Beaten to Death (PANIC) Lives Up to Its Title
Title: Beaten to Death
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Sam Curtain
Writer: Sam Curtain, Benjamin Jung
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Thomas Roach, David Tracy, Justan Wagner
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Panic Film Festival in 2023.
Desperation makes people turn to some awful things to survive. If you only had so many options, would you choose to do something that you knew was risky? What if it meant involving someone you loved?
Beaten to Death starts in media res with Jack (Thomas Roach) fighting for his life against Ricky (Justan Wagner). Taking his opportunity, Jack stabs Ricky before he gets the chance to burn Jack alive along with the corpse of his dead wife Rachel (Nicole Tudor). His journey to find help begins when he makes it to the cabin of Ned (David Tracy), a local man willing to help Jack.
Brutal, gory revenge horror with a dark streak, Beaten to Death is as mean-spirited as its name implies.
Carefully fragmented vignettes piece together the narrative of Beaten to Death giving the audience a gradually fuller picture of the hard-to-stomach events happening onscreen. Instead of telling the story in a straightforward and linear manner, Beaten to Death switches between various points in Jack’s journey to survive the brutality of the Australian countryside and it inhabitants. While this can be frustrating for those seeking an easier experience, it allows the film to be more guarded about why Jack is facing this trial. The audience has more opportunities to be caught off guard and engage with the film as opposed to a more traditional narrative.
While captivating, the story does get repetitive and leads to a few frustrating story choices. Once a few key things happen to Jack, it is difficult to keep the action fresh and engaging while watching him search for safety. From there, the film relies heavily on its flashback sequences to build up the story of what has led to the events on screen and how Jack manages to make it this far. Once the last clues have been revealed, Beaten to Death loses steam almost as if it feels unsure on how to end it. The final five minutes will likely be frustrating for viewers, especially after the journey they have undergone but truly there is no other path to take with this story.
Lead actor Thomas Roach injects enough charisma and dedication to the role to compensate for less-than-sturdy characterization. Out of his element, in more ways than one, Jack is an impulsive and optimistic thinker, which gets him into trouble throughout the film. Roach imbues this sense of grit and determination in him which makes his story admirable even when you learn more about how he found himself in this situation in the first place. From every cut, break, and crunch, Roach makes Jack’s pain and endurance believable while staying true to his fish-out-of-water city boy persona.
The violence in Beaten to Death juxtaposes the beautiful tranquility of the Australian countryside to make for a more uncomfortable and hopeless watch. It also makes quite a point regarding the story that ultimately plays out as well. Contrasting the brutality of Jack’s treatment with beautiful nature shots exposes the true danger of being somewhere you are not welcomed. This can state the obvious between Jack’s intentions of heading out there in the first place, as he is clearly not knowledgeable or capable of handling himself how he should. Additionally, it can also be said for Ned and his family. Their lives are clearly rough, given the vocations they have and their general living conditions. The ugly reality of their lives feels alien when placed next to the beautiful sun-drenched fields and mountains. Beauty, however, doesn’t stop the harshness of reality nor does it imply that everyone will get out there alive.
Brutal, downbeat, and all-out nasty Beaten to Death is not for the faint of heart. This Australian shocker has enough blood to satisfy gorehounds while remaining a decently grounded survival horror thriller. Its unique narrative structure is compelling enough to make up for its weak story and characterization. It doesn’t say anything particularly new or exciting but Beaten to Death is a nice addition to the cannon of horror films that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty with their premise. Put this one on your watchlist now, lest you beat yourself up for missing out in the future.
Overall Score? 7/10