UC Riverside Professors Probe Violence in “A Thousand Cuts”

“A Thousand Cuts,” a psychological thriller written by UC Riverside Theatre Professors Charles Evered and Eric Barr, premiered at the 23rd Palm Springs International Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals in the United States, on Jan. 12.

The independent film is centered around Frank Bennet, played by Academy Award nominee Michael O’Keefe. Bennet is a man with a dark past that unravels following his encounter with a big-shot horror director in Hollywood, played by Michael A. Newcomer. While it focuses on the character development of the two protagonists, the cast includes Olesya Rulin (High School Musical), David Naughton (American Werewolf in London) and James Van Patten (Saw). Shot in Palm Desert, Mountain Center, as well as other small locations, the independent film took 10 days to produce.

Although categorized as a psychological thriller, it delves into the horror genre and includes dark dramatic elements. Rather than fitting into one category, “A Thousand Cuts” is as versatile as it is unique in this way. Such a shift from any one genre serves a purpose as prominent Playwright and Associate Professor Charles Evered, both director and co-writer, uses the grisly murder of an innocent young woman as the anchor of the picture. He begins the film with the woman’s murder, which forms the basis of the tense encounter between the dark stranger and horror director. What would later unfold is a “fight for survival…literally and figuratively,” Evered notes, as the stranger confronts the director with the murder of his daughter, emulated after his film, “A Thousand Cuts.” Meanwhile, as the stranger holds the director hostage in his own home, he reveals that he has kidnapped the director’s sister, Melanie, which only intensifies the terror of the film.

“The story for ‘A Thousand Cuts’ was inspired by Evered’s questions about how creators of slasher films, movies that use young women as props and victims, would deal with the awful consequences of what their movies might inspire,” describes Professor and Theatre Chair Eric Barr, one of the co-writers.

He continues, “The movie calls into question how responsible artists are for the work they put into the marketplace.”

With increasingly graphic films over the past few decades including “Friday the 13th” and the more recent “Hostel,” this film allows for viewers to consider the effects of such imagery, and how we view ourselves in a society that permits such violent depictions. Indeed, there appears to be a running theme in the horror genre through the years in typecasting young, beautiful women as the victims of suffering and torture. But when the film stops rolling and viewers file out of the movie theatre, how extensive is the effect of disturbing images on the human psyche? What does this convey about our culture’s viewpoint on the role of women in today’s society? By provoking these questions, Evered says his hope is,“to end up with a film that focuses on the humanity implicit in the story.”

It is indeed agreeable that audiences seek the “wow factor” in heart-pumping films. In the horror genre, viewers focus on the effect of imagery on their psyche as a way to challenge how long they can withstand it without running out of the theatre in fear. Thus, artists latch onto that focus and are willing to utilize any means—in many cases, innocent female victims—to leave a lasting impression. This helps explain the greater concentration of gory films in recent years than those of psychological horror. But this only grazes the surface of what “A Thousand Cuts” calls into question.

For more information on the film, check out their official website at athousandcutsmovie.com.

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