Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

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The marketing copy on the back of Gnaw says that “... it’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the English countryside...” and that says it all, end of story. The first question that comes to my mind is “why?” and the answer is perhaps that it is enough to pull you in. It certainly worked on me.

I’ve never been to the English countryside so I don’t know how scary it might be, but I have been to Texas and can say that the notion of mutant cannibals isn’t entirely out of the question. The English countryside on the other hand makes me think of Hobbiton. Maybe Frodo and Bilbo might have occasionally noshed on the passing human wayfarer, though strictly speaking that would not be cannibalism. So I wonder, can the TCSM formula work in England?

People... People Eating People...

The English do have literary tradition of people eating people (and after the Donner Party and Alferd Packer, who doesn’t?). Titus feeds Tamora his sons baked in a pie and man-meat pies appear again in Sweeny Todd’s story. But the best fit is the legend of Sawney Bean, the 16th Century Scottish cannibal and his inbred family that could to have stepped right out of any number of slasher films of the last 30 years. The hills not only have eyes but haggis as well.

But when the dope-smoking sexually promiscuous kids of Gnaw pop off to the country for a weekend, P.G. Wodehouse comes to mind before the slaughterhouse. And here I wonder if Gnaw should have not been a straight-up comedy.

Mrs. Obadiah (Carrie Cohen) the carnivorous cook, is a typically daffy English eccentric that you might expect to see in an episode of Fawlty Towers or Monty Python. (The Brits do like to mock cannibalism as can be seen in some of the Python’s best sketches. For instance there’s the funeral home director suggesting that the bereaved eat their dead — at which time the audience charges the stage and routs the cast from the studio. Or the riff on the sailors trapped in a lifeboat volunteering to be food for the others. Later the retired military character objects to the skit, saying that cannibalism in the Royal Navy is “almost a thing of the past”.)

Splatter by Numbers

But instead of laughs, Gnaw is a slasher procedural... splatter by the numbers. After a few minutes, I gave up and went to the commentary track. This is a first for me as I’d almost always rather see a film through to the end, but I had to know what they were thinking. The conclusion I came to is that Gnaw is director Gregory Mandry’s demo reel. And really it is pretty good as an example of competent filmmaking. If you’re looking for someone to realize your screenplay, Mandry is ready to go.

The point is, do we need another Texas Chain Saw Massacre? And if there is to be an English version, why can’t it be properly English? Perhaps the maniac killer should apologize for chain-sawing his victim. “Oh, I’m sorry old sport, but the chain is a bit dull today ... really should have had it sharpened I suppose... would you like a spot of tea?” Now that’s comedy.

Instead there’s a good deal of cooking meat, eating meat and isn’t that all very gross even if it might not be human meat... but we know it is. There’s also a good bit of “Hey everybody, let’s get stoned and have sex... even if it’s not really kinky English sex...” And so it goes, gross and plodding at the same time.

It does get one thing right as an English film but only in the last 30 seconds (which I will not reveal) and at that moment, I can say that Gnaw has got that English Lord of the Flies, Village of the Damned fear and loathing of children bit down pat... well done!

DVD Extras

The extras include The Making of Gnaw, a commentary track by the director, and the trailer. The checklist is complete.

Picture and Sound

Visually, this is good stuff, imaginatively shot and edited. Seriously, hire Mandry for your next project.

How to Use This DVD

Why not sit down and have a nice hot cup of tea, dear? ... And maybe read a nice book instead.