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Review: Death by 1000 Cuts (2020)

Death by 1000 Cuts started out as a twenty-minute short that I reviewed about a year ago. Writer/director Sam Salerno recently sent me a link to the feature-length version. He also told me it was very different from the short. He wasn’t kidding. The feature is as different from the short as the short was from the first film of his that I’d seen, Dark Side of the Womb.

Both involve a rash of disappearances and suspicious deaths. And what happens when Vlogger Johnny (Brett Burrier) finds the house where the killings are occurring. The short was a fairly straightforward piece dealing with what happens when the owners return unexpectedly. The feature however goes down a rabbit hole of conspiracies. It seems the town has several sinister locations and secrets, all held together in a web of conspiracy.

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The short comprises much of the feature’s middle section. The Grey family Mr. Grey (Art Roberts, Attack In LA, The Bone Box), Mrs. Gray (JC Sullivan) and Christina (Rosie Koocher) all have larger roles And The Torturer (Aaron Berjohn, The Axiom) now has a name, Travis Cooke, and a bigger role.

Early in the film, Johnny tells his therapist Dr. Moody (Erica Solitaire Chappell) that there’s no greater purpose to life in their small town. She assures him that he indeed has a greater purpose. The rest of the film follows his journey towards that purpose. However, it’s told in such a surreal manner I wasn’t sure at times if what I was seeing was real or a hallucination. Or if he was back in the doctor’s office under hypnosis and imagining it all.

Death by 1000 cuts refers to an ancient method of torture in which numerous small cuts were made on a victim’s body. None of the cuts were deadly by themselves, but the combination of them would cause them to die a slow, painful death. In psychology, it refers to small issues that are overlooked until they add up to something too big to ignore. Sometimes I question which version of the phrase is worse.

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The final result is a film that has a definite narrative thread, so it isn’t entirely surreal/avante guard. But there is so much weirdness involved that Death by 1000 Cuts is far from mainstream. If David Lynch had directed Phantasm after watching House of 1,000 Corpses, it may have looked something like this.

Whether or not it’s a good film is going to be a matter of individual taste and tolerance for non-linear storytelling. I enjoyed it, though I had to watch it a second time to try and figure it all out. If you liked Gabriel Bartalos Saint Bernard or John Strysik’s The Spirit Gallery, then Death by 1000 Cuts should be your kind of film.

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Death by 1000 Cuts should be available on Amazon and on DVD from AcidBrain Productions in the near future. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.

Where to watch Death by 1000 Cuts
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