I’m not extremely well versed in New Zealand cinema, but for some reason it seems every movie that comes our way is a splatter-filled dark comedy. I’m not sure what it is about the island nation that makes these films synonymous with New Zealand, but if you’re going to specialize in a certain genre niche, this one’s not a bad choice. Director Danny Mulheron, writer of Meet the Feebles, looks to add to what Peter Jackson originally made so famous in the upcoming dark comedy Fresh Meat.
Fresh Meat starts off with a bang, quite literally, as the opening scene shows off young Rinna (Hanna Tevita) getting friendly with another girl in the showers at her school. This movie knew how to grab my attention, and it had me interested from the very start. Rinna arrives back home for vacation, and learns that her University professor dad (Temuera Morrison) and minor celebrity chef mother (Nicola Kawana) have incorporated cannibalism into their lifestyle while she was away at school. These scenes are intercut with scenes across town where a group of criminals are breaking out their boss from jail. Fleeing from the cops, the dysfunctional band of criminals lands right in the laps of the equally dysfunctional, cannibalistic Crane family. What ensues is actually a bit of pretty fun hijinks as the gleefully stupid criminals try to keep the Cranes as hostages. One of them becomes enamored with the celebrity chef mother, while boss Ritchie and girlfriend Gigi both have their eye on Rinna. Every one of them wants to be in charge as well, even though none of them are fit to run anything. This leads to the eventual reversal of roles as the Crane family soon becomes the hunters of their newfound prey.
This is where the film starts to lose a lot of its steam. Most of the comedy comes from the group of criminals as they fight with each other and screw everything up, but once they start getting offed, a lot of the entertainment goes with them. The only real draw in the second half for me was the love story between Gigi and Rinna. And make no mistake, Fresh Meat is clearly Rinna’s and Gigi’s from start to finish as actresses Kate Elliot and Hanna Tevita both carry the film through all of its faults. Hanna Tevita is the real star as she flips back and forth between innocent schoolgirl and sexy seductress with ease. Take both of them out of the equation and it would be a lot harder to recommend this film. The rest of the family isn’t all that memorable except for a few laugh-worthy moments from Morrison. I especially liked his police negotiation trying to convince to cops for a helicopter and a certain local university professor being promoted, but other than that, a lot of Fresh Meat turns pretty stale toward the end of the film.
Fresh Meat becomes a bit jumbled with all of its twists and turns and blending multiple genres, but if you are a fan of oddball comedies such as fellow New Zealand film Black Sheep, I expect you’ll find enough to like here. For being about a family of cannibals, Fresh Meat is relatively light on the blood, and I think the addition of more gore would have helped propel it a notch up through its latter half. Nevertheless, Fresh Meat is worth the watch for Hanna Tevita alone, who is definitely an actress to keep an eye out for in the future.