So if Fresh Meat taught me anything about New Zealand’s culture it’s that all the guys are perpetually horny, most of the females are lesbians, most of the police officers are witless morons, and most of the cannibals are religious cult-worshipping natives. Would any New Zealanders like to refute that? Please, I’m all ears, I know nothing about Maori culture and island rituals, except if I want to distract the Tazmianian Devil (whom I can only assume is the island mascot) all I have to do is toss a kiwi bird in the other direction and he’ll chase it. Don’t you watch cartoons? Tazmanian Devils love snacking on kiwi birds!
Aw hell, this isn’t some educational country promoting film though, so I’m just going to assume Danny Mulheron’s B-Movie horror throwback is all fictional, right down to the cannibalistic family who have to fight off some home invading criminals. Say what now?
Starting off as a jokey break-out film, we meet a group of bumbling gang-banging wannabes lead but an ex-militant named Gigi (Kate Elliot). After setting free her boyfriend Ritchie (Leand Macadaan) by intercepting the criminal transport vehicle he’s being driven in, the group are forced to seek refuge in a suburban home to avoid being spotted by a police chopper. This is where we meet the inhabitants of home – husband and struggling writer Hemi Crane (Temuera Morrison), his successful celebrity chef wife Margaret (Nicola Kawana), their preppy son Glenn (Kahn West), and their daughter Rina (Hanna Tevita) who has just arrived home from an all girls boarding school. Tensions are obviously high as the criminals attempt to subdue their hostages, but after discovering the family are actually religious cannibals, which is something Rina discovers for herself that night, the unfolding events pit a hungry family against their prospective dinner.
So I think the first obvious statement to make here is Fresh Meat does not attempt to be one of the films joining the current “gritty realism” movement that all of Hollywood is embracing. This is straight midnight B-Movie silliness without an iota of realism or desire to be respected. Within the first minutes we’re greeted by a shower-room scene at the all girls school, giving us our first random tastes of nudity which were completely unnecessary in terms of story, but crucial in establishing the overall tone of sexy grindhouse fun. Mulheron never ever treats the material as respectable, high-brow horror, which is both a spectacular and horrid thing.
The spectacular – actor Temuera Morrison, whom mainstream audiences will know as Abin Sur from the failed Ryan Reynold’s version of Green Lantern, was balls to the wall crazy, and entirely entertaining because of it. While some of the actors were just goofy for the sake of B-Movie acting, Morrison’s role was fun, enjoyable, and just insane enough to completely fit the mood Mulheron’s movie needed. His performance of course goes hand in hand with the amount of gratuitous violence and gore Fresh Meat was able to get away with on an independent film budget, which again was able to provide the schlock and awe gorehounds will be looking for. For a movie about cannibals, we’re served up a sizable portion of body parts, death, and of course – bollocks.
But with the good comes the bad unfortunately for Fresh Meat, as our script forcibly tires to push laughs and dark comedy with scenarios all too outrageous to partake in. I admire the attempt to create comedy, but some of the horror moments seem juvenile and forgettable, even for a B-Movie. Let’s not forget the mirad of lackluster effects that only perpetuate this point which I applaud for at least trying to turn a low-budget thriller into something bigger and badder, but a few moments of poor CGI do nothing but remove us from the moment. Explosions, gore – hell, even backdrops seems horribly green-screened and fake, but that’s the risk you run with an independent film. The blood flows, gore is overwhelming, but it doesn’t always look like an A+ production.
Here’s my thing: I know people are going to call Fresh Meat an amateur effort based on production, but I still had a hell of a lot of fun with it. Get past the sometimes weak dialogue, momentarily hammed-up performances, overwhelming yet sometimes poorly constructed gore, and you’ve got a cannibalistic movie that lunges for the heart, but only ends up grabbing a kidney or lung. It’s still brutal, still silly, still all the fun you’d expect, but doesn’t quite hit the target every time.
While Fresh Meat is sometimes hard to swallow, I admittedly had more fun than I should have with this cannibal caper.