LiveWire Film Critic Conori Bell-Bhuiyan reviews Rough Cut…
How can you make a film documenting the making of a film that never existed in the first place? Well, by being Jamie Shovlin apparently. At least, that’s the task the director set out for himself and his team with the creation of Rough Cut.
Rough Cut is part fly-on-the-wall drama, part making-of documentary and part experimental art piece. The film pays homage to the B-movie slasher genre of the 1970’s – in particular it pays homage to a typical film of that genre, Hiker Meat. It’s a film which ticks all the boxes of the cult exploitation horror film – mysterious misty woods, an enigmatic figure, and careless teens getting picked off one-by-one by a terrifying monster. Except this particular film only exists in the imagination of writer Mike Harte. Originally created as a concept film to be soundtracked by the (equally imaginary) band Lustfaust, the film caught the imagination of artist Jamie Shovlin. Shovlin then created a trailer, opening, and closing scenes for the film by borrowing footage from other pre-existing slasher hits. Rough Cut is the story of what happened when Shovlin and his team decided to meticulously recreate these scenes during a laborious seven-day session in the Lake District.
Though it has all the features of a simple making-of documentary – cast interviews, production shots, the revealing of special effects machinery… this film is a much more intriguing and detailed affair. The perseverance and positivity of the team in their low-budget film environment (complete with bugs, broken down cars and challenging British weather) and their clear passion for the project instantly makes you root for them. In the end, they’re the ones whose stories make the most interesting watch.
The most fascinating part of this film is actually watching the step-by-step painstaking construction of the scenes. With all sound effects and dialogue dubbed over carefully filmed and edited shots – aided by smoke and rain machines, make-up artists, prosthetics, rubber monsters and miniature mansions – the pure manufactured nature of film, so often lost on its audience, is blatantly obvious here and the effort put into creating on-screen realism was compelling and astonishing to watch.
The film does occasionally seem to get lost inside its own many layers, missing out on interesting information in favour of repeated collaged shots, or sequences that go on just a little to long. Shovlin is more artist than filmmaker and it shows. But overall, Rough Cut is a charming, out of the ordinary take on film documentaries that balances genuineness and humour as well as raising questions about how we, as audiences, recognise and approach genre. It’s certainly the most interesting making-of film I’ve ever seen.
Rough Cut (15) screens at Cornerhouse sporadically throughout December and January. Book your tickets and watch the trailer here. It is linked to Jamie Shovlin’s exhibition Hiker Meat which opens at Cornerhouse on 17 January