Review: Sawney: Flesh of Man (aka Lord of Darkness) 2012
The legend of Sawney Bean, and his cannibalistic family has been told for hundreds of years in his native Scotland, and the idea has been utilised numerous times in popular fiction. Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series drew influence in one form or another. This low budget effort is the first feature from director Ricky Wood, and - for the most part - delivers the goods.
Set in modern day Scotland, a world weary detective (Gavin Mitchell) and a young, alcoholic, reporter Hamish (Samuel Feeney) are both trying to piece together a series of murders where the only remains that turn up of the victims are the head and feet. The perpetrator, Sawney Bean (David Hayman) abducts his victims in his black cab and takes them to his family lair, a dank cave, a place of freaks, chainsaws, chickens and offal. It doesn't matter what gender you are, all that matters to Sawney is how you taste. His family don't mind either, and the hors d'oeuvres for his youngsters often include rape. Again, gender is irrelevant.
Taking the Bible quote "unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves" too literally, Sawney is a perfect bogey man. Other than his odd eye, and perpetual blood stained fingers you would pass him in the street. The family are all hooded , athletic (they inexplicably can't resist doing back-flips, even when fighting among themselves) mutant looking inbreds scurry about the cave while awaiting Sawney, who brings home the bacon. Or in this case, human for them and mother. Who they keep locked away.
Surprisingly well made, and unrelentingly visceral; the gore effects especially are well above par for a film of this budget. It doesn't shy away from throwing all manor of flesh and bones at the viewer, even when they have been ground to a slurry by the titular cannibal. The use of locations, and lack of out of place humour build the tension and atmosphere, the caves especially adding some great, claustrophobic scares. The cinematography (by the director's brother Ranald; father Rick wrote the script) certainly pays dividends on that level.
If there's anything that lets it down, it's possibly the Feeney's acting is not as accomplished as the more veteran talent of Hayman and Mitchell; but it's not so bad as to throw you completely out of the film.
It will certainly be interesting to see what Wood comes up with next. Hopefully this will do well enough to merit a bigger budget for his future films.
(note: the film has been re-titled Lord of Darkness for US audiences) 7 out of 10