JAMES BUSHE - COMEDY HORROR - 1HR 22MIN
I had an absolute blast with Cannibals and Carpet Fitters. The not-so-subtly-inspired-by-Shaun-of-the-Dead violent comedy bonanza, was a very pleasant surprise for this horror hound. Having originally backed the project when its Kickstarter went live sometime last year, I had my worries that the production wouldn't come together and fully realize the potential of its premise when it failed to meet its initial goal of £50,000. Thankfully the spirit of Director James Bushe is an even harder thing to kill than a hangry roided-out redneck cannibal looking for his next meal! So the project campaign returned, and with a more...grounded goal, it was able to surpass what was asked of its backers allowing this awesomely premised horror romp to spring to life.
And what, you may be asking, is this awesomely premised horror romp even about? Well, if the title wasn't self explanatory:
A group of carpet fitters are sent on a job to an old Country house in the middle of nowhere. However they soon discover it's a trap set up by the savage, cannibalistic family, The Hannings. The carpet fitters are forced to fight for their lives or risk ending up being the evenings dinner. Unfortunately they are not quite your typical heroes!
Right off the bat you're treated to a gory introduction, one which leaves zero room for questioning just how ravenous these cannibals are. Its the perfect way to get the ball rolling in a film like this; a sneak peak into the inevitable - letting the viewer in on the horror that awaits - serves to really ratchet the tension later on!
As for the poor souls being set up as to become the main course, our carpet fitters themselves (most of them anyway), we have a wonderful cast that play exceptionally well off each other. Headlining of course are Darren Sean Enright (the gruff yet affable Colin) and Richard Lee O'Donnell (the accidental goofball hero) who do a fantastic job tight-rope-walking between well-timed comedy and hilariously expressive dread. Needless to say the script (which was written by O'Donnell himself) is more than done justice. Then there's Dominic Holmes, who's portrayal of the pain-in-the-ass-yet-you-feel-sorry-for-them-so-you-stay-friends Malcolm, ends up as one of the more endearing performances in the film. No matter how much hearing him speak makes you want to scrape your eardrums, you can't help but sort of kind of like the geeky pasty mook. Christopher Whitlow's Chris is a douche extraordinaire, but he emotes so well and delivers such an enjoyably animated physical performance that you can't help but smile whenever he is douching through a scene. And like water to oil (or maybe rather fire to piss), playing opposite of him is - my personal favorite character in Cannibal & Carpet Fitters - Zara Phythian, as Tasha. You want to talk about powerful women in film? Well, there's plenty of power (and pain) to be found at the receiving end of her kicks and punches; it should be no surprise either, given her background as a martial artist (a skill she demonstrated spectacularly for us in 2016's Dr. Strange). In fact, her first encounter with a cannibal would have you believe she never even left the set of the aforementioned Marvel comics blockbuster, and quite honestly, I LOVE IT! So let's all hope we get to see more of Phythian's particular brand of ass kicking and name taking in future films, certainly we only stand to benefit as a result.
And with that, we have the core of the film's protagonist cast. A heavy variety of personalities which, as the source inspiration Shaun of the Dead has taught us, is supremely vital in a comedy-horror like this. Better yet, they're all fleshed out enough to not just be a bunch of paper-thin throwaway cliches. This does two things. First, you're given the time needed to invest in and even care for the well being of these characters, which leads to the second thing. When harm does come their way - as it's expected to - the impact hits a lot harder, and Carpet Fitters is made a stronger film overall.
Speaking of harm, what would the horror aspect of a cannibal-type film even be without the right cannibals to make it effective? As such, left to mention are the Cannibal family members themselves, who do a fine job being vile, sneaky, slimy, and brutal; the exact qualities I expect from a murderous group of human man-eaters. And while all do their part to evoke ass-clenching fear, it's the clan's maternal leader that really steals the show here. Jenny Stokes as mamma cannibal, Mrs Hanning. The brains of the operation, Stokes is coldly calculating, hilariously devoid of a conscience, and her ability to go from sweet granny to destructive monster makes her completely unpredictable. Much like the film itself, if I'm being honest.
I already mentioned how much of a pleasant surprise this turned out to be, but I really have to hammer that point home. Not to throw shade on other films or filmmakers, but it's absolutely incredible to see a low budget affair turn out as polished as this one did. From performances to visual effects work, down to the script itself, I'm thoroughly impressed with what was accomplished here especially given the rocky start to its production. Considering how often we get independent horror films like this, as well done as this, it probably goes without saying that supporting such endeavors is incredibly important to ensuring we get more of this caliber. Cannibals & Carpet Fitters is an exceedingly competent, humorously violent homage to the kind of horror films that give the genre its wide-appealing charm; in short, a bloody-good time.
Check the links below for film festival showings near you, and watch it as soon as you can. If you're one of the unfortunate few unable to catch it in a crowd, then maybe give the original short film a viewing instead (also below). Hell, watch it regardless its pretty good.