Welcome, once again, to Small-town USA.
An opening montage shows middle-aged Marsha (Camille Keaton) cleaning and tidying her house, which tellingly includes wiping blood from the bedroom wall and her face.
Then an inter-title card transports us to "Six Months Later".
It's the evening, and we're back at widowed Marsha's large, relatively remote house surrounded by woodlands (we're told in a later exchange of dialogue that her home is "fifteen minutes from the nearest neighbour"). The bedroom's been redecorated; Marsha is enjoying a drink and smoke and seems quite content. That is, until a car's headlights appear outside the house and she hears people getting out of said vehicle.
She answers the call at her front door, and is met by three brothers - Derrek (Eric Dooley), Billy (Christopher James Forrest) and Wayne (Scott Peeler). They're there to try and convince her to sell her property to their property-developing dad Bill Sr (Mark Poppleton). She responds with an empathic no. Wayne retorts by producing an ugly-looking hunting knife and pins a contract to her door frame with it. He tells her they'll return the following night to pick it up, signed. "Keep the knife", he warns her, "if we come back tomorrow night and there's no contract, you're probably gonna need it".
The next morning, Marsha reports these actions to Deputy Sheriff Jesse (Victor Jones). He's not much use, telling her it all sounds like little more than a prank - he even goes on to advise Marsha to accept Bill's offer and sell up. His tone darkens when she accuses him of protecting Bill's family, threatening her with an arrest if he finds out any of her claim has been exaggerated.
Marsha's daughter Helen (Karen Konzen) visits at this point and, overhearing the backend of her mum's conversation with Jesse, wants to know what's going on. She's incensed once she hears the full story and advises her mother to go straight to the Sheriff. When Marsha refuses to do this, Helen begs Marsha to come and stay with her for her own safety. Marsha slaps Helen across the face for suggesting such a thing and stresses "this is MY house". She's not going anywhere!
Meanwhile, the brothers are enjoying their day drinking in a barn while preparing for their showdown with Marsha; Wayne insists they'll have to get heavy with her if she hasn't signed that contract. Billy and Derrek are explicitly less ready for such a course of action. Bill Sr then appears wanting a private conversation with Wayne. Even he seems a little conflicted about the concept of roughing up Marsha - as much as he wants her property. But, ultimately, he gives Wayne the go-ahead regardless.
Is Marsha shitting bricks in the meantime? Nope, she's home alone and practicing her sharp-shooting by taking pin-point accurate rifle shots at beer bottles. Following which, she tools herself up with as many guns and bullets as she can find lying around the house. I must say, she unearths an impressive amount of both.
Then, as night falls, the three brothers turn up. Jesse also happens to be on the scene, lurking in the background watching. As the brothers knock on Marsha's door, she fires a rifle shot and hits Billy square in his belly. Derrek rushes to get a first aid kit from their car, allowing Wayne to apply a dressing to Billy's wound. "Hold that pain in like a man" Wayne tells his ailing brother - while promising to bring Marsha out of the house so Billy can be the one to pull the trigger on her.
Wayne and Derrek then leave Billy on Marsha's doorstep with a gun in hand in a bid to distract her while they go around the back of the house to break in and take her out.
Meanwhile Helen's texts to Marsha have not been receiving replies and so she messages to say she's on her way over. Which, you know, could potentially tip the balance in the brothers' favour ...
Things inevitably turn bloody from this point onwards, as what unfolds is an interesting take on the home invasion theme. We arrive at an intriguing siege position where both sides of the dispute have initially veiled reasons for wanting to retain the land. And, of Jesse, what's his involvement?
Shot in Jacksonville, Florida on a reported budget of $50,000, CRY FOR THE BAD MAN looks really great thanks to 4K cameras, really smart editing and Patrick Barry's excellent cinematography. The opening titles may resemble those of a TV movie with decent production values but once the film begins proper it offers much more.
The story intrigues; dialogue is often intelligent, drawing us into the quirky characters (all of whom have interesting features and speak in Southern accents). The script is inflected with dark humour at times, naturally so, such as when the brothers bicker once things get hairy - it recalls early Tarantino but never in an overtly cloying way. It all seems to serve towards propelling the simple, kinetic plot onwards. I also appreciated the investment in the small cast of characters: no-one is cut and dried good or bad - an early conversation between the three brothers is a good example of this where they're preparing to revisit Marsha, and there are reservations about putting pressure on her.
Franko Carino's score is used sparingly to good effect, alternately employing ambient electronica, savvy beats and guttural melodies to enhance the mood of key scenes. And there is some genuine tension achieved at times.
Casting is astute, and all concerned seem to be totally engaged in their roles. It's really encouraging to see this level of commitment. Writer-director Sam Farmer struck gold in this department, and it's great to see Keaton (I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) kicking arse again with such spirit.
CRY FOR THE BAD MAN is available to buy now on US DVD from Uncork'd Entertainment, and also up to stream online via On Demand.
We were sent an online screener link to review. The link presented the film uncut - 74 minutes and 30 seconds - and in its correct aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It looked great: sharp, clean, accurate, no noise. English stereo audio was similarly impressive and problem-free.
I'll confess, I didn't expect much from CRY FOR THE BAD MAN. But I was proven wrong, it's really good. Keaton has retained her commanding presence and the baddies are chequered enough to involve us throughout. It's gory, intriguing and well-paced. It may ostensibly be a Western masquerading as a horror film ... but that's no bad thing. On the strength of this, I'd like to see more from Farmer.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Uncork'd Entertainment|