If you’re looking for a film you don’t have to think much about, don’t have to pay much attention to, or prefer to have everything spelled out in front of you, then Cut! is not for you. Co-written and directed by David Rountree, Cut! is an intelligent film that presents the viewer with more than a few unexpected plot twists. As the film begins, there is a sequence of scenes that clearly don’t make much sense. Of course this is intentional, and the viewer needs to follow through to the end to truly grasp the beginning. Better yet, if you watch it a second time, it opens up the story even further. While piecing these early scenes together is a welcome challenge, what does smack you in the face is the narrator’s not so subtle share of how many serial killers we may just pass by in everyday life and never know. Add to that the disclosure “based on true events” it is an eery thought, and a clever way to set the tone for the rest of the film.
In essence Cut! is a film within a film set up, as ex-con, Lane Hayes (David Banks) and aspiring filmmaker, Travis Simon (David Rountree) set out to make their own horror film by scaring real people. Once they set their simple plan in motion, things begin to go horribly wrong, and yet nothing is really as it seems. Cut! is The Indie Fest Award Winner for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor, along with an Award of Merit for Audio. I can see why. This is a well-written film with some of the characters decision making and actions not being all that far from truth. Mix that in with some of the more extreme and gruesome behavior of other characters, and it blends perfectly. David Rountree did a fantastic job placing in front of the audience just enough to see, but not too much. He didn’t show me what he wanted me to see, but rather purposely left much of the more horrific parts of the film up to my own imagination. Which was unpleasant, and clearly the point. The pairing of Lane and Travis as friends may seem out of place, yet in the end it makes sense how this odd friendship existed and why. David Banks totally owned Lane Hayes, who was at times funny, mistakenly lost his emotions a few times, but completely unhinged and twisted. Lane is not a one-dimensional character, which isn’t far off from real serial killers. Someone might argue that Lane showing any sense of humor or remorse isn’t real. Not true. Often times serial killers come across as charming and likable initially. Although, even during his humorous moments, Lane isn’t very likable at all. Hats off to David Banks for balancing Lane in this way. You hate Lane, and yet in the beginning of the movie, can laugh at his rantings, then go about hating him again. I think it takes a certain talent to be convincing and walk that fine line.
I would argue Cut! feels more like a thriller than horror. Which is actually why I enjoyed it so much. Someone looking for a whole lot of gore may be disappointed. I however, preferred how the camera angles, shadows, and sound forced me to decide what I thought was happening during certain defining moments. Too me, this is smart film-making. And because so much unfolded at the end, it will be exciting to see if and how this story continues.