Cut and Run. 1985. Directed by Ruggero Deodato. Screenplay by Cesare Frugoni & Dardano Sacchetti.
Starring Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, Eriq La Salle, John Steiner, Karen Black, Barbara Magnolfi, & Luca Barbareschi.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
There’s no shame in saying you’re not a fan of Ruggero Deodato. Many have problems with how he captured certain events in Cannibal Holocaust, and to a certain extent I do agree, however, to a certain extent I don’t: many of those animal killings were brutish, but all of the animals were eaten by the tribe that were on set with the crew, so part of me feels better. How you feel is how you feel.
Regardless of that, Cannibal Holocaust does have a couple poignant things, under all the gore, to say about civilisation (maybe I should preface that with ‘so-called’) and the pursuit of media to get the best story at whatever expense necessary. And more of that comes through in this deliciously deviant little film from 1985, Cut and Run.
Instead of do a sequel to his infamous found footage classic, Deodato chose to make this film, which originally started as a sceenplay from Wes Craven called Marimba. With no funding, the studio apparently kept Craven’s script and eventually got Deodato to make it. Not sure how the original script fares in comparison to this, although anything Dardano Sacchetti-related is always of interest to me.
Cut and Run is a vicious piece of exploitation cinema, still with that heavy hand of nastiness inherent to Deodato. Personally I feel that Cannibal Holocaust, for all its faults, is the better movie. All the same this one gives it a run for its money, so to speak. With a mesmerising performance out of Richard Lynch, a story that semi serves as a fictional sequel to the massacre at Jonestown, Deodato is able to make more statements about the media, the influence of the outside world on indigenous populations(/cultures), and still keep up a high body count, as many of his fans likely come to expect.
Hideous moments of violence open up the film. The practical effects are staggering. In particular, one decapitation scene cuts away from the explicit act. Then afterwards we get a look at the amazingly executed makeup effects. Horrible as they are, it’s hard not to admire the work put into something that’s only seen on camera for about three or four whole seconds. On the whole, this flick is by far less gory than Cannibal Holocaust. No matter. Deodato doesn’t hold out on the ugly killing, he merely tones down the ferocity. That’s not say there aren’t excruciating horror scenes, as made clear right off the bat in the first scenes. This movie has its share of gore, though it takes on a more action-horror element.
And of course these opening scenes introduce us to Michael Berryman’s character, Quecho, a mad bushman in the jungle. He’s always a treat in genre pictures. The natural look he has due to hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia gives him a different look, and his height allows him to appear imposing. Add to that his maniacal abilities as a character actor of horror and Quecho is damn creepy. He’s menacing, pure brute force of a man, and his wild eyes are chilling, not to mention the bloody murders he commits.
The characters are the best part about the film, really. Colonel Brian Horne (Lynch) is an interesting one in the lead. He was a right-hand man of Jim Jones (fictional, obviously) and is said to have encouraged the violence which erupted at Jonestown along with the suicides. Lynch has an aura of eeriness, no matter what role or film he’s in. Here, he fits the bill perfect, adding a theatrical quality to this military madman. Really makes the film so much better having him in there. Just with a look, Lynch can communicate a world of terror.
Hard not to mention a score when it comes from Claudio Simonetti, Brazil-born keyboardist of Goblin. He’s done so many wonderful scores, from Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebrae, and more. This ranks up there with some of his best stuff. He retains that Goblin-esque aura while paving his own way as a solo composer on each subsequent project. His music aids in Deodato’s pacing, breaking into tribal sounds during some moments, and going all-out ’80s during most others, each sound with its respective energy.
The cinematography is worthy of note, too. Courtesy of Alberto Spagnoli, whose credits include Mario Bava’s 1977 ghost flick Schock and the Peter Bogdanovich-directed Daisy Miller. This was the last film Spagnoli worked on and I’m inclined, out of what I’ve seen through his lens, to say it’s his best. Specifically he captures the jungle in several sequences with a tremendous eye. Late in the film during the final 30 minutes, it’s just perfectly beautiful cinematography. Worth the ride to watch Spangoli’s work alone.
Cut and Run is an odd, entertaining, horrific relic of 1985, mixing Deodato’s brutality with a stellar cast – Lisa Blount (John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness) to the underrated Richard Lynch and genre favourites like Michael Berryman, even Karen Black and ER‘s Eriq La Salle shows up.More than that the film’s theme of corruption, whether in the big city, Guyana, or some other jungle filled with cannibals. People like Lynch’s character, and Jim Jones, they reject other forms of leadership in order to create for themselves a cult of personality, eventually corrupting everything and anything good that ever existed in them. They leave society to create paradise only for it to collapse into hell.
Writing this in mid-December 2016, I find it hard not to connect this to current events in America. Time will well what’s going to happen. But as it stands, the fictional Lynch, even the real Jones, they wanted to get away from the supposed elites running their countries (sound familiar). They want to get away from the swamp, or drain it. Whatever. Yet they wind up in an entirely other swamp, they cultivate the same atmosphere only under a different name. Then the heads start rolling, eventually.
Cut and Run is nowhere near perfect. And despite that it was prescient in ’85 about how bad things could get, even while they seemed to be bad enough. Things can always get better, but they can always get worse, as well. Never forget that.