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Capone's Art-House Round-Up with the great music doc A BAND CALLED DEATH and 100 BLOODY ACRES!!!

Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here, with a few films that are making their way into art houses or coming out in limited release around America this week (maybe even taking up one whole screen at a multiplex near you). Do your part to support these films, or at least the good ones…

My favorite music doc is quite some time is A BAND CALLED DEATH, about the largely unknown pre-punk band Death from Detroit, circa the early 1970s. Made up of three brothers and led by the eldest who had spiritual leanings and a great vision for the group, which actually recorded and pressed two songs for a single and some additional music that stayed on reel-to-reel tapes for years in someone's attic. The path the brothers and their music took after Death was rejected by all record labels (because of their dark name) is remarkable, and the way in which their music re-emerged decades later is almost impossible to believe.

Were it not for last year's SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN doc, I might not believe this level of musical obscurity could be overcome, but the path of the men in Death is very different than a folk-rock singer also from Detroit. Their music was beautifully written, roughly played and energetically received, but they just couldn't hold it together and they wouldn't change their name until it was too late for any level of stardom.

The film features great interviews with surviving Death members, their offspring and loved ones, as well as a few key enthusiasts, from record collectors to fans like Questlove, Henry Rollins, and Elijah Wood, with each one of them telling their tale of first discovering Death and why their music is so significant, especially since their punk sensibility pre-dated the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and Bad Brains. The film will almost certainly make you cry, because the brother are so wonderfully expressive and get quite emotional at this second chance in life that is so rarely given. They are talented and, above all, grateful. And you will be too after you see A BAND CALLED DEATH.

Somewhere in a remote small town in Australia, there exists the Morgan Brothers fertilizer company, operated by Reg (Damon Herriman) and Lindsay (Angus Sampson). The siblings make no secret about using average, ordinary bones and blood from animal roadkill, ground into a lovely mixture, but with one very special delivery there was an added ingredient. After a horrible car crash that left several people dead, the brothers took it upon themselves to remove the lifeless corpses before the police arrived and throw them into the meat grinder, changing the chemical makeup of their fertilizer for the better. It was a one-time event, done for a special customer—but now that customer wants another delivery of the special mix.

Riffing off the classic horror movie template of a rednecks in the woods going after unsuspecting tourists (or in this case, three 20-somethings going to a nearby music festival), 100 BLOODY ACRES maintains the tension that comes from being utterly isolated in a strange place, but it injects a great deal of humor into its grizzly tale, mostly at the expense of Reg, who is easily manipulated by both his brother and his victims, and is just an all-around screwup most of the time. Herriman might be best known to American audiences from his appearances in US television series "Vegas" and "Justified," as well as American films like J. EDGAR and the HOUSE OF WAX remake (in which he played, coincidentally, a roadkill pick-up driver).

While making a delivery run, Reg stumbles upon another accident, this time with just one victim behind the wheel. He drags the body into his truck and continues on, until he runs into a broken-down car with the aforementioned concert goers—the lovely Sophie (Anna McGahan), her boyfriend James (Oliver Ackland), and their friend Wesley (Jammie Kristian), with whom she's sleeping with on the side. After some convincing, he offers them a ride to the festival, but they discover the body in the truck, and things go sideways from there. Reg drives the three to the Morgan farm, where Lindsay is baffled by Reg's decision to pick them us, let alone kidnap them.

As Lindsay, Sampson is a giant of a man with a beard that would look at place on an Amish or Mennonite person, giving the film slightly religious undertones. These themes are brought to the forefront when Reg attempts to shame Sophie for her whorish ways—both for sleeping with two men and for trying to seduce him as well as a means of escape. The Morgans do have a type of moral code, which is slowly chipped away as the film goes on.

First-time feature writer-directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes have concocted a messy, gruesome stew with 100 BLOODY ACRES, complete with every conceivable body part being tossed about, chopped off, and just generally used in way for which they were not designed. As Lindsay grows more comfortable with the idea of actually killing to get the bodies he needs for his fertilizer, Reg becomes less at ease with the practice. Each of the three live victims has varying degrees of success attempt to escape. Wesley is tripping on acid for most of the film, which makes his running into an abandoned Fairyland theme park quite interesting.

As the film moves forward, both the Morgan brothers' bond and the relationship between Sophie and James are falling apart, as the plot spirals into near-psychotic glee, with the body count steadily rising (largely thanks to Lindsay, who becomes fully unhinged by the end of the movie). The filmmakers should be applauded for what appears to be their steadfast commitment to practical gore effects rather than CG blood splatter, as is the norm in most Hollywood scare films. One of the strangest choices the Cairnes make comes with the soundtrack, with an almost non-stop assault of classic Australian pop songs playing on a classic rock radio station.

The primary objective of 100 BLOODY ACRES isn't necessarily to scare its audience. There are certainly a few shocks along the way that might result in some yelping. But what the film really wants to do is test your limits for good taste. The blood-and-guts quotient is exceedingly high, and some of it is downright graphic, especially anytime any body part gets near that damn meat grinder. But the comedic undercurrent keeps the proceedings from ever getting oppressively grim, even when the film is at its most violent and blood soaked. Make no mistake, the work is for strong-of-stomach only, but if severed limbs and squishy organs aren't an issue, this high-energy Australian splatterfest should be right up your alley.

-- Steve Prokopy
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