‘A tasty comedy’
Fresh Meat is a 2012 New Zealand comedy horror feature film directed by Danny Mulheron from a screenplay by Briar Grace Smith, based on a story by Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien. The movie stars Temuera Morrison, Kate Elliott, Hanna Tevita and Nicola Kawana.
A dysfunctional gang of criminals takes a middle class Maori family hostage and discovers too late that they are cannibals…
If there is one short cut way to immediately identify some sub-Tarantino, trying-too-hard movie from the start, then surely it is the appearance of character captions – whether or not they are accompanied by a freeze-frame – telling us the name of the achingly cool people that we’ll be following for the next ninety minutes or so. If it’s accompanied by pseudo surf guitar music, all the more clichéd.
And so it is with Fresh Meat, a very knowing New Zealand comedy of gun gangs and cannibalism. Admittedly, the film also kicks off with a naked schoolgirl lesbian show scene, putting its nu-grindhouse credentials firmly on the table in a sleazy way that others seem to scared to, and at least isn’t awash with Final Cut Pro-generated fake film damage, so I was willing to give it a chance.
After all, the best of the QT copycats (and isn’t it amazing that people are still aping his style after all this time? Maybe it really has become an established film making approach now) are still pretty watchable movies. And so, for the most part, that turns out to be the case here. Fresh Meat is nothing remarkable, but it’s entertainingly ludicrous in its own way.
The film starts out with a gang of misfits – Gigi (Kate Eliot) the predictably tough, gun toting sexpot in pink shorts and stockings (and, equally predictably, with a taste for the ladies); Paulie (Ralph Hilaga) the wired-up speed freak; Johnny (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt) a bumbling ‘explosives expert’ – breaking Paulie’s brother Richie Tan (Leand Macadaan) out of a prison van and then hiding out from the cops in a suburban home that is home to celebrity chef Margaret Crane (Nicola Kawana), her less successful university professor husband Hemi (Temuera Morrison) and kids Glenn (Kahn West) and Rina (Hanna Tevita) – the latter having just arrived home from her all-girl’s boarding school (hence the shower scene).
What might be a predictable home invasion movie – albeit one with a comedic edge – is given extra spice by the revelation that Hemi has convinced the family to revive an ancient Maori cannibal tradition, and there is a basement full of half-eaten dead bodies.
All this is presented in a fast-cut, slick and overly stylised manner, with no attempt to give the movie any sense of realism. It’s all played for laughs (though thankfully mostly avoiding the crassness of early Peter Jackson movies), even if it does ladle on the gore quite heavily at times. That’s all well and good, but every scene, every visual idea feels like something you’ve already seen a hundred times before – the tough girl anti-hero being fetishised (complete with a slo-mo milk drinking scene that might have been sexy if it wasn’t so damned clichéd), the eccentric characters, the power shift that is perhaps fumbled (the cannibal revelation might have worked better if it came as a genre-shifting shock midway through, in the style of From Dusk Till Dawn – clearly an influence here).
What keeps the film worth watching is the scenery-chewing performance of Temuera Morrison, clearly having a whale of a time as the increasingly deranged Hemi, desperate to be seen as more important than his famous wife and fully committed to the idea of immortality through cannibalism. He’s a lot of fun, and when the film gets sluggish – it’s central joke effectively exhausted – he keeps it worth watching.
As a directorial debut, Fresh Meat has enough going on to suggest Danny Mulheron could do something impressive once he finds his on style. As it is, this is worth a look, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking or original.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA