There’s undoubtedly a good film to be made out of the legend of the Sawney Bean, the semi-mythical head of a clan of murderous cannibals who lived in a cave and allegedly feasted on the bodies of over 1,000 victims in the 15th or 16th century. Unfortunately, Sawney, Flesh of Man isn’t it. A low budget British production from 2012, it does its best to update the story to a modern day setting, but this unfortunately has the effect of making it seem all the more like a rip-off of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (or Alexandre Aja’s remake), which was itself loosely based on the Sawney Bean story.
Sawney here is played by David Hayman, a familiar face from TV, the latest head of the ancestral clan and just about the only one of them who isn’t a gibbering maniac. They have relocated to a system of old caves deep in the Scottish Highlands and, rather than snatching passers by, they pluck their victims from the streets of Glasgow before taking them home to torment and eventually butcher. But a reporter (Samuel Feeney) and cop (Gavin Mitchell) are looking into the numerous disappearances in the area and don’t take long to figure that a serial killer (or killers) is responsible.
This has some good aspects to it: the Scottish scenery is amazing; the scenes in which the Bean ‘children’ (who have an animalistic athleticism) stalk their victims are well realised; and in David Hayman they have a protagonist who both commands the attention and seems to be relishing every minute. Unfortunately the story that has been constructed around the titular character is mundane and rather silly, and the acting from some of the younger performers is really quite terrible. It’s extremely violent and gruesome and it looks good enough, but that can’t make up for the tangible lack of tension and the rudimentary writing.