UK filmmaker Alex Chandon (Cradle of Fear) has probably forgotten more redneck-stalker-in-the-woods films than you’ve heard about. If his latest film is any indication, Chandon has a fondness for rural horror that goes beyond a fanboy’s posturing. He has a true reverence for the toothless, murderous folk who prey upon travelers in need. In his offbeat feature, Inbred, Chandon plays around in familiar rural territory, but adds his own stamp onto the standard tropes. He assembles the oddest assortment of murderous hicks who prey on lost teen misfits that you’ve ever seen. This over-the-top tribute to excessive splatter films like Bad Taste and Re-Animator is a very entertaining film, and sure to be a favorite with the after midnight crowd.

Realizing everything that can be done in the subgenre has been done, Chandon opts for bizarre humor and no-holds-barred gore to keep things fresh. While some critics have branded the film an excuse to move from one gory set-piece to another, Inbred has merit beyond grotesque gratification. Chandon could have been satisfied pandering to unquestioning gorehounds and delivered a blood-soaked, uninspired film. Instead, he offers viewers a genuinely weird and creepy story about redemption that benefits greatly from exceptional casting, spooky locations, and gruesome special makeup effects.

After a hilariously bloody false start, we’re introduced to an intrepid group of troubled teens on an excursion to perform community service. The trip is lead by care workers Jeff (James Doherty) and Kate (Jo Hartley), two do-gooders who want the teens to experience the great outdoors and escape the pressures of the city. Their peaceful stay in the secluded village of Mortlake is interrupted when they cross paths with the wrong clan of inbred villagers. The group is soon terrorized by the twisted townsfolk, led by pub owner Jim (Seamus O’Neill), who have sinister plans to dismember, disembowel, and host a particularly cruel live entertainment show to satisfy the community’s ultra liberal blood cravings.

A horror film doesn’t have to have huge aspirations to be a success. Chandon uses a tried-and-true premise, populated with archetypes, but still manages to make Inbred feel new. His exceptional location choices give the viewer a true sense of isolation. The ramshackle homes and buildings of Mortlake are, indeed, creepy. There’s something about the British landscape that lends authenticity to the atmosphere. It’s as if Chandon found some secret and horrific village and cast the actual monstrous inhabitants in his film. In reality, though, Inbred boasts great actors taking on unconventional roles, thrust into a novel and demented carnival sideshow.

Ultimately, the UK does darkly humorous horror better than anyone. The reason films like Severance and The Cottage succeed is because they offer genuine tension. Their uncomfortable laughs act as pressure release valves rather than awkward machinations diluting the horror. Chandon’s film is also gloriously grimy. In so many retreads of classics like The Hills Have Eyes, there’s a lack of grittiness I associate with a true representation of the genre. While photographed beautifully, Chandon’s film is suitably bloody and muck-encrusted.

Much time in Inbred is spent acquainting the audience with unlikable teen characters. They appear selfish and vulgar, and we’re skeptical that a brief trek into nature will result in lasting rehabilitation. But as the story progresses and lives are at stake, characters step up in selfless ways to help their companions escape the terror of the inbred psychopaths. It’s that quality in character development, the subtext of redemption, that gives Inbred a dismembered leg up on the competition.

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By Chris Hallock

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