Prudish social worker Jeff (James Doherty) and his more liberal colleague Kate (Jo Hartley) decide to take a small group of city-dwelling young offenders out of their comfort zone and into the countryside on a bonding exercise.

Landing in the outback of deepest Yorkshire, the youths are horrified to find their digs to be a dilapidated building: Jeff reasons that pitching in to make the place habitable will bring the motley bunch closer.

First things first though: after a full day of being cooked up together in a van, it’s time for the group to locate a local pub and chill a little. Unfortunately for them, the nearest inn is The Dirty Hole. It makes The Slaughtered Lamb seem cosmopolitan in comparison.

The landlord, Jim (Seamus O’Neill), is hospitable in a casually creepy way. The other patrons are just as odd – especially a younger one, who the group meet outside the pub and get exceedingly bad vibes from.

After sipping on the world’s most unpleasant homemade lemonade, Jeff takes his posse back to their digs in preparation for the following morning’s search for copper.

While scouring disused trains for the precious material, a further altercation with the aforementioned local youth results in Jeff’s leg being badly injured. Retiring to the pub for assistance, the outsiders are dumfounded when Jim ushers Jeff into the back room with the promise of giving him something for the pain ... and all Hell breaks loose.

Suddenly Kate and the surviving teenagers are prisoners in a brown-toothed, unwashed community who have strong beliefs in sticking to their own kind...

The premise is simple and familiar, deriving primarily from classic counter-culture thrillers of the 1970s such as DELIVERANCE and STRAW DOGS. And, let’s be fair, it’s a set-up that is getting used increasingly in contemporary genre efforts. Where INBRED differs from most of the competition is in its genuinely amusing dialogue (not only from the backwoods villagers, but also the caustic protagonists) and outlandishly ghoulish set-pieces that distinguish it further once all exposition has been dealt with.

Indeed, after a relatively calm opening act, INBRED really kicks into gear when the violence starts – and never truly ceases from that point onwards.

It’s here that the film comes into its own proper, a barrage of absurd and nightmarish situations helping it come across as an unholy hybrid of "The League of Gentlemen", BAD TASTE and perhaps even THE EVIL DEAD.

Along the way director Alex Chandon flexes his genre savvy with a great slice of gory surrealism that manages to nod both back at the days of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, and to the present day’s fascination with 3D.

The balance between horror and comedy is a notoriously tricky one to negotiate. But Chandon, along with co-writer Paul Shrimpton, have found the equilibrium for the most part, aided by a great principle cast who play even the most salacious lines straight. The backwoods extras are admittedly caricatures (look out for Dominic Brunt from TV’s ‘Emmerdale’ among them), but there’s a satisfying darkness to their malicious glee and proceeding events which prevents their portrayal from becoming overly cartoonish: these boys are vicious, and any laughs at their expense are therefore guarded.

Gore-wise, this is a step down from Chandon’s last feature, the ultra-grisly CRADLE OF FEAR. But it’s still gory in its own right – imagine if Chas Balun was still around and updating his Gore Score, I’d say he’d give CRADLE a 10 and INBRED would most likely rate an 8 (coincidentally, I was privileged enough to review CRADLE OF FEAR for Chas’ ‘Deep Red’ magazine – and I did indeed give it the full marks for gore!). INBRED marks a definite step-up in terms of how the FX are executed, with some superbly realised dismemberments and exploding bodies to savour.

The demolition of an innocent sheep is an audience pleaser par-excellence, while Jeff’s demise offers an acknowledged – and brilliant – nod to Rob Bottin’s work in John Carpenter’s THE THING. Most of the FX work is satisfyingly of the old school variety, while anything that may look like above average CGI, we’re reliably informed by Chandon, isn’t.

In terms of production, the director has again come on in leaps and bounds. Those who were put off by CRADLE’s digital look will be pleased by the highly accomplished HD aesthetics. Shot on the revered RED camera and benefitting from some great cinematography that really captures the beautiful rural locations around Thirsk, this looks just like film but without the grain.

Brisk, well-edited and filled with gory sight gags that are sure to excite lovers of early Raimi and Jackson, INBRED is also extremely British in its playful examination of cultural divides and social mores, making it a lot smarter than it may at first seem. I dug Dave Andrews’ score too.

Currently – December 2011 - without a distribution deal but going down exceptionally well on the festival front, it’s only a matter of time before INBRED garners a much higher profile (it even made the cover of this month’s ‘Bizarre’ magazine ...).

And, hey, the film opens with a cameo from the ever-delectable Emily Booth, in a sequence that ends – of course – in a bloodbath. What’s not to like?

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by New Flesh Films
Not Rated