Firstly, I’d just like to thank the team at Uncork’d Entertainment for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new independent Horror/Comedy feature “Cute Little Buggers”, Written by Garry Charles and Directed by Tony Jopia. Cute Little Buggers is set in the English countryside during the lead up to the local village’s summer ball (weird right?). When a couple of aliens crash-land on earth looking to harvest women to help repopulate their race, the villagers, led by Melchoir (played by Kristofer Dayne), must band together to stop them. A task made all the more difficult when the beings start filtering through the town’s rabbit population. The film also stars Honey Holmes, John R. Walker, Sara Dee, Caroline Munro, Gary Martin and Stu Jopia. I like to go into certain films knowing next to nothing about them, but particularly with low-budget features. I’m not usually one to read reviews prior to watching them, because I want to keep an open mind and they can often be painted in a poor light, sometimes justifiably so and other times not.
I won’t beat around the bush, my interest levels started wavering fairly early on in Cute Little Buggers so I thought I’d do a little bit of IMDB browsing (while trying my best to keep one eye on the screen). What I did briefly read, was a mixed bag to say the least. One reviewer appeared to discredit the film in almost every way, giving it 1 star out of 5, but eventually went on to say he kind of enjoyed it (I suppose there’s that so bad it’s good kind of thing). At opposite ends of the spectrum you’ve got “Search My Trash”, where the review isn’t exactly glowing but Mike still manages to recommend it, suggesting a viewing goes hand in hand with a beer (or 10), I don’t know what to make of the review because I don’t think he’s ever given a non-favorable one, which indicates to me that he doesn’t like to scrutinize, and that’s unfortunately a part of a reviewers job if you’re doing it properly (albeit hopefully in a constructive manner). On the other hand, you’ve got Sue Finn of “The Movie Waffler” who says; quote “This is sexist, misogynistic, childish rubbish with porn level acting/screenwriting and direction that’s painful to sit through”. Fair enough, but porn’s not so bad, is it? Look, she’s entitled to her opinion, though something tells me that Cute Little Buggers wasn’t intended for her. There’s nothing wrong with being conservative, each to their own, but perhaps it’s the timing of the Weinstein claims prompting her concerns in regard to something that most people would consider in our nature (both men and women). She raises concerns with the objectification of the women in the movie, yet these lovely women/actresses chose to be a part of the film and obviously didn’t see it the same. If there were shots of shirtless men or their appendages on display would that have sufficed? Or would that then be the very same treatment toward us men? She does, however, make some good points about certain nonsensical specifics within the film, even if it is amidst telling us about her computer effects experience having outweighed anyone else’s whose attached to the film. I realized that the best thing I could do was get back to the film and hopefully be constructive with my critique.
Anyways, on with the review…
Despite the sizeable chunks of obvious ADR (additional dialogue recording) scattered throughout the course of the film, most of the natural audio is pretty clear. The score is serviceable and the cheesy “porn” theme that plays during a couple of the raunchier scenes was fun. Shane Almeida’s cinematography starts out somewhat bland and the framing quite conflicting, but it does get better as the film rolls on, and is in fact probably the best technical aspect of the film. I wasn’t able to find many positives in the CG but I think the opening shots of the spacecrafts in the fog laced woods, looked surprisingly good. There’s a lot of characters in Cute Little Buggers, most of whom I could take or leave, but the extremely cute, Eva (Rebecca Silverstein) who appears only all too briefly during the festivities, makes for a nice watch. So to, the hunter/ “old scholar” (don’t remember the character’s name or the actor) but his line delivery was a good bit of fun. Props to Tony and Co for giving the viewer a couple of early kills (within the first 10-15 minutes) and they do look okay. The highlight is certainly the gory aftermath of an unlucky tourist whose been disemboweled during an encounter with one of the rabbits. On the downside, the guys fake accent was laid on thicker than the blood itself (thankfully he didn’t last long). That said, I remain envious of him, if for no other reason than the fact that he had some form of human contact (as a character and an actor) with the best thing in this film, the jaw droppingly sexy, Dani Thompson who plays “Becca”. The characters got a bit of sass and attitude, so in turn does Dani. Thompson’s screen time is scarce but memorable to say the least. She’s in wonderful physical shape and there’s some brief nudity on display. Apologies to Sue Finn for those of us who enjoyed that aspect of the film….
An effects heavy, “Hot Fuzz” by way of SyFy channel inspired creature feature made on 25,000 pounds is always going to have its issues, both from a technical standpoint and in quality. The screener I was sent had a rather large copyright waterprint mark in the centre of the screen and it remained there for the entire 105 minute running time. I understand more than anyone, that in this day and age, the need to keep your work secure from piracy and other illegal activity is of the utmost importance, but it could have been a smaller less distracting mark for those of us trying to critique everything in the frame. I already mentioned the countless patches of ADR, though I’m not sure why a lot of the natural audio wasn’t used, after all, the location seemed relatively contained. Another audio issues was with the static radio used between Hitchins (Dee) and the Chief Inspector (David G. Robinson), which became rather pitchy and annoying. Some of the framing was uncomfortably close at times, especially in the first act, as well as their being plenty of inconsistencies in the lighting. With something like Cute Little Buggers, you can forgive a lot of the rough around the edges stuff (well a lot of us can) but the writing has got to be good, particularly in this specific sub-genre. The big issues here is the comedy element of Cute Little Buggers, or lack there of. It’s simply just not very funny. I lot of the dialogue is poor to begin with, the one liners fall flat and there are mistakes in it too. One character makes reference to “The American Outback”…. not sure what that is? That would be the “Australian Outback” or the “American Wild”. Then there’s the fact that the two aliens (or more accurately, guys in costume) understand certain lesser known words of the English language but don’t know what the common words mean. They’re aliens, aren’t they meant to be a superior race? I’m not sure if either the young girl or guy engaging in adult activity in the barn realized at any point that the guy’s pants weren’t actually down.. seriously guys c’mon. This is what Sue from the Movie Waffler is on about (haha). When you’ve got Dani topless, you’ve gotta at least remove the guy’s pants and make it look somewhat real, either that or don’t frame him at all and just imply it.
Is anyone going to talk about the casting? I’m not talking about the acting (which is sub-par yes), I’m talking about the reliability of these characters and their relationships. Cute Little Buggers is quintessentially English, or at least it supposed to be, yet there’s a smorgasbord of varying accents and ethnicities in this little village, what are the odds? The casting of a very European, Kristofer (who has his own thick accent) to play Melchoir, the son of an English farmer, is a head scratcher for sure. The guy’s name is Melchoir for god sake, and his love interest, despite having lived in the town her whole life, doesn’t exactly sound English either. Nearly all the secondary characters are instantly forgettable, mostly because they’ve either amped their performances up to eleven and it feels ridiculously over the top (even for a film of this nature) or it’s too scripted. Sue referred to certain members of the cast as “appallingly bad”, and while a majority of the performances were far from good, I try to distance myself from personal attacks because they don’t really serve any purpose. Constructive criticism is often the best method to helping people improve their craft and they’re usually much more receptive to it. Even with the vague as hell plot details and all its bad blunders (and there’s plenty of them), some of this still could have been salvaged if not for the horrendous CG in the climax of the film. Jopia gets it half right by delivering a pretty hectic bloodbath of an action sequence during the final act. The carnage is great, but the problem is that the effects aren’t. They’re not even close. The digital rabbits and their tentacles look as if they were created in paint. Now, I’m not sure how you go about blending practical and computer generated effects, or if it’s even really possible to do so successfully on a budget of this nature, but it’s got to be better than this. Audiences would rather see puppets than the endless cheap onslaught of what Cute Little Buggers dishes up. What’s more frustrating is that these guys had some practical effects at other points throughout the film, so what the hell happened after that? If you’ve shown that you’re capable of practical blood spray and gore you can’t stray from that and not expect to be criticized.
Cute Little Buggers is one of those films aimed at a very specific fan base of people who enjoy low-budget cheesy films, and I’m usually one of them (for the most part). This tries to draw on the small town vibes of “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, with the alien sub-plot feeling a little like “The Simpsons” episodes where the two aliens come to Springfield. Only in this case imagine they were after just the women. The cinematography isn’t too bad, the effects are okay in patches and even the blood and gore serviceable when it’s conceived practically (which is rare). A couple of the performances were alright too, though it’s mostly that I liked Eva and the old bloke. Most of the technical stuff won’t bother the masses, but the poor writing, the skewed casting choices and a good number of the performances will. It’s the extensive reliance on incredibly poor digital blood and effects work that’s going to be the biggest downfall for Cute Little Buggers. Jopia could have improved the film substantially by cutting it down to around 75 minutes, because 105 feels like an eternity. Done away with half the characters and the worst of the worst effects, and it’d have made it far more watchable. As it stands, Dani Thompson is the best thing about the film and unfortunately the November 7th VOD release date appears too soon to be able to rectify what is. Still, if you like cheesy creature features you may find something in here that a lot of us couldn’t.
My rating for “Cute Little Buggers” is 2.5/10