CUTTING MOMENTS is the title of a highly acclaimed, highly controversial short feature from 1999 directed by Douglas Buck (he wrote TERROR FIRMER, you know - no, wait, come back!!).

But for the sake of this DVD release CUTTING MOMENTS is also the collective title for 5 ultra-low budget horror films from the US, all shot within the last decade. Although all 5 films may interest the more ambitious genre fanatics, it's fair to say that the real selling point here is Buck's disturbingly black stare into the eyes of a moribund marriage and the child it is tearing apart.

But more of that later ...

First up is CRACK DOG, directed by Casey Kehoe.

A young man wanders America's mean streets at night, his trusty canine friend at his side. We learn via voice-over that the man's wish is to introduce his four-legged companion to the joys of crack cocaine. And so, our man enters the shithole appartment of a group of drug dealers, and approaches their door as a pizza delivery boy. Told in no uncertain terms that neither the pizza nor he is wanted at that address, the man dodges a couple of bullets shot through the door in his direction, before bursting into the room and wiping out the three junkies - with the help, of course, of his furry mutt cohort.

Some imaginative camera angles and a nicely achieved atmosphere of real seediness help CRACK DOG impress. As a whole it may rest uneasily somewhere between violent nihilism (it is gory) and broad humour (the dog puffing on a crack pipe).

But at only 5 minutes in length, CRACK DOG is an entertaining watch, and one quite unlike the vast majority of films out there! Kehoe has also worked in a minor capacity on films such as PUPPET MASTER 6 and BIKINI TRAFFIC SCHOOL ...

DON'T NAG ME follows.

Written and directed by Timothy Healy (who progressed through various Troma productions, to working on the likes of LEON and - most recently - SPIDERMAN 2!) and Gino Panaro (who also worked on the video documentary MATRIX REVISITED).

It's the story of Ivan, a middle-aged American who has murdered his nagging wife Louise and dumped her corpse in an open grave. Shortly afterwards, Ivan turns himself in to the authorities and is sentenced to the electric chair. We then revisit the events that led to his confession.

A ghost story of sorts, with Ivan being plagued by his dead wife's verbal diatribe at home, at bars, and so on - DON'T NAG ME is a stylishly shot and well edited foray into pitch-black humour that works extremely well within it's budgetary limitations.

Shot on film and looking good in this transfer, it's a colourful, well-lit proposition with decent acting and a nice twist ending to boot. Well worth 18 minutes of your time.

Dietmar Post's BOWL OF OATMEAL could gel alongside Jim Van Bebber's ROADKILL as a low budget exploration of isolation, despair and insanity.

The central character is an overweight loner hidden away in his flea-pit bed-sit, who instigates a conversation with a bowl of porridge. The cereal advises the man to get a hobby - and suggests the likes of fishing, horse riding and chess. Rubbishing these suggestions (so he's not COMPLETELY insane then!), the man instead chooses to rob a stack of meat from his local butchers. Why? Watch it! You'll enjoy the final frame!

Squalid, dark and subtle enough to almost be plausible: I thoroughly enjoyed BOWL OF OATMEAL and would've enjoyed more than it's rather meagre 9 minute running time.

PRINCIPLES OF KARMA is directed by Craig Wallace and offers an obvious but effective fable centred around the hell of middle-class suburbia and the disenchanted youth unwillingly living in it.

Stuart (Mike Richen) is a jaded punk teen who finds monotony in everything. His days all blur into one: his parents stock pleasantries to him each afternoon upon his return from school (they don't even look up from the TV, unless it's broken); the daily beatings from the 'jocks'; the boredom of life in a bedroom, listening to the same music night after night; his best friend's moronic attempts at injecting some meaning into their aimless lives ...

It's all very accurate and well-observed to a degree, but it takes a turn midway through when Stuart is abducted by the Youth Liberation Front ... who, in true FIGHT CLUB style, are determined to kick back against the rules and regulations their peers have enforced upon them.

Well-shot and keenly acted, PRINCIPLES is a cynical and occasionally profound film that allows it's characters time to breathe while remembering to be fast-paced and involving. Not a bad feat for a 20 minute short.

The titular film CUTTING MOMENTS concludes matters ... and what a way to end proceedings!

Patrick and Sarah have been married several years. They have a son, Joey. They live in a nice detached house in a nice neighbourhood. But something is not right.

Communication has broken down within their household. The adults barely speak, and Joey is unnaturally quiet and reserved. He rearranges his toy dolls to simulate acts of buggery upon each other.

Sarah - a painfully yearning turn from Nicca Ray - is craving the attention she won when the couple first married, but has since been starved of. But even moreso, she is tormented with guilt at the fact that she has allowed her son's sexual abuse at the hands of his father to go on for so long.

In an effort to divert Patrick's attentions away from Joey and onto her, Sarah dolls herself up in a red dress and lipstick - but Patrick's enthusiasm cannot be swayed from the football game he's watching on TV.

Emotionally shattered, Sarah then resorts to drastic measures - to purge herself of years of humiliation, guilt and rejection; to finally get a reaction from the husband that no longer notices her; and to bring an end to the torment she has so cowardly let her son live through for far too long.

The denouement of CUTTING MOMENTS is extremely gruesome, and likely to stay in the mind of many viewers for quite some time afterwards. You'll have seen gorier, for sure, but seldom has such grue been delivered with such solemn conviction.

Although low on dialogue, the film is utterly engrossing throughout it's 25 minute unfurling ... which is testament to writer/director Douglas Buck's maturity with such potentially explosive subject matter, and the brilliant performances of each cast member (Gary Betsworth as Patrick manages to be utterly despicable despite uttering barely 3 lines in the film!). In fact, everything blends together superbly to build up an atmosphere of heartbreaking regret and abandonment: it's a simple, shattering concept that's been brilliantly realised.

It may also bear mentioning that the special effects supervisor on CUTTING MOMENTS was some no-mark by the name of Tom Savini ... and that he is quoted on the box as calling this "the sickest film I've ever seen"!

Buck's film has been cut by 4 seconds, courtesy of the BBFC. They've removed a scene of Patrick slicing Sarah's breast with a pair of secateurs. Not to worry - although I'd never advocate censorship, this particular intervention doesn't harm the impact of MOMENTS and shouldn't dissuade you from picking up this gem on DVD. After all, although they've cut a fairly innocuous scene you're still getting the most brutally gory footage (and let's not forget the overall tone of the film is tragically disturbing), and it's amazing to see the auto-mutilation 'scissors scene' in it's entirety - oh, buy the disc if you want to know! - complete with a copious amount of blood on heaving breasts!

Picture quality on this disc is very agreeable. Considering the various filming methods involved (8mm, 16mm etc) it all seems to work as a whole. The linking theme between films of someone stabbing a knife through a white canvas screen is - to be honest - shit. But the films themselves are genuinely good, so all can be forgiven. Four of the films are presented in non-anamorphic full-frame and look fine - clean, clear, bright and sharp. PRINCIPLES is shown in a 1.85:1 format and appears to be a tad softer than it's companions.

Audio is 2.0 mono. There are no worries here, I'm pleased to report.

Extras? No, there's none. Unless you include a static scene selection menu consisting of 5 chapters (which bring you to the start of each short). It's also worthy of note that neither the disc nor the packaging offers any kind of cast credits!

But, hey, these are minor quibbles. CUTTING MOMENTS is an excellent compendium of contemporary US unsightliness ... and with it being priced so reasonably in the UK at present (generally around 5) you really shouldn't hesitate in picking this one up - if only for Buck's final, soul-searing episode!!

The disc from ILC Prime is Region 0 PAL encoded (single layer), and comes in a black keepcase.

CUTTING MOMENTS (the anthology) is very interesting in an entertaining way. CUTTING MOMENTS (the film) is itself indispensable - don't miss it. CUTTING MOMENTS (the DVD) deserves a place in your collection, despite those 4 seconds that the BBFC have yet again stolen from us. Fuck 'em ... they may believe the sight of shears on breasts is harmful - but in their wisdom they have decided that self-mutilation, child abuse, castration, and a Niagara Falls of blood cascading onto fulsome breasts is acceptable in the meantime!

We're living in strange times ...!

Review by Stu Willis

Released by ILC Prime
Region 2 PAL
Rated 18
Extras : see main review