Oftentimes, meta horror films usually land on the lighter side of the spectrum. There’s something inherently comedic about frequently winking into the camera, so most slasher movies with meta sensibilities fall into the horror-comedy realm by nature. Michael Walker’s Cut Shoot Kill is not one of those films.
A grimy, eerie exploration of independent horror movies, Cut Shoot Kill finds struggling actress Serena (Alexandra Socha) reluctantly joining the cast of the latest Alabama Chapman (Alex Hurt) production. Known among the underground horror community for his provocative and deeply realistic short films, Chapman finds himself in pre-production on his first feature and in desperate need of a new leading lady, since his previous collaborator was brutally murdered. If you’re a seasoned fan of genre cinema, you probably know exactly where this is headed.
And while Cut Shoot Kill is a fairly predictable movie in regards to its narrative beats, it remains strangely shocking due to the fact that it is never clear as to whether what is happening onscreen at any given moment is “real” or merely part of the film within the film. Using a guerrilla film shoot and the backwoods of North Carolina as a conduit for clever scares and inventive twists works consistently well for Walker, who makes the setting feel both frightening and strangely welcoming at the exact same time.
The inexperienced but eager crew is comprised of endearing country folk who are immediately scoffed at by Serena. Her shitty attitude towards guerrilla filmmakers — despite the fact that she herself is by no means a movie star — provides one of the most interesting elements of Cut Shoot Kill. Walker examines people who make movies for no money, with limited resources, but an endless amount of passion in a unique way. Instead of making aspiring filmmakers from Appalachia the butt of the film’s jokes, Walker almost champions their backwoods ingenuity.
Of course, the crew members of the film within the film are no saints, but it’s always refreshing to see a horror movie that doesn’t treat people from the American south like absolute shit. Chapman and his collaborators are flawed, but reasonably fleshed-out characters with layers; a far cry from the generic hillbilly lunatics that usually occupy this space.
Considering that the film also provides some above-average performances, superb special effects, and a few genuinely surprising twists and turns, there’s no doubt that Cut Shoot Kill is one of the better meta slashers to come along in recent memory. It’s timely, strangely relatable, and passes all of the requirements of a good slasher film. This is Video Violence for the next generation of horror fans and filmmakers — and it’s very, very fun.
Cut Shoot Kill hits VOD August 8th.