1971 Tennessee, Brandon Cobb (Deiondre Teagle) has escaped from jail and is on the run – aided by his siblings Angela (Faith Monique) and Clarence (Travis Cutner). The trio plan to lay low in a run-down barn on their grandfather’s old ranch, which is supposed to have been abandoned. As night falls, we find out it’s currently being used by a clan of KKK cannibals to lynch, torture and eat their victims.
Death Ranch is an independent film by Dark Temple Motion Pictures and Empire Studios. It was written, directed and edited by Charlie Steeds. It’s an unapologetic and gory grindhouse movie that tackles the issues of racism and hate crime, set in America during the period of desegregation. The film really nails its intentional style, reminding me of Tarantino’s earlier work, especially Jackie Brown, with 70’s swag and plenty of blood. It’s satisfying to watch small-minded bigots meet their maker in a myriad of ways splattering from one revenge kill to the next.
However, this is where I feel that the film misses a trick. Considering its sensitive subject matter, I would have liked to have seen a little more character exploration. A scene or two revealing the impact that systemic racism and hate has had on Brandon and Angela in a more touching, human way, along with one of the adversaries realising that their beliefs are dramatically flawed, would have elevated this film in my opinion. I realise this would be counter intuitive to the style but I believe it would have provided a welcome change of pace and the emotional carnage would have complemented the physical butchery nicely. I’m not saying that these themes aren’t present, because they are, I would have personally liked more of a deep dive into them.
But, ultimately, that’s not what Death Ranch is. Death Ranch is an homage to pulp grindhouse cinema and its loyalty to that never wavers. From its score to its effects. From the cinematography to its dialogue. The main cast give believable performances throughout, with Teagle really controlling the lead role and holding the audience. It’s a great lesson in low budget filmmaking - take a single location, a handful of characters, a simple and achievable plot, and have a clear concise directorial style. Charlie Steeds is a veteran of independent cinema with 13 features to his name, so you know you’re in good hands, he understands the art of cinema and I’m sure I’ll be discussing some of his other films in the future.
In conclusion, Death Ranch is a film for people that want to be hauled through blood-soaked indignation at pace, racing from one crimson cluster fuck to another in an entertaining way. It’s a splatter movie that delivers just that. It paints the screen red while giving the finger to racism and without ramming a political agenda down your throat – just some guys nuts.
What do you think? Do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me? Let's discuss.