Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
The cover of A Thousand Cuts tricked me into hating it before watching it. It features two hands bound and bloody and has that cheap Saw color filter going on. There’s even an “Unrated Director’s Cut” stamp – even though I’m pretty sure this wasn’t submitted to the ratings board. Instead of played-out torture porn, however, the film is an examination of the genre’s violence and who should take responsibility for its impact. It’s certainly a relevant discussion as lazy politicians and parents still feel that blaming violent movies and video games is a tangible argument for all of the horrible shit in the world. A Thousand Cuts offers no conclusion, but focuses on a torture porn director and a vengeful parent affected by his films.
Arrogant director Lance (Michael Newcomer) has made a career cranking out sequels to his sadistic A Thousand Cuts franchise. He once had aspirations to become a serious auteur, but the paychecks from his torture porn flicks have curbed those dreams. There’s a cliché Hollywood party going on at his house complete with shady producers and clingy screenwriters. About 20 minutes is spent hammering into our heads that Lance is a prick. He offers to pay for a critic’s grad school if she’ll take her clothes off. When an aspiring screenwriter tries to toss an idea at him, Lance shoves him into the pool. Stuff like that.
After the power goes out a few times, Lance kicks everyone out of the house. The only guy who stays behind is Frank (Michael O’Keefe – Caddyshack), a blue-collar looking man who tells Frank he’s an electrician. Frank “fixes” the power outage and a slightly inebriated Lance invites him in for a drink. A casual conversation quickly turns dark as Frank reveals he’s the father of a woman who was brutally murdered by A Thousand Cuts copycat killer. Frank blames Lance and he’s there to teach him a thing (or a thousand) about taking responsibility.
The two men go back and forth, debating the accountability of Lance in the murder. There’s really no physical torture involved but there’s loads of psychological torment. Turns out Frank’s a pretty cunning guy. O’Keefe and Newcomer pull it off really well. Both actors deliver believable performances, particularly O’Keefe who presents a convincing character filled with rage and grief. Everyone else billed in the movie (including James Van Patten from the Saw franchise) has a couple of lines during the party scenes and nothing else. The meat of this film is Lance and Frank restrained to a few rooms. The limited cast, torture theme, and space restrictions make it a lot like Hard Candy and Polanski’s Death and the Maiden.
Ultimately, writer and director Charles Evered has crafted an intelligent, relevant thriller that’s driven by two great leads. It takes longer than it should to get going, but once it does it’s thoroughly absorbing – even when predictable.
Horizon Movies presents A Thousand Cuts in 1.78:1. It looks like your standard HD cable broadcast with nice colors and contrast, particularly in the exterior party scenes. The 5.1 audio sounds fine.
Just a trailer and a few stills.