus for the carnage. He is followed by the Long Hair Psycho. He is pure action and thinks with either his knife or his penis or both. Next up is the Cold Blooded Leader, usually the oldest sibling. This is the plan maker, the comer upper of ideas so to speak. Finally, the Chubby Mute, usually the youngest sibling, who will fall in love with the one of the young women in peril. This is simply to provide a false sense of security because that young woman in peril will be eaten soon enough. If that is our core group, with a few individual changes here or there depending on the movie, we know what we’re getting into. After the kids run away, the redneck family goes after them one by one, torturing and maiming before the big payback… death (you thought I was going to say that the real punishment would be to make these kids work in a McDonalds in West Texas after graduation, didn't you?).

The look of the film is nice, though (the credited DP is Paul deLumen). It is very stylized and there is plenty of gore to go around, but the one dimensional characters, hackneyed plot and cliché use can’t be overcome despite how pretty (or gory) the film is. The use of mixed media is interesting, too. The rednecks videotape their torture kills and the students have video cameras and what not. There is even a character that does nothing but post video blogs about how crappy it is to be grounded. She doesn’t really serve a purpose unless she is functioning like an ineffective Ancient Greek chorus, commenting on the plight of our main character. But she’s not. She simply posts insipid insights about her boring life and plays music. Uugh. This is indicative of all of the characters here. We don’t care about them and that is a problem that most modern horror movies have. If we don’t care about these characters we won’t care if they are in danger. These kids aren’t annoying, we aren’t calling for their untimely demise… we just don’t care what happens to them. Without that empathy or sympathy there is no cathartic response from the audience. That cathartic response is what provides the ‘thrill’ of a horror film. We can gross out at the gore, and smile at the crazy rednecks, but if our young victims do not have a connection with the audience then there is no emotional response. That’s the big issue. We’ve seen this before, though, over and over again. Savage County borrows from many films, but relies heavily on the plot devices from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the surface, but devolves into more of an I Know What You Did Last Summer vibe with the revenge angle all wrapped up in a House of 1000 Corpses burrito. 

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