There is something really enjoyable about watching a film, a TV show or play or whatever that is life-affirming in a non-pushy way. I just cannot stand being told what to think or what to feel (and when) by any kind of creative thing. What makes 100 Bloody Acres so great is that it, through its thoroughly screwed-up way, tells a sweet story about taking back your life. More correctly, it tells more than one life-affirming story all at the same time but never does it pander, never does it force you to feel anything. While some of this might be lost on the average movie-goer who might get hung up on the whole ‘using humans for fertilizer’ thing, I found the whole affair to be a charming, funny, gross and all together grand Aussie import that made me a happy guy by its end (even though the theme song was jammed into my skull for a good 48 hours after the fact).
The story follows the Morgan brothers, a pair of country-bound farmer types who make their living producing a fertilizer blend that utilizes, among other things, roadkill. Reg (the brilliant Damon Herriman of Dewey Crowe in FX’s Justified fame) and Lindsay (Angus Samson – Insidious) are relatively simple men. They live and work out in the country, singing along to hokey-folky songs on the radio and making their way with a ghastly kind of business that automatically forces them to the fringes. They are also more or less reliant on each other for better or worse. Reg starts as the meek, pushed around brother while Lindsay (Linds) is clearly the dominator, the boss. Linds is a mountain of a man with a foreboding sneer, impressive neck beard and a growl that would set anyone back. From look-one at Linds, you know full well he isn’t playing with a full deck and has a lot of pent-up frustration you don’t want to be in front of should it go off. The size and personality dynamic between the two men is stark and somewhat sad. This changes, slowly and comically at first but by the time we reach the finale’ we’re in a totally different place with these two men. The character arcs (particularly with Reg) are stark and interesting and very well done.
The film opens with Reg driving their delivery truck (which doubles as a transport van for various animal remains they find) and coming upon a car wreck with a severely injured man inside. Not seeing anyone on the road, Reg makes the snap decision to snag the man’s body with the intention of bringing it back to the ‘farm’ as it were. And as these things often go, Reg is soon set-upon by a trio of young folks en route (in this case to a music festival) who are setback by a broken down car. Sensing a chance to be a big man, Reg invites them aboard the truck with an offer to give them a ride to the festival.
Our intro to the festival going youngsters is fraught with its own peril too; the girl in question Sophie (the lovely-beyond-all-reason Anna McGahan) is stuck in an unenviable position of a secret affair with Wes (Jamie Kristian) while playing the doting girlfriend to James (Oliver Ackland). From the start, you sense this situation is going to implode in on itself especially with the typical character roles not playing the way you expect. The standard goodie-two-shoes James is not all wine and roses and exhibits a kind of tone deafness to his situation and his chosen partner that is initially pitiable and later laudable. The initially typical jackass/overconfident Wesley turns out to be actually somewhat charming in a sincerely kind of way; he isn’t offensive as much as he is just a pleasant dolt. Sophie is initially shown to be a selfish, childish, cheating jerk but as it goes she is shown to be a more valid, more real person than her actions and choices might indicate. Summing it up, none of these characters are just the standard types you might expect and the film benefits from it ten-fold.
Sprinkled in this initial part of the film are tidbits about a tragic accident that happened along the road involving six innocent souls who lost their lives. Strange though, that their bodies were absent from the accident scene…you see where this is going before the film tells you. The Morgan brothers used the bodies of the accident victims in their fertilizer blend which resulted in very well performing product they are struggling to maintain and, ultimately, recreate any other way. Therein lies our main struggle, we know what the Morgan brothers have done, we see the dire predicament the trio are in and we see where things are heading. But this is where the expectations should end. The process of getting everyone onto the farm, the breakdown of the dynamic between Sophie and her two men and the evolving self-awareness of Reg in the violent and cruel face of Linds are equally wonderful in their own ways. The film doesn’t really judge anyone when it comes down to it. They are what they actually are and no character serves as some statue pushing an idea and not an actual person. They are all changing, flesh and blood people.
The entire second half of the film is enjoyable not because we know what will happen to the letter, but instead because we’re not really sure how it will go and secretly hope it will go one way or another. I am stating this kind of cryptically because I don’t want to go into detail about how it all plays out but I was smiling and clapping and cheering for certain characters while totally in the dark about the outcome and so glad for it. The character arcs feel authentic, the often foul bloody nature of the business is funny and sparsely (but well) used and it all comes together with a wink and a grin to the far less grisly film roots it most certainly draws from. It doesn’t cop-out (for certain) in terms of grossness (in more than a couple of ways you sure as hell don’t see coming) but it uses the horror in a smart and balanced kind of way. And it is quite funny often (even if I didn’t get some of the Aussie-centric references) without playing for jokes and punch lines.
Look, I could go on and on here but when it comes down to it, 100 Bloody Acres was a wonderfully dark, comic, gross and sincere film that I’m so glad to have seen. I could keep blathering on and write out so many of the gags and scenes and all else, but I’ll instead leave you with the words of Linds while goading a clearly struggling Reg on in a scene involving one of their guests and a pair of restraints used for the slaughter process:
‘look, we’re not here to fuck spiders, Reg.’