Well made and engrossing.

by Nav Qateel

When a group of friends on a road-trip come across a little girl who appears to be lost and alone, they decide to help the kid by taking her home. What starts out as being a simple good deed by the friends, ends in terror, supernatural forces, and death.

Written and directed by Rustam Branaman, The Culling is one of those low-budget movies that takes its time to fully reveal itself. Once we pass the thankfully short clich├ęd opening — group of good-looking college-kids on a road-trip blasting out some random Blink 182 clone, as they smile and make funny faces at one another, including the wiggle-my-sunglasses-up-and-down routine — we enter into more mature and well-crafted filmmaking territory.

The Culling
Written & Directed by
Rustam Branaman
Jeremy Sumpter, Elizabeth Di Prinzio, Brett Davern
Release Date
15 March 2015
Nav’s Grade: C+

After we briefly witness a group of young, bedraggled children, whispering over what appears to be a pit of rotting corpses, and a little girl surrounded by 100’s of disfigured dolls, we begin to meet the characters (AKA “victims”). Emily (Elizabeth Di Prinzio) is training to be a doctor’s assistant. Her friends, including one who’s just out of rehab, are impatiently waiting for her in the truck. When Emily finally arrives, they set off on a road trip. The hungry friends stop at a diner that turns out to be just closing, and after hearing a little girl crying nearby, they find an upset Lucy holding her doll. A few quick questions tell them Lucy is looking for her grandfather and that the girl is miles away from home. When they drive her back, Lucy’s parents invite them to stay for beer and stake. The parents argue openly about not leaving Lucy with the grandpa ever again, explaining, to a certain extent, why Lucy wasn’t at home with them.

Lucy’s parents, Val (Virginia Williams) and Wayne (Johnathon Schaech), seem outwardly normal, yet there’s something off about the couple that’s hard to put your finger on. It was nice touches like this and the attention to many of the smaller details by Branaman, that really made a huge difference to The Culling. Lucy was played by Harley Graham, a young lady who’s not that far behind the likes of Dakota Fanning in film credits and acting experience. The actress can turn on the charm or the water-works, or exude pure evil with a minimal of effort.

The main cast was pretty much your typical teenage horror-movie fodder, only these actors each put on good turns. There were no particular standouts, just nice even performances by a cast who most should recognise from various films and TV shows. Johnathon Schaech was the clear star of The Culling, followed closely by the writing and directing by Rustam Branaman. It made a pleasant and refreshing change to watch a film that relied on good old-fashioned filmmaking. There were only the smallest touches of CGI when we would see the shadowy figures that invaded bodies, and all other effects were practical. The slow buildup and creepy setting added to the overall effect. This was all achieved without a plot-hole in sight, and while there was a certain amount of ambiguity as to Lucy’s true origin, it was of the intelligent kind that I see adopted quite often in J-horror.

The Culling is by far the best we’ve had from Branaman, and I hope to see more like this from him in future.

Highly recommended.

The Culling Poster