Beaten to Death
Dir. Sam Curtain (2022)
A man is beaten almost to death and must wander the Australian Outback looking for help.
Australian horror has long been a bastion of extreme, weird, and disturbing cinema. Films like The Snowtown Murders, Wolf Creek, and even Dead End Drive-In have celebrated the isolation and the culture of Australia, depicting the possibilities of a place with both a varying population range and a giant desert with thousands of creatures that would just as soon murder you. Of course, as in the three examples listed above, it's often the people who are the scariest. Director Sam Curtain's new film Beaten to Death explores this potential in a vicious throwback to Ozploitation films and extreme horror.
The film opens with Jack (Thomas Roach) being, well, beaten to death. He escapes his initial tormentor to find his wife dead in the next room, and his search for help quickly leads him to a neighbor who has no interest in helping him escape his plight. Beaten, blinded, and nailed to a wall, jack attempts to escape and continually runs across various psychotic locals who intend to further his torment. With the assistance of a dog (who is pretty much completely unhelpful) and a nonlinear plotline that goes back and forth in the timeline to explain how he ended up in this predicament, Jack must escape the Outback and make his way to someone who can save him.
Beaten to Death is as unsubtle as its name, never attempting to travel too far outside the realm of torture porn and suffering somewhat for it. Even as someone who enjoys the genre quite a bit, the lack of context throughout most of the film and the insistence on a continuous barrage of persecution can make the film drag along at times. There's plenty of gore, and it's generally well-done, but it's a barebones story that at times feels like an excuse to show off some Aussie brutality. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Despite its limited negatives, Beaten to Death is an exceptionally well-shot film. The cinematography is gorgeous, showing off the beauty of the Australian landscape in between blood-drenched setpieces. The acting is as good as the scenery, with Roach doing a fantastic job of portraying a man who has lost everything and yet continues to fight for survival. It's a dark, nihilistic film that pulls absolutely no punches and never really gets better, situating itself as a more-than-adequate extreme horror while containing little for those who don't enjoy the genre. The argument could certainly be made that it doesn't need anymore, and it's an argument that I would certainly ascribe to as a fan of extreme cinema. For those who aren't, it may be a punishing watch.
Who this movie is for: Extreme horror fan, Ozploitation lovers, Nihilist sadists
Bottom line: Dreary, dreadful, and perfectly delivering on its intent, Beaten to Death is exactly what it intends to be. Whether it'll be a film you want to watch will depend on your stomach for blood and gore, but it's well worth a watch for fans of nihilistic cinema. It's a great addition to the Ozploitation genre, and it's a divisive film that will either please you immensely or make you sick to your stomach.