Charlie Steeds is back at it again with his newest feature film, Death Ranch. If you’re a frequent visitor here or a listener to our podcast, you’ll likely recognize Steeds from directing films such as Escape From Cannibal Farm (2017), The Barge People (2018), Winterskin (2018), and most recently, After Dark (2020). Steeds is no newcomer to the genre, and Death Ranch further proves his ability to create fun entries on a small and confined scale.
Unlike Winterskin’s cold and grey backdrop, Death Ranch is set in 1971 in the deep backwoods of rural Tennessee. It follows three African American siblings on the run from the law who take shelter in a seemingly abandoned ranch. What they don’t realize is that they have stumbled upon the hunting grounds of a cannibalistic Ku Klux Klan cult.
The filmmaking style pays faithful homage to early blaxploitation and grindhouse movies from the 1970s. In my opinion, this makes the film all the more enjoyable to watch. It grabs the screen by the balls and doesn’t relent with its fast paced, blood splattered, and over-the top delivery that rewards its viewer with every kill. You’re immediately thrust into the story as it quickly builds a sense of dread for what is to come.
At the heart of the film, this is a story about a man (Deiondre Teagle) and his siblings (Angela Cobbs and Clarence Cobbs) who made questionable life choices and are looking for a second chance–but they’ll have to fight for survival in order to gain that chance. Despite it’s real life horror framework, Death Ranch is a gritty splatterfest full of creative practical effects that will make any gorehound smile from ear to ear. From axes to vasoline, Steeds pulls out all the stops to make you squirm–and he does it all without leaving the single location that the film is set in.
In true single set fashion, Death Ranch is a siege narrative full of nasty bad guys that viewers will love to watch get torn to pieces. Steeds navigates the film’s delicate subject matter by empowering it’s protagonists while simultaneously making you hate the villains for every reason imaginable. Since the project was filmed in Tennessee, I was able to swing by the set (and even partake in a few scenes) and can speak first-hand to the competency and creativity that Steeds and producer/co-cinematographer Aaron Mirtes exude. These guys know how to make a lot out of a little and used their talents efficiently to create a viscous and poignant slice of terror. If seeing dozens of KKK members get murdered in brutal fashion doesn’t do it for you, I’m not sure what will.
Death Ranch will make its world premiere at Grimmfest UK this coming October.