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Sawney: Flesh of Man Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

DVD released by 101 Films

Written and directed by Ricky Wood
2013, 89 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 19th August 2013

Elizabeth Brown as Wendy McIntyre
David Hayman as Sawney Beane
William Houston as Charlie McGire
Gavin Mitchell as Bill Munro
Lisa Cameron as Librarian
Lindsay Cromar as Vet



What's the collective noun for a group of serial killers? A debauchery, apparently, according to the gruff Scottish introduction to Sawney: Flesh of Man. The psychopath who inspired many a horror filmmaker (not least Wes Craven and his Hills Have Eyes) finally gets his own movie. It's about time too.

While the legend of Sawney Bean would have made for an ace period horror film (think Sweeney Todd crossed with Ravenous, minus the singing) that's not what we're getting with Flesh of Man. No, Sawney is re-imagined as a taxi driver who hangs around outside nightclubs kidnapping unlucky partygoers as they head off home alone. Always travel in a group, girls, it's only common sense. So instead of a period Wrong Turn, we instead get another modern Wrong Turn, only set in Scotland this time. That's slightly disappointing, but not really a problem – after all, I absolutely love Wrong Turn.

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The Scottish element gives Flesh of Man a slight edge over the other backwoods cannibal movies out there. It looks really good, with the cities of Scotland and their adjoining hills making for a nice series of locations where our heroes can hunt Sawney and his family. It also means we get a protagonist called 'Hamish', which is lovely. Familiar TV David Hayman makes for a thoroughly creepy Sawney, while Gavin Mitchell is very distracting as cop Bill Munro. He does a fine enough job in the role, but as the actor is most recognisable as barman Boaby in the BBC sitcom Still Game, it's hard to take him seriously. I spent most of my time waiting for comedy pensioners Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill to turn up and call him a “prize wanker” or something.

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As Sawney kidnaps and mutilates his victims, he then feeds the bits to the ugly inbred relatives he keeps chained up and wandering about the place. It's not quite the 48 clan members of legend (the Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel of horror history) but it's a start. Besides, a handful of them are more than enough. Sawney's larger-than-life character here is reminiscent of Drayton Sawyer from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – only he happens to be the most evil and deranged of his family, whereas Drayton always seemed quite reluctant and apologetic.

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While the plot does veer dangerously close to rapey territory, the equally put-upon menfolk and male hero stop it from crossing the line into outright misogyny. Besides, it's far more interested in such lesser seen sights as Scottish parkour, martial arts and The Descent style claustrophobia. Like last year's Inbred, it's awesomely entertaining, cheerfully offensive and, frankly, quite mad in places. With a location that looks lovely (it's even better looking than most modern American backwoods movies), good music and decent acting, Sawney: Flesh of Man is surprisingly great. Fair play, showing those young whippersnappers how it's done. Not that it's above pulling a few duff moves itself. There's a last-act twist that anyone remotely versed in horror movie tradition will see coming from a mile away, and the sexual violence and torture stuff is unnecessary. 101 Films are beginning to make a name for themselves with the more rape-ridden releases (the nadir being the awful The Lodge). Maybe lay off for a while, guys? Flesh of Man doesn't even need to do that (few films do) – it's already gruesome and nasty enough.

A happily surprising hit, Sawney: Flesh of Man is gruesome, graphic and quite demented. It is indeed 'a debauchery'.

Video, Audio and Special Features:

Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.


Movie: Grade sawney-flesh-of-man-dvd-small
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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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