The essence of some films is captured perfectly in their name. Take Rough Cut, the pseudo documentary about the making of a fictional horror movie called ‘Hiker Meat’, which is disappointing mainly because it seems just that – an unfinished mock-up of the movie the filmmakers would have liked to have made. As a result viewers are never totally certain what this new film by visual artist Jamie Shovlin, starring Agnes Aspen, Ashley Houston and Bob Young, is aiming to be.
Rough Cut follows the would-be filmmakers as they head to England’s Lake District to recreate a legendary unmade 1970’s slasher film Hiker Meat. The result is an enlightening, though frequently frustrating, documentation of the highs and lows involved in the filmmaking process.
As a documentary on the making of a film, this exercise could have been interesting. Indeed its depiction of the creative tensions involved behind the scenes during a film’s production, albeit imaginary, is the one aspect which makes this otherwise cinematic mishmash even remotely watchable. Behind the scenes footage like the dangers involved with making a miniature house model explode as well as the complexities of trying to bring a huge worm to life for the film’s climax could have been enlightening for those not involved in the filmmaking industry.
Other aspects of the film also work well; the way titles are imposed on the screen naming famous genre films which influenced specific scenes, is original. These, along with the fact that scenes from the imaginary film Hiker Meat are atmospherically and imaginatively shot, could if taken individually have made for a diverting television documentary on the wider slasher genre.
However Rough Cut‘s real problem lies in the fact that it’s made by Shovlin who is an artist first and filmmaker second. This is the debut feature of a man who studied at the Royal College of Art, and who’s work has been exhibited at London’s Tate Britain and the Artists Space in New York. And it shows. Rough Cut plays like a visual documentation of a group of ‘artists’ of various disciplines gathered together in a piece of video installation which may briefly pique your interest as you pass from room to room in a museum, but will have difficulty holding your attention for its ninety minute duration in a cinema.
To be brutal Rough Cut though promising in its premise fails, as with a lot of modern art, by being too portentous for its own good.