I had heard about this project for a while but I had no idea when it would actually get released until I saw it on Amazon’s advanced release listings. I had first heard the about the story of Sawney Bean* back when I was in school and the grisly tale of the cannibal family and their gruesome fate fascinated me and seemed perfect material for a film version, which is what the film’s director Ricky Wood Jr thought too. The story was apparently inspiration for Wes Craven’s film The Hills Have Eyes and I’ve seen Sawney Bean’s name mentioned in a few films but no-one had really attempted to make film directly adapted from the story and this version does take many liberties.
The main liberty it takes is updating the setting to the present due to budget limitations. It also seems to have been moved from the Ayrshire coast to the stunning Hebridean island of Skye. Sawney Bean (David Hayman) in this story is a taxi driver who uses his black cab to capture his victims in the cities of Scotland and takes them to his remote farmhouse and down into a disused mine running beneath the house where he and his family have fun playing with their food before they are butchered. Other family members hanging around the tunnels include a man with diminished growth and head full of lizard teeth and two boys Jake (Will Sutton) and Judd (Jean-Paul Jesstiece) who wear hooded tops to cover their deformed faces. There’s also something called Mother that even Sawney Bean is frightened of so is kept locked away and fed on the offal from their kills.
There’s a focus on one victim Rebecca (Shian Denovan) who gets into Sawney Bean’s taxi after having a row with her boyfriend at a nightclub. She is terrified, tortured and raped by Sawney Bean. This mistreament is also dealt out to an unfortunate traffic warden who tries to move Sawney Bean away from where he is parked in his taxi.
The film’s main protagonist is newspaper reporter Hamish McDonald (Samuel Feeney) who is English despite his very Scottish name. He wrote a very grisly and insensitive report of the discovery of the remains of some of Sawney Bean’s victims, including the head of his ex-girlfriend’s sister Charlotte (Eilidh Nairn) and this is the main reason the girlfriend Wendy (Elizabeth Brown) is an ex. He is an arrogant annoying drunk but he’s the only one seriously investigating the deaths. You would think the police would be on top of it but their incompetence is another story written by Hamish. The cop in charge of investigating the case Bill Munro (Gavin Mitchell) is more interested in stopping Hamish embarrassing the police.
This is certainly not a film for the squeamish but the squeamish are hardly likely to watch a film based on a mythical cannibal killer. David Hayman gives a great over-the-top performance as the bible-spouting psychopath and he has a really twisted sense of humour. The acting from the rest of cast is variable but never too bad to take me out of the film. The location shooting in Skye is just amazing and it gives the film a remote desolate feel.
* The story of Sawney Bean is that he and his wife produced a large clan of cannibal killers who lived in a cave in a remote part of the Ayrshire coast where they survived on killing travellers and eating them and they were supposed to be responsible for the deaths of about 1000 people. The local people pleaded with the authorities and the king (either James VI or James I depending on what version you read) led 300 men to capture the Bean clan and they were taken to Glasgow for execution. The story is almost certainly untrue with no contemporary sources at all and first appeared in the little sensationalist chapbooks in the 18th century but this hasn’t stopped people looking for the cave.