Cut! (2015) Directed by David Rountree. Starring: Sam Scarber, Dahlia Salem, David Banks. IMDB says: “Nothing is as it seems as an ex-con and aspirant filmmaker set out to manufacture a horror film by scaring real people; however, when it goes too far and someone actually dies, the pair decide that killing for real on film is the way to make a truly terrifying movie.”

Cut! is a new independent horror/mystery film which recently made it’s way to Video On Demand after earning serious recognition at the 2014 Independent Film and Television festival. The film is a meta-movie. It’s a serial killer movie about a couple folks making a serial killer movie starring a serial killer. Based on some of the promotional materials, I went into this expecting a cliché gore-filled over the top horror flick but what I got instead was an altogether more engaging film.

Two men, one an ex-con, aspire to make a horror film. Early on, they encounter difficulties and when someone dies for real, the production begins to spiral into something more sinister. The concept being that real acts of violence and mayhem will make for the most compelling film. As the plot unfolds there’s palpable emotion between the characters as they struggle to get a grip on what is happening to them and what they have done. The film goes beyond the horror genre and into mystery/thriller territory as the plot carries an air of uncertainty throughout. All in all, the story is well-written, and I especially enjoyed the third act.

The lead character is played by David Rountree who also wrote and directed this film. His character, Travis, is for me, the most compelling. The seemingly quiet by –the-book aspiring director, is a deep character that transforms before the viewer’s eyes into what he truly is. He’s backed up by David Banks playing an ex-con named Lane. The character of Lane is also complex, an ex-con who possesses no compassion or kindness towards any of those around him, except perhaps to Travis. As things become more serious in the film, you start to see a softening of this hardened “bad guy”. You begin to see remorse and in my opinion, that’s one of the hardest emotions to pull off. The acting is more than serviceable and I think I prefer it that way. Could the acting have been better with Hollywood A-listers? Probably. But the relative anonymity of much of the cast sort of lends to the realism the film is shooting for.

The film is well put together; it is able to be quite successful with a lot of different attributes. They did a lot with a presumably small budget, the mise-en-scene is effective, never seeming tacky or rushed or short-changed. The plot employs elements of suspense and surprise through a series of twists and turns that leave the audience on the edge of their seat. The action sequences aren’t overly drawn out, they are quick and powerful. One disappointment was the lack of gore I got out of this film. I suppose part of that owes to my initial expectations, but a good horror film should have no shortage of blood and guts, in my book at least. At the end of the day, this is quite a good film, while not destined to be a Hollywood blockbuster, I expect many will enjoy this on video-on-demand in a dark room late at night, and isn’t that what a true horror film is really about?