Before making feature films, director Kimble Rendall was making music videos for artists like Cold Chisel, UB40 and Mental As Anything, and before making music videos he was a founding member of the legendary Aussie rock band The Hoodoo Gurus. And if that’s not multifaceted enough, he’s also a renowned second-unit director having worked on movies like The Matrix Reloaded, I Robot, Knowing and Gods of Egypt, amongst others. To describe him as a multimedia chameleon is an understatement, but for a generation of horror fans his name may be best associated with 2000’s unforeseen cult hit Cut.
In the wake of the Slasher explosion of the mid 1990s, following movies like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legends, Rendall’s home-grown slasher was conceived not only in response to that movement but also out of a pure love for the genre. Cut took a meta-like approach by taking audiences behind the scenes of a lost horror movie. The plot follows a film project that was scrapped after a series of brutal murders – including the film’s director (Kylie Minogue). The movie is resurrected years later by film students attempting to finish it off. With the original actress (Molly Ringwald) flown back to Adelaide to pick up where she left off, the production falls pray to the same grisly trappings of a masked serial killer.
In the 19 years since Cut‘s theatrical release the film has only ever made it to VHS in Australia, and despite numerous territories around the world celebrating it with a DVD release, Aussie fans have spent years lamenting the fate of a forgotten gem. Now Umbrella Entertainment have gone to painstaking lengths to produce a 4K restoration from the original 35mm interpositive to deliver the film’s most comprehensive and immaculate release to date. Finally, fans can rejoice the long-awaited Blu-ray release, which comes backed with additional content including filmmaker commentary, behind the scenes footage, an abundance of cast & crew interviews and more.
We spoke to Kimble Rendall to discuss the legacy of Cut and the retrospective screenings that are part of Australia’s Fangoria x MonsterFest taking place this year.
“It’s a sort of wizz-bang new thing, with a whole new grade,” Kimble says of the new Blu-ray release. “I worked with a guy named Charlie Ellis on a shark film we did called Bait and he’s amazing. He did a new colour grade on Cut and I’m really keen to see how it plays.”
With consideration for the upcoming re-release, he also reflects on the film’s initial theatrical release in 2000 and recalls its reception at the time. “It’s funny because when Cut first came out it did alright at the time. I suppose because it came between a few relatively successful Australian films and performed okay in comparison, although there were a lot of critics having a crack at it. They criticised it as being a rip-off of the Scream movies, which we never intended it to be. We were just writing it when those movies were out and we thought we’d do our own.”
Boasting a surrealistic music-video aesthetic, Cut stands alone from its contemporaries and Kimble discusses where its eccentricities might have come from. “When I was in the Hoodoo Gurus we were really into popular culture. We loved horror movies and all that, and even musically, that band was different to a lot of the bands that were around at the time. We were influenced by B-grade movies and American television and stuff that connected to an audience.”
The film was also notable for being the first release out of the all-new Mushroom Pictures label, a subdivision of Mushroom Records. Kimble recalls the sentiment and expectations of being the first. “Martin Fabinyi was a friend of mine who worked at Mushroom and he and I had been discussing making a movie for some time. Then we teamed up with David Warner, who was a very well known musician with Mushroom and was writing at the time. So I was making films and Dave was writing films and Martin just thought this would be a great project to start off with at Mushroom.
“And with Mushroom being a music label, they had a bit of a different edge in terms of making movies when the traditional companies weren’t making these films at all. And of course they were very clever about using their own music catalogue in their films.”
Despite the lacklustre critical response in Australia, Cut would find its audience in Europe where the film was received with open arms and handfulls of snow (stay with us). Kimble continues: “I was a bit down when it came out here actually, because the distributor was saying that there isn’t an audience for it, which of course I thought was rubbish – there is an audience and you just have to find it and connect with it. But then it got into a festival in France and it got an amazing response. I went over to the festival and people loved it. It was the middle of winter and I remember walking through an avenue of fans after the screening and they were all throwing snowballs at us and yelling ‘Cut, Cut. We love it!’ And I thought ‘Wow, they actually like directors over here. That’s good!'”
And of course, as with most popular Australian films, Cut featured a notable international star that further supported the movie’s appeal. Molly Ringwald, best known for her numerous roles in John Hughes movies, was cast and had come straight off the release of her first horror feature called Office Killer. Kimble recalls Ringwald’s casting and how she adapted to the Australian scene.
“It’s funny because it was one of those things were you sit around and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we got Molly Ringwald?’ And the same with Kylie Minogue, who I had worked with previously on a short. I guess the timing was right and she loved the script and already loved Mushroom’s music, and she said yes. Molly was the biggest star in the world at one point, and so having the opportunity to work with her was fantastic. It was one of those moments you do a high five when she says yes.”
And with that he elaborates on her love for Aussie music and her eagerness to work Down Under. “She was a big fan of bands like Split Enz and embraced the opportunity to come here. So yeah, she wanted to come down here and she wanted to work with us. And she loved that script, which is kind of important,” he adds with a laugh. “She was great. Really down to Earth.”
Amongst the new supplementary features of Umbrella’s new Blu-ray release of Cut is an all-new audio commentary with the filmmaker. When asked how he responded to his own film all these years later, Kimble found himself surprised. “I recorded it with Dave Warner and we sat in a small room and recalled stories we had previously forgotten, and I actually responded to it very favourably. I mean, I am really looking forward to watching it again on the big screen with an audience, because I remember looking at the new colour grade and thinking, ‘Shit, that’s pretty damn good, actually.‘ So yeah, it will be interesting to see the film with a reasonable-sized audience.”
As for the movie’s cult status, Kimble laughs at the thought with bemusement. “It’s funny, I work on other films and people often refer to Cut as a cult classic, and I think ‘Really?‘ It’s very surreal and interesting how over time it’s become that, when I recall those moments in France where the film was popular almost immediately.”
As our conversation with Kimble was coming to an end, we took it upon ourselves to snoop around to see what he was up to next and what audiences might expect. Contrary to whatever information IMDb or Wikipedia might state, Kimble talks about an upcoming project he’s working on as well as a new business venture that he’s hoping to launch in the near future.
“Well, the project that I’m currently trying to get up is called Age of Beasts. The producer is Grant Hill, who I worked with on The Matrix. We’d been looking for a project for a while and this one came up from a graphic novel. It’s a monster movie with a really cool script. It would make a great game, too, so we’re trying to raise the finance for that. And I’m starting up a new company that will eventually make more of these movies and work with a lot more up-and-coming filmmakers.”
The new remastered Blu-ray release of Cut will be available through Umbrella Entertainment on November 6, following a theatrical screening at Fangoria x MonsterFest | 2019 at a special Q&A event screening in Melbourne on October 17 and a special Q&A event screening in Sydney on November 1.