The Culling follows five friends as they embark on a road trip to a music festival. On their way they find an abandoned young girl called Lucy and feel it is their duty to return her home safely. They are greeted by a couple of angry parents, but are soon made to feel like heroes as the drinks flow and they are offered to spend the night. However, it soon becomes clear that there is more to this family than meets the eye when weird sounds emanate from the shed and Lucy begins talking about her “friends”.
The Culling commences where many horrors tend to begin and immediately tries to kickstart its scary set-up; we are thrust in to a night-time chase between a woman and an unknown presence. Even when the camera cuts in front and we are presented with what’s behind her, there’s nothing to see. All we are greeted with is an appalling onslaught of ghostly, growling sound effects which sound like they were donated to the film. The scene then cuts and we’re in the middle of an IM chat between the characters we’re to spend the next 90-odd minutes with. I believed I had gone back in time as a cheesy pop tune accompanied the conversation, feeling more like a sitcom than a horror film. I almost switched straight off as the film screamed that it was outdated. It can throw in as much present popular culture as it pleases – Justin Bieber, really? – but, it still feels far too old-fashioned. The rock ‘n’ roll music the characters listen to, the cheesy sound effects and fading transitions would feel more at home in the ’90s. This beginning is undoubtedly poor and unnecessary, it adds nothing to the plot of the film and just ensures you start the film in a bad mood.
Surprisingly, I battle through the old-school goodness and the film lands on a teen horror favourite: the car! They’re all fresh-faced, excited and eager to begin their road trip, unaware of the terrors that are awaiting them. There’s plenty of young folk banter as they unleash ‘your mum’ jokes on each other and attempt to see who can insult who the hardest. If this isn’t a group of the most loyal BFFs, I don’t know what is! It’s a very standard opening that gives us an insight in to the group’s dynamics; what their personalities are and generally, who’s who. The set-up is stereotypical: the down-to-earth pretty boy, the ill-mannered jock and the comedian all make an appearance, as well as the hot chick and the smart chick. The group are likeable and that’s rare with a film like this; the actors portraying them are strong overall and there are only a few moments of wooden acting. The script is shockingly average and features typical dialogue like, “What do you mean he’s dead?” and noises explained as, “Probably just a critter.” I don’t know what critters make spooky noises like that, but if the strange couple say it’s fine, it’s fine!
The Culling swiftly settles on a slow-burn approach as it finally reaches the destination where the horror is to be unleashed. It’s quite obvious that the hospitable couple have something to hide; the mutilated dolls in the house ensure we don’t ever fully trust any one who lives here. Lucy’s explanation that she found them like that is even more ominous; what could do that to a doll?! We will soon see. This film is the opposite of a home invasion; we are given characters that enter someone’s home in the hope of doing something positive, proving that nice guys always finish last. Emily brings most of the problems to the group and she is the kindest of them all. Stupid woman and your naturally caring nature, be gone with you.
There is an intriguing and, at times, tense build-up to the film’s finale, but not enough is left to our imagination. There are a few times where The Culling is surprisingly misguiding in terms of plot, but overall, we know where this is going. The journey we take to get to the reveal is reasonably enjoyable; there’s a few jumps along the way – there is a great moment involving a flying axe – but nothing remarkable. The film is not without continuity issues or plotholes, which can’t be overlooked. You’ll find yourself wondering, where’s the Grandad? Why is that guy not drunk anymore? And your guess will be as good as mine.
All in all, The Culling isn’t too bad at all. It has a shaky start, but when it hits it stride there is plenty to enjoy. It’s very predictable and there’s nothing downright terrifying about it, but we all love to see teenagers meet their demise, right?
Words: Jessy Williams