Thursday, 4 August 2011



You know how you get a new horror movie and it proudly bills itself as the first film done in one continuous take even though it is only recently that you watched The Silent House and that predates it although technically speaking that Uruguayan film probably cheated on that count as there are several cuts to black in it and even Adam Mason of all people has also had a bash with this technique with something called Pig that I have not seen and would not want to and by the look of it has yet to obtain a proper release in this country anyway and besides Rope is a sort of genre film on account of it having a motiveless murder and echoes of Leopold and Loeb and that was made way back in 1948 although that is merely made up of a number of very long takes but not one single continuous

Really, how annoying is that? I hate to get all Radio 4 over this, but if cinema is a language then editing is punctuation, and a misplaced cut can wreck a scene as surely as a misplaced comma can, wreck a sentence. See? Editing, like punctuation, is there for a reason. (I've never read James Joyce's Ulysses, but I do know about it and Joyce's decision to not bother punctuating the last chapter - I have it open in another window even as I type.) It gives rhythm, it directs focus, it provides structure. Like Tony Scott, you can use it too much, which is the equivalent of littering your text with commas, full stops and inexplicable changes in font - or you can opt for very discreet editing which people mostly don't notice. And there's nothing wrong with a little showboating by having the occasional long flamboyant take - Goodfellas, Snake Eyes, Boogie Nights - which I guess is the cinematic equivalent of the run-on sentence. But in order to get away with breaking the rules, you first have to know the rules: you really do need to be a De Palma or a Scorsese. First-timer Alexander Williams, it's safe to say, is neither. To be frank, you're not even looking at a Fred Olen Ray here.

Cut has five people - a couple, three friends - in a remote farmhouse which for no apparent reason is besieged by a troupe of grinning maniacs in facepaint who terrorise and kill them over the course of about 67 minutes. That's it. There's not a shred more that happens. The five argue and bicker about the who and the why and the what to do next, whether it's real or a prank - then it turns out to be real, people die, and it stops.

The technical limitations of the one-take technique mean that the sound quality is frequently very poor and it basically degenerates into a bunch of dislikable halfwits bellowing incoherently at each other in a confined space for an hour. If there is a reason for their victimisation, it's lost in the foul-mouthed shouting and the atrocious acting: the performances aren't even first read-through level. Maybe they did have to learn 67 minutes' worth of stuff, but that's not a huge achievement: isn't that what every theatre actor does, even at the amateur level? And yet again it's absolutely impossible to give a toss whether any of these cretins survives the night, rather you find yourself not caring one whit about the psychos' motivations just so long as they get on with it.

Would it have been any better if they'd just made it as a proper film? On one level, no, because two of the key problems at the heart of the film are dismally inadequate acting and an almost literally unspeakable (but clearly not unbellowable) script. On a technical level, yes: the photography would have certainly been better, and they'd have been able to create a better sound mix. The kill shots would also have benefited. But the director (actually a pseudonym for actor Dominic Burns, one of the cast) has deliberately chosen to hobble himself by boycotting a standard cinematic technique, like a pianist breaking his own thumbs at the start of a concert. The proof of this is in the first few minutes of the film, where a TV set shows the climax of a generic horror movie in which a dim babysitter is menaced by a homicidal clown doll. But that generic horror movie, just as badly written and acted as Cut, is at least edited properly: it's still rubbish, but at least it's technically proficient. This isn't: it's a miserable failure on every level.


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