We all have heard the common saying “you are what you eat.” However, after stumbling onto the wrong farm, a meat rejecting social media influencer risks becoming what she refuses to eat in Vegan, a directorial debut by actress Madeleine Wade (Blood Craft 2019).
Immediately capturing ominous black market vibes, Vegan opens with a crude reel of a woman begging for her life as a masked man brandishes a meat hook. Attention grabbing as this opener may be, it suggests a predictable plot line to follow – an ol’ fashion snuff film making psychopath nabs the wrong victim who turns the tables. However, this found-footage flick avoids torture porn shock value by favoring a layered story and a moving plot while cranking out a few twists along the way.
After detailing animal cruelty for the reasoning behind her vegan lifestyle to her social media followers, Carrie (Wade) receives a shocking phone call. Her parents have been found dead at the scene of a fatal car crash. While she mourns, her wife Lydia (Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg – Heart of the Home 2021) discovers that Carrie was adopted. This prompts the newly orphaned influencer to undergo a search for her biological parents and film every step of the way.
When Carrie’s investigation leads her to a secluded farm and a farmer with deadly intentions, she becomes the starring role in her own worst nightmare. With her body cams still rolling, Carrie is taken prisoner to serve a twisted purpose for keeping the farm alive.
Bringing sadness and fear to the lead character before flipping the script, Wade carries the film from the director’s seat while giving an exceptional performance. Riding a fine line between likable and off-puttingly fake, the scales tip in a foreseeable direction for a fame-obsessed social media influencer when the cameras have been rolling for too long. Furthermore, a surprising twist comes when some sympathy is nearly garnished for the farmer. After our misguided villain divulges a disheartening backstory, subtle intentional or unintentional nods are given to the crime horror hit Don’t Breathe (2016).
The aforementioned genre blockbuster isn’t the only notable homage. Between the burlap sack donned by the farmer, the film’s grand finale reveal, and the film’s entire grittiness, Vegan comes across as a deformed indie love child of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981).
Although it’s great to see horror place story, plot, and genre homage ahead of an overabundance of gore, what’s lacking is a believable amount of blood and screams for the implied level of gruesomeness. As anyone who has seen I Spit on Your Grave (1978) can attest – a man undergoing castration would have far more curdling blood to his scream. That’s to say if he doesn’t pass out first.
Flaws aside, this found-footage flick is still making noise on the festival circuit. And with good reason. Wade’s first feature from the director’s chair thus far has won Best 1st Time Director, Best Feature, and Best Ensemble at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival. While it isn’t perfect, Vegan showcases a solid story and a twisting plot making it a noteworthy shoestring budgeted directorial debut.