Today marks the beginning of the next theme week for Horrortoberfest. This week we will be looking at “captive” horror films or films where the victims are made prisoners of some madman and put into horrific situations. A Thousand Cuts is a movie that takes a more meta look at this horror trope and what it means. This movie follows two main characters, Lance and Frank, and the relationship they have with each other and with horror. Lance is a writer/director behind the “A Thousand Cuts” movie franchise that is your standard “torture porn” type movie. Frank is a father whose daughter was killed by someone copying the methods of the killer in Lance’s movie. Frank shows up at Lance’s in order to teach him a lesson about responsibility.
Right from the very start it is apparent that this film has a fairly unfavorable view of your standard Hollywood types. Lance is throwing a party where all sorts of writers, agents and producers are talking about all of their various projects in the most stereotypically Hollywood way possible. It also takes time to mock the critics of these films and makes the dichotomy of “Either you make a film that 400,000 pimply hormonal teenagers go see or you make a film that 7,000 overeducated smug elitists go see.” It both presents the type of movies that Lance makes as pure schlock with no critical worth and that any movie that would have critical worth is just for the ivory tower types.
After some electrical problems, Lance sends everyone home but ends up inviting Frank in when he says that he is an electrician. It is then that we learn that Lance originally wanted to make more metaphorical, artsy pieces but the studio suggested he turn his concept into a literal torture movie and it ended up making him rich. We then also learn who Frank really is. He uses Lance’s sister, located somewhere where she apparently has little oxygen, as leverage to get him to comply with his demands. Rather than spiraling into the sort of torture horror film that has been talked about, the movie instead decides to start tackling some very deep issues.
It goes into one of the controversial debates that we still have to this day about the responsibility of the people that make the media we consume. Where do we place blame when something terrible happens in our world? Do we blame the movies, video games and music or do we blame the parents that should have been looking after their children? Does there exist a moral obligation to censor these stories so that the ideas don’t infect our society? It also goes into the concepts of the real vs the imagined as far how horror in life is always worse on screen but also how that which we imagine will always be worse than what we are shown.
Some pretty heavy stuff for a little independent horror film but it’s not all just great philosophical intrigue here. While it does deal with these questions, it doesn’t have any good resolutions or even anything particularly new to add to the discussions. It also has some less than stellar acting at points. Not that I expect too much but it does take you out of the scene a lot, especially the character of Frank which ends up being pretty wooden most of the time. The ending was also the weakest point of the movie. It basically seemed like it didn’t know how or when it wanted to end and it was maybe trying to say something but mostly was just clumsy. Other than those complaints though, it was a decently fun movie to watch and even if it doesn’t provide any great insight, it is always nice to have a movie bring up those topics for discussion.
I like seeing horror try to have discussions about horror within the movie. Whether it’s Scream or Cabin in the Woods, horror is one of those genres where the tropes of the medium get called into question a lot. While not exactly the best made horror movie I’ve seen, I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5 for at least trying to bring something smart and meta to the table.