Cannibals and Carpet Fitters (2017)

There is a long-standing tradition in folk-horror, all the way back to camp fire stories, of the weirdo family that lives in the middle of nowhere and eats anyone who inadvertently trespasses onto their hunting grounds. On an intellectual level it’s probably something to do with fear of the unknown and warnings against wandering too far away from the safety of the collective, but for B-movie fans it’s a very basic “hicks are inbred idiots” combined with the visceral thrill of transgressing one of the biggest cultural taboos. It’s morally reprehensible enough to make murder worse, it’s instinctively nauseating due to the fear of disease, and when done right it’s bloody funny.

This low-budget independent movie from Jolly Old England manages to do most of the parts of the genre good service, right down to having a title that is both informative and entertaining in its own right. The central not-cannibal cast are all carpet fitters from somewhere outside of the M25/the edges of civilisation, and they are fundamentally average people and the cliché of tradesman dumbness. This means the audience can both relate to them on a human level, as realistic and well-acted representations of the failings and glory of the Everynan, and laugh when the carpeters die because if they hadn’t lowered themselves by doing a job that involves manual labour they wouldn’t be murdered for it.

The cannibals are the occupants of a large country manor, somewhere in the middle of farming land. All but one of them are unintelligible, physically powerful, savage and feral killing machines, with only the bitter and foul-tongued mother having lines that aren’t grunts. Whilst the house they occupy, and entrap the carpet fitters within by contracting them to work on, clearly denotes wealth, they are dressed in a range of working-class/low-income fashions. This means the audience gets the joy of the honest workers being attacked by avatars of the predatory rich and the thieving poor at the same time.

But, away from the psycho-analysis, the really important thing to remember is that everything is an excuse for the incredibly mean-spirited slaughter of people who didn’t deserve it. That is done with the range of kills, mutilations, and protracted hunting sequences that just make you giggle through a combination of outlandish ridiculousness and gory schadenfreude. The carpet-fitters start unaware of their situation and then, once overrun by it, show the kind of plucky spirit that shifts you into rooting for them once they start getting gradually picked off and put in the cooking pot.

If you want something complicated and meaningful, or even characters you’ll remember afterward by name rather than how they eventually died, then this is not for you. If you want to chortle at the one who fancies himself losing his nose, or get a twinge of empowerment from the sole female fitter being competent and commanding, or cheer as two fat blokes beat the shit out of a 7ft tall mentally impaired assailant with carpet fitting tools, then this is for you. Oh and Alex Zane dies a bloody death for being just how you think Alex Zane would be on a camping trip, which shows both a level of enthralling self-awareness and cosmic redemptive justice.

Assuming that you are drawn in by everything that this film very clearly offers, the only failing with the film is the ending. It’s not something that can really be spoiled, because it doesn’t really happen and it’s a technique that’s now a cliché that has confused bad writing with some kind of deep commentary. The situation escalates and escalates, and then just ends suddenly. You can probably work out what happens next, but you can’t help feeling that either the production ran out of money or the writer ran out of steam and recognised that endings are hard. Either way it’s a let-down, and for such an overall narratively conventional film I won’t broker any talk of them trying to do something fancy or meaningfully nihilistic at the end. Lone survivor/s bumbling back to civilization or everyone’s head visibly in the pot were the acceptable resolutions, claiming that the dog ate the last two pages of the script were not.

However, ending aside, this is a Treasure of a film. It’s filled with black humour, it throws blood and body parts around like a tornado in a morgue and it doesn’t take itself seriously at any point. Whilst it does follow the established recipe for this kind of story very closely, it leaves itself room for its own flourishes and surprises. The location is used well, everyone plays their part to perfection, and it doesn’t overstep what it could achieve on a technical level. It’s just a shame that it bodged the ending, but that would have been the cherry on top of what is otherwise still a satisfying meat pie.

The Raggedyman

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