I’m a lapsed horror movie buff. I was brought up watching films most people would say I was too young to be seeing, from early-teen living room screenings of Driller Killer, Last House On The Left and Cannibal Holocaust to sneaking in to see Return of The Living Dead, Evil Dead II and Re-Animator, with lots of shared dodgy video copies of the classics in between. There were a group of us who became immersed in the language of horror cinema, and could appreciate even the lowest budget slasher as long as it was made with care and love.
Let’s put aside the harm it may have done to our tiny minds, and look at why I don’t watch that much anymore. There is an aspect of putting away childish things, I’ll admit, but that’s nowhere near the whole story. Some of my favourite films of the past 10 years have been horror, such as Let The Right One In, The Descent, The Cabin In The Woods, Wolf Creek, Kill List and Drag Me To Hell, but the majority of modern horror movies seem to be excessive without the humour or wit of most of films mentioned above, suffering from franchise fatigue and a lack of ideas. Or rather, they batter home the one idea they have until any impact it may have had is lost. (Or they are unnecessary remakes).
With all this in mind, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Sawney: Flesh of Man. Like zombie films, cannibal movies walk a thin line between scary and laughable, but I need not have worried. For those of us who like this kind of thing, Sawney is a riot from start to finish. The films it most put me in mind of are Tobe Hooper’s seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, and, perhaps more surprisingly, Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. Loosely based on the myth of the 16th century Scottish cannibal Alexander Bean, in this film the Bean family are a wonderfully dysfunctional bunch who prove that sticking to regular meal times can bring everyone closer together.
The casting is spot on, with David Hayman having the time of his life as Sawney, the patriarchal figure, who takes the word of God and translates it to justify his actions (sound familiar?) while he makes dinner for all the family, and from someone else’s. Samuel Feeney is up against it as Hamish, the journalist who tries to uncover Sawney’s secrets, as the hero in such films is often a thankless role, but he does a good enough job; and it is always good to see Gavin Mitchell on screen, this time as Munro, the classic hard-bitten cop. The younger Bean twins, who weirdly resemble Luke and Matt Goss, and who seem dab hands at the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, are great fun as they take drugs, chase girls and play loud music, just like any other teenagers.
Sawney: Flesh of Man is the best horror movie set in Scotland I’ve seen since Neil Marshall’s shaggy wolf story, Dog Soldiers, and certainly the most stylish. One of the best films of last year was Scott Graham’s Shell, and part of its success was the cinematography and the way the highland landscape is used to add to the mood. Something very similar is going on here. The film looks beautiful, using the backdrop to great effect, and it is distinctly Scottish as this is a country small enough to make it believable that a black taxi can be quickly driven from a city to the back of beyond, where no one can here you scream.
This is obviously a film made by people who love cinema, with nods to Duel, Company of Wolves and The Last of the Mohican’s among others. I imagine they enjoyed making it as it is great fun to watch, and there is lots of pitch black humour on show. If you don’t raise a smile at the fate of the unfortunate traffic warden, well it probably speaks better of you than it does of me.
Here’s the trailer…
Sawney: Flesh of Man is a treat for horror fans old and new; a timely reminder to me why I fell in love with the genre in the first place. It’s not as outright terrifying as those films of my youth, but I am in my 40s now. Yes, there are plenty of guts and gore on show, but you wouldn’t expect any self-respecting cannibal movie not to. It’s a film made by horror fans unashamedly for horror fans, with love and care, and there is nothing wrong with that. Now excuse me… I just have to go and feed mother…