INBRED Telluride Horror Show 2012 Review
It could be argued that horror is such a popular genre because it is, for all intents and purposes, the simplest. Boil it down to its basest components and, in the end, its audience only requires one thing – to be frightened. So how to achieve this? There are many different avenues, but one oft-used method is the uneasiness of unfamiliarity. We fear what we don’t understand. And if there’s one thing city dwellers don’t understand, it’s those folks out in the sticks (and vice versa). Thus is the impetus behind the beloved horror subgenre of ‘creepy rural slashers’. The problem, however, is that this concept of disparate and mutual alien-ness has been deconstructed and mined for details nearly as ravenously as the Zapruder film, leaving the majority of the films that make use of it tired and homogeneous. Inbred, a 2011 UK horror that made its U.S. premiere at this year’s Telluride Horror Show, happily bucks that trend somewhat. The result is a savagely wicked film that will satisfy lovers of dark humor and gore alike.
Inbred follows four juveniles – Tim, Zeb, Sam, and Dwight – who have been sentenced to rural community service for a variety of fairly petty crimes. Accompanying them are social workers Kate (Jo Hartley) and Jeff (James Doherty). The group travels to the mysterious isolated village of Mortlake, where they mean to do some scavenging and cleaning. The youths are naturally ambivalent and resist the goofy optimism of Jeff, who continually and unsuccessfully tries to drum up enthusiasm for the trip. Once there, the visitors meet the usual gang of creepy locals who inhabit a variety of typical rural horror personas (smashed teeth, stringy hair, vacant expressions, et al). The town’s only pub is owned by a man named Jim (Seamus O’Neill), who appears to be the most ‘normal’ man in the village, although his lack of love for visitors is quickly apparent. Suffice it to say that the group isn’t welcome.
However, in a bit of an unexpected turn, the group is allowed free rein around the village and are left to their own devices. They come upon some abandoned trains and the youths take out some aggression by partaking in a bit of vandalism. All the while, they’re being watched from the hills above, but not bothered with. Only when Jeff confronts a few local bullies and accidentally seriously injures himself does the true nature of Mortlake reveal itself. From that time on, the film becomes a darkly comic race to see if any of the “outsiders” can make it out of Mortlake alive.
For the most part, Inbred successfully does what so many horror movies these days cannot: it distinguishes itself in the midst of a particularly bloated subgenre. It is almost laughable how many horrors are thinly-veiled thefts from rural slasher flicks such as The Hills Have Eyes and the like (cleverly satirized by one of 2012’s best films The Cabin in the Woods). Thankfully, Inbred largely avoids drifting into boring banality. I enjoyed the fact that Mortlake’s residents are not portrayed as hillbilly omniscients, which so often tends to happen in this type of film. Rather, if not for an unfortunately-random event, I’d imagine that the group may have traveled back home without incident. But it does. And once the blood starts flowing, boy does it flow.
The cast is solid, with Jo Hartley and Seamus O’Neill deserving of particular praise. Hartley is great as the eventual lone adult trying to keep her ragtag band of delinquents alive, but O’Neill is Inbred‘s inarguable star. Once it becomes necessary to ‘protect’ Mortlake’s isolation by wiping out its visitors, the method in which O’Neill’s Jim goes about this task is both gruesome and hilarious. Mortlake’s town anthem of sorts, “Ee by Gum,” is repeatedly used to blackly comic effect. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be humming it for days (in between remembrances of blood and guts). The setting is also spot-on for a rural slasher flick. For the most part, the movie is filmed in the northern Yorkshire village of Thirsk, which lends itself well to the desolate and removed atmosphere of Mortlake. There is certainly nothing ‘Hollywood’ about Inbred, to its advantage.
Although the film does inevitably get bogged down somewhat by the constraints of its overused tropes, and a reliance on very dark humor occasionally takes the wind out of a death scene or two, I would still thoroughly recommend Inbred to horror lovers. Despite a couple slight hiccups, it breaths a little life into a tired idea, something the horror genre could use a lot of these days.