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The Barge People Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Raven Banner Entertainment

The Barge People Poster Large

Directed by Charlie Steeds 
Written by Christopher Lombard
2018, 78 minutes, Not Rated
FrightFest world premiere on 26th August 2019

Starring:
Kate Davies-Speak as Kat
Mark McKirdy as Mark
Makenna Guyler as Jade
Natlie Martins as Sophie

Review:

Director Charlie Steeds already tackled the horrors of the British countryside in his reasonably liked low-budget schlocker Escape From Cannibal Farm. Now he trades in rural England for that other perennially popular British pursuit – the canal barge. Hoping to cheer themselves up after the death of their beloved mother, two sisters and their annoying-in-different-ways boyfriends rent a canal boat for the weekend, fueled by homebrew gin and white wine. Not on the agenda: the mutant cannibals hiding beneath the murky waters, ravenous for human flesh.

The Barge People 01 The Barge People 02

Where Escape From Cannibal Farm was Steeds’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre tribute, there’s more than a touch of 1970s Wes Craven to The Barge People. Reminiscent of The Hills Have Eyes from the monstrous hillbilly family up, it trades in the great American motorhome for the British canal barge and keeps many major story beats intact. This is never more evident than during the film’s first big set piece, in which Steeds’s monsters attack the family barge, laying into the residents with the same savagery and gusto as we saw in 1977 and 2006.

Still, swapping out America for England gives Steeds much to chew on thematically, and Christopher Lombard’s script is surprisingly meaty in places, tackling both grief and modern class warfare. Its central message – rich or poor, city or country folk, we all bleed, lose and die the same – is silly, reductive and borderline condescending at times (we're supposed to find one of the boyfriends likeable because he calls people 'mate' and 'love' and eats scampi fries), but it has more to say than your average modern-day grindhouse slash 80s homage.

The Barge People 03 The Barge People 04

And even if it didn’t, The Barge People would be well worth one’s time for the impressive gore and shocking violence alone. Running at a brisk 78 minutes, it nips from action sequence to action sequence, continuing to impress with its practical splatter, makeup effects and grisly deaths. The cinematography by Michael Lloyd is frankly incredible, given the low budget, and, visually, the film bears more in common with Alexandre Aja’s Hills Have Eyes than Craven’s. Lessons have been learned since the fun but messy Escape From Cannibal Farm, and this feature improves on its predecessor in almost every possible way.

Except, however, when it comes to the characters. Kate Davies-Speak (star of Cannibal Farm) is a convincing, likeable lead, saddled with an uninspiring story and surrounded by horrible people. Her sister (Natalie Martin) is barely there, her boyfriend (Mark McKirdy) irritatingly earnest, and the character you’re most supposed to hate seems to have wandered in from the 1980s, complete with a yellow sweater tied over his shoulders the whole time. Possessed with grit, determination and a survivor’s spirit, Kat is almost the You’re Next-level final girl Lombard and Steeds are building her up to be, but the writing is ultimately too on-the-nose, the last act plot twists predictable and overdone.

The Barge People 05 The Barge People 06

None of this detracts from what Steeds, Lombard, Lloyd and composer Sam Benjafield have achieved with The Barge People. This is a throwback to '70s and '80s hillbilly horror with a modern British twist, packed with ridiculous gore and the best mutant cannibals since The Descent. Had this one been released back in the subgenre’s heyday, there’s a good chance we’d still be talking about it today.

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars The Barge People Poster Small
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Joel Harley 02
Staff Writer
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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