Film review: Inbred (Fantasia Film Festival)

Courtesy of New Flesh Films

Our Fantasia Film Festival coverage continues with the midnight screening of British director Alex Chandon’s film, Inbred. The title and the picture above pretty much indicates whether this is a film for you or not.

Let’s bitch it out…Inbred falls into a particular kind of subgenre of horror. Some might be tempted to call it a slasher film, since characters are hunted down by assailants and killed, traditionally until only one or two remain to make a stand. I would actually put Inbred into a separate category: ‘the backwoods slasher’ or even ‘rural vs urban’, where it joins esteemed companions such as The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Frontiers. In these films, it’s often city folk (educated, middle class, good hygiene) who come into conflict with rural folk (incestuous, inbred, homicidal, living off the grid). In the “higher class” version of this scenario (think Straw Dogs or the low-budget version, Last House On The Left), the film’s subtle interest is exposing killer animalistic tendencies within even the most civilized people as the city folk battle back in murderous ways. In the more debased version of these films, people get killed in entertaining ways…and the discussion (politics, social commentary) ends there.

Unfortunately Inbred falls into the latter category.

I’ve had a longstanding love/hate relationship with this particular subgenre – if only because the films have the opportunity to say something are really pertinent. They play on the fears of modern, urban society; about leaving behind the comforts of the city to find individuals living an alternative existence just a few steps out your back door. The problem is that when these films simply go for the kill and don’t put more thought into it, it simply becomes an exercise in gore. And while I can unequivocally say that the gore in Inbred satisfies me, the film feels like nothing more than a “best of” kill reel, which – as a horror fan – I’ve seen a thousand times over.

Courtesy of New Flesh Films

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but Inbred wants it both ways – it suggests in the early parts of the film that it’s interested in telling a story, but then it completely forgets this once people start dying in entertainingly awful ways. Had it simply dove into the blood and gore with 2-dimensional characters right from the start, I would probably be praising the film for its raucous entertainment. Instead, I’m annoyed that it bothered to spend the first forty minutes or so on character development.

The film concerns a group of four troubled youth and the two counselors who take them into the country for a weekend team building/community service project. In the small town of Mortlake (nyuk nyuk), everyone they encounter is – wait for it – seemingly inbred (break out the slow-talkers, gap toothed, overall-wearing, hillbilly stereotypes). Conflict and power dynamics are in play as the two groups interact. But there’s a lot more to the group: we learn about why the different kids are on the trip, hinting that they each have unique law-breaking talents (such a lock-picking and pyromania) that will play a role in the group’s success or demise. Even the hillbillies have some kind of hierarchy. For example, there’s a timid man with the ferret who is not allowed to watch the Grand Guignol death shows put on by ringleader and bartender (Seamus O’Neill). But none of these narrative threads develop into anything – in fact it quickly becomes clear that the film has no interest in leveling the playing field between the two teams so much as killing people in a fantastic fashion.

So why bother establishing all these ideas, and why bother giving each character their own personality? If the outrageous deaths are really the film’s main interest, why the bait and switch with the first half of the film? It feels as though director Chandon started on one path and then became so enamoured with his gallery of freaks that he couldn’t bear to let them go. He must have subsequently decided to expense with the formality of telling a story in favour of simply allowing them to do crazy sh*t. That’s enough for horror audiences, right? Afterall, all we want is murder/death/kill, right?

Verdict:

If blood and guts and over-the-top kills are your thing, Inbred is a great 90 minute experience. If you’re looking for something more, you might want to take a pass on this exercise in gore.

Inbred is screening at a number of genre film festivals in the next few months (see imdb schedule here)

For more information, visit the Fantasia Film Festival webpage for the film here

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

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