Few movies are as upfront about what they’re going to deliver then the latest Aussie take on survival horror. Following a brief theatrical release in selected locales, Ozploitation thriller Beaten to Death has arrived on VOD platforms just in time for October. Aussie horror can get pretty intense – look no further than Wolf Creek – and director Sam Curtain doesn’t disappoint. While its grisly violence may not appeal to wide audiences, critics seem reasonably impressed with the results.
Bad circumstances have pushed Jack into an unenviable corner. When a desperate choice puts him in a dangerous situation, he must survive one brutal beating after the next to survive.
Beaten to Death Proves to Be a Difficult Thriller to Watch.
That’s about all you can really about the story in Beaten to Death. Writer and director Sam Curtain, along with co-writer Benjamin Jung-Clarke, have crafted a stripped down piece of survival horror. Things immediately begin with fists raining down over the camera before Curtain pulls back to show the brutally maimed face of the thriller’s protagonist, Jack. From that point onward, this piece of Ozploitation spends an inordinate amount of time lingering on its physical violence and the aftermath. What little narrative exists comes courtesy of some non-sequential storytelling. That is, Curtain and Jung-Clarke offer bits of context from different timepoints. It’s still a pretty bare plot, but we get some sense of Jack’s desperation.
What’s put onto the screen is unflinching, raw, and difficult to watch.
As its title implies, Beaten to Death is about one beating after another after another. What’s put onto the screen is unflinching, raw, and difficult to watch. That opening scene sets the tempo, but by no means represents the worst of what is yet to come. On one hand, Curtain use long, steady camera shots coupled with gruesome sound effects to elicit maximum levels of discomfort. Much of Beaten to Death feels extremely uncomfortable, particularly since this isn’t cartoonish violence. Everything on the screen looks and sounds real. Yet Curtain also demonstrates a creative flair for some of his carnage. One scene involving a knife and eyeballs manages to be both amazing and nauseating.
Beaten to Death Juxtaposes Its Violence With Some Gorgeous Camera Work
Though it’s an almost relentlessly brutal movie, Curtain juxtaposes the violence with some truly stunning cinematography. Wide lens shots capturing dawn set against the outback offer a stark contrast with the ugliness that unfolds in close quarters. And Curtain’s positioning of a small, wounded Jack set against an indifferent backdrops reinforces the hopelessness of the story. It’s almost unfortunate how difficult it is is to look at the screen sometimes because Beaten to Death is often a striking movie. Despite its Ozploitation roots, this is a sharply filmed and produced thriller.
…Curtain juxtaposes the violence with some truly stunning cinematography.
Extreme violence takes center stage in Beaten to Death, but Thomas Roach’s performance as ‘Jack’ remains essential to the thriller’s occasionally urgent tone. Specifically, Roach perfectly captures several contrasting emotions, which ensures his character remains at least somewhat sympathetic. We eventually understand the quiet desperation that put Jack in the danger that defines most of the thriller. And Roach alternates between crumbling defeat, begging for things to just end, and an intense fight-or-flight that wills him on to survive. In fact, Roach’s performance drives audience investment in the final scenes as the violence subsides. Maybe the ending feels like a bit of an exaggerated downer. No one could reasonably expect a happy ending, but the conclusion strays towards self-parody.
Beaten to Death a Raw, Difficult to Watch, Addition to Ozploitation
Fewer movies are more true to their title as Beaten to Death. Perhaps there’s some deeper meaning to be found here, but you’d be forgiven from not noticing. Bottom line, Beaten to Death is a lean, raw thriller that’s brutally uncompromising from start to finish. There’s likely a very narrow audience for this one – Curtain ensures this is an endurance just as much as anything else. And that’s somewhat unfortunate because Beaten to Death is a beautifully filmed thriller that’s occasionally inventive in its gritty violence. Maybe the ending veers towards self-parody, but this Ozploitation remains a compelling watch.