Cannibals and Carpet Fitters
A group of carpet fitters are sent on a job to an old Country house in the middle of nowhere. However they soon discover it's a trap set up by the savage, cannibalistic family, The Hannings. The carpet fitters are forced to fight for their lives or risk ending up being the evenings dinner. Unfortunately they are not quite your typical heroes!
Richard Lee O'Donnell
Darren Sean Enright
Richard Lee O'Donnell
It was another first for me during this year’s horror festival season – as I got to know Richard Lee O’Donnell while he was in town from overseas – to oversee (see how I did that?) the World Premiere of his new feature Cannibals and Carpet-Fitters. As I chatted with the film’s writer, star and producer (O’Donnell) – we discussed favorite horror films – among them Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. He admitted that the opening sequence to his film was inspired by the end credits-epilogue of Snyder’s film.
And of course, we went on to talk a bit about his film (the short film version played at Shriekfest several years ago).
Why is this a first? Well, I ended up sitting next to Mr. O’Donnell for the screening. It’s the first time I’ve knowingly sat next to the brains behind a film which I was about to review.
There’s a legendary scene in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada – where Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestley attends a pre-showing for a designer’s new collection. It’s a brilliant moment which tells the story of the meaning behind Miranda’s body language, and how those silent reactions tell those around her exactly how she feels about the designs.
When Anne Hathaway’s character asks Stanley Tucci’s character what “pursed lips” means – he replies with a breathy, “Disaster.”
Needless to say, I was jokingly referencing this sequence with O’Donnell right as the lights went down.
Were my lips pursed at the film’s conclusion? Read on to find out!
The mom-n-pop carpet business, Cupid Carpets – headed by Nigel (Tony Nyland) – has sent its employees out to a remote country estate for a big (and potentially lucrative) carpeting job. Thing is (as we’ll learn in the aforementioned opening sequence) this home is owned by a doting mother and her four inbred sons – the Hanning family. They’re ravenous and merciless cannibals (not a spoiler, folks – check out the film’s title!) And so the two groups of unsuspecting carpet-fitters, one of them headed by Colin and Dean (Darren Sean Enright and O’Donnell; respectively) arrive on the scene – where naturally, chaos ensues.
The film starts off with that found footage bang (my avid readers of 3 know how much I LOVE me some found footage – ahem) but only to get things underway. And the use of this technique actually makes sense and comes into play later. So well done on that front.
Once we shift into traditional cinematic story-telling, there are some gorgeous overhead shots of the vast Hanning estate. And other more intimate camera tricks (I loved the pie on the table scene with Colin – for the camera focus but also for everything else) can be found all over.
The cannibal brothers reminded me of two legendary horror families – Jupiter’s clan in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes and the Linda Blair vehicle from the early ‘80s, Hell Night (see below). There are also call-outs to that much-praised and much-maligned episode of The X-Files in the ‘90s – “Home”. If you’ll recall, that’s the episode of the inbred family known as The Peacocks. While Cannibals and Carpet-Fitters never gets as dark and disturbing as that television classic, the family dynamic is there – minus the armless/legless matriarch of course.
Not all of the jokes hit their mark, but when they do – you’ll enjoy some real belly laughs. Of note is one of Dean’s knee-jerk reactions to encountering the Hanning boys on the staircase. And the moment when Colin is attacked and immediately asks Dean a most reasonable question in our zombie-obsessed pop culture world. Brilliant.
The film’s horror/comedy mash-up will draw immediate comparison to the ultimate horror/comedy out of the UK – Shaun of the Dead. In case you haven’t noticed, I judge all horror/comedies against that masterpiece. Unfortunately, Cannibals and Carpet-Fitters doesn’t quite reach the almost-impossible heights of this Edgar Wright piece — at least as far as flawless comedy.
The gore effects are simply phenomenal. There’s plenty of gross-out nastiness – including (of course) cannibalism, random body parts, devastating head wounds, and the piece-de-resistance – a nose injury. And this last example isn’t a “blink and you’ll miss it” effect. It goes on for a good two minutes, and never once did I question it. Gross and fantastic!
What most impressed me with the film were the – I won’t call them “boo” moments (as is my term of choice for jump-scares), but random shocks which are truly random. You don’t see them coming, and there’s two big ones which come to mind. I guess they will make you jump, all right – because they’re genuinely shocking, but not necessarily scary.
It’s a pretty large ensemble cast, and there are certainly better performances from certain actors. But the characters are all so broad and kind of underdeveloped (this is not a character piece per se) – that it’s hard to call one out. But that’s exactly what I’ll do.
As Colin, one of our central characters, Darren Sean Enright is my personal favorite. And I know exactly the moment when he moved into first place. There’s a short discussion early on in the film, with his buddy Dean about Colin’s failing marriage. It’s a sweet little moment between them, and surprisingly – the scene’s tag will come into play again before the film’s complete. I loved the ending, by they by.
The film is a short 82 minutes, but there were a few moments which lagged. I think a bit of trim (not too much) would have been in order. With multiple chase scenes (some in the same places – the film sometimes feels repetitive).
The locations are gorgeous – the Hanning home in the countryside – and the catacombs where the worst of the Hanning clan is kept – are vast, airy and foreboding. Was this Hanning sibling’s lair a set or a location? The fact that I’m asking that question, tells you how effective it was.
For fans of the aforementioned Hell Night – you’ll probably see the same things I did. Every moment in this underground location – not to mention the Hanning son inhabiting the space – will remind you of our beloved Garth family (“gorked-out Andrew”) and the secret passages below Garth Manor. It was a nostalgic trip back to that film. But when I asked O’Donnell if that film was an inspiration, he said that it was not. He’s never seen it. So kudos for creating that creepy lair from scratch!
As the lights came up, O’Donnell turned to me and sadly, found pursed lips. Of course, that was in jest – since the film was a joyful horror experience – but we had a good laugh nonetheless.
Cannibals and Carpet-Fitters is a great ensemble horror comedy with plenty of shocks, ample and deliciously gross-out gore effects and a good (not perfect) sense of comic timing. Regardless of a few minor reservations – it’s a very good time with no “pursed lips” to be found at the film’s conclusion.
Cannibals and Carpet-Fitters has just begun its festival run, so keep your eyes peeled for potential showings at a genre festival near you! At press, no wider release information is yet available.