A knowing post-“Scream” schlocker with its tongue more or less firmly in its cheek and a screenplay with insider references to spare, “Cut” is a no-nonsense commercial package that should hit the spot. After a disappointing year for Oz pics at the local and international B.O., first-time helmer Kimble Rendall’s film more than delivers the formulaic thrills. Though far from original, the film has enough smarts to make the cut with young, hip auds as well as critics who enjoy this type of fare. Pic will have just a three-week window of opportunity before “Scream 3,” which also unfolds on a film set, and which is aimed at precisely the same audience, opens in Australia. With Molly Ringwald toplined and a personable backup cast of talented new Aussie thesps, slasher pic should cut a swath through the local market and do decently abroad (it’s already been sold to most territories), with a healthy ancillary life also indicated.
Though the plot of a masked killer who wields a ferocious-looking pair of wickedly sharp shears has been done to death over the years (it wasn’t exactly a new theme when “Halloween” came out 22 years ago), Rendall and screenwriter Dave Warner provide fresh interest by locating the mayhem on a film set, allowing for plenty of movie refs.
In the obligatory prologue, set in 1988, film director Hilary Jacobs (a Drew Barrymore–like cameo from popular Aussie warbler Kylie Minogue) is working on a horror item titled “Hot Blooded” starring American actress Vanessa Turnbull (Ringwald) as a teenager (!) menaced by a masked, shears-wielding killer who’s already dispatched her mom and pet cat. Tense confrontation ends when Jacobs calls “Cut!” and proceeds to criticize the actor playing the slasher. He later confronts the helmer in her office and kills her, only to be overcome by the feisty Vanessa. The film is never completed and over the years achieves legendary status when a male director assigned to finish it is found dead in a screening room while viewing the footage.
In the present, Jacobs’ assistant director, Lossman (Geoff Revell), now teaches at film school and tells students Raffy Carruthers (Jessica Napier) and Hester Ryan (Sarah Kants) the story of this film maudit. The ambitious Raffy, who has ambitions to become Australia’s next Jane Campion, decides to start her directing career by completing “Hot Blooded,” and the gay-leaning Hester agrees to come on board as producer.They are lucky enough to secure the services of Vanessa, who, it seems, hasn’t had much work in recent years, and they assemble a youthful crew that includes cameraman Damien (Sam Lewis) and soundman Rick (Stephen Curry). They even get permission to use the lonely old house that was the original location for the film. But, natch, the killings begin again.
Rendall, a musicvideo vet, acknowledges his debts to John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Brian De Palma, et al. during this tightly structured, polished thriller. Toward the end, a supernatural angle takes over, allowing for impressive makeup and special effects.
Ringwald heads a generally game cast, and she has some amusing moments that make light of the low-budget nature of many Aussie films.
Technical credits are highly polished, and the music score by Guy Gross provides an intelligent backdrop to the mayhem.