Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo is an eerily hypnotic faux documentary supernatural thriller. A mournful dreamlike examination of a family dealing with grief, this slow burner is not so much as scary as it is spooky.

Lake Mungo tells the story of a family trying to come to terms with the drowning of their daughter, Alice Palmer, and the potentially supernatural events they experience following her death.

Joel Anderson’s low budget Australian film is a sophisticated adult tale blending complex compelling emotions and chilling realism of what can happen to humanity in the events of grief and yearning to alter ones past actions.

The authentic performances should be highly commended. Just say if you were to switch this over one night on the television with no prior knowledge of the film, the no name actors convincingly create what could be mistakably a real documentary. The cinematography too should be complimented as it beautifully captures the Australian landscape in a hauntingly atmospheric sense.

Lake Mungo is slow. Really slow. For the occasional horror movie goer, it may test their patience as there is never really any terrifying outcome. For veteran horror fans will appreciate the films slow building twists and turns and be rewarded with what can go down as one of the most creative horror presence reveals ever.

From its effective gripping ghost story premise into a sad exploration of a depressed teen and her secrets, Lake Mungo is genuinely unsettling for its realistic authenticity and chilling imagery.

7.0 / 10

“Alice kept secrets. She kept the fact that she kept secrets a secret”

The Suicide Theory (2014)

The Suicide Theory is a somewhat contrived but weirdly compelling Australian neo noir thriller. The filmmaking is a little on the amateurish side, and the writing is a little heavy handed on the concept of fate, yet the grim irony is darkly comic and faults aside it is a bizarrely absorbing film.

A suicidal man, Percival (Leon Cain), hires a contract killer (Steve Mouzaki) to assist him in his suicide, who for reasons unknown has miraculously survived multiple attempts at ending his life.

Dru Brown’s sophomore film doesn’t fully succeed in making its absurd premise totally convincing, the obvious foreshadowing leads to predictable reveals and the hundred thousand sub plots smother the film in melodrama muck. Nonetheless, I still found the film weirdly captivating with an amusing concept. It too was refreshing to see Leon Cain in a dramatic role, all us Australians would recognise him from every single damn commercial break a la AAMI Insurance ads.

The painfully generic score halts pivotal scenes and it was unfortunate to see no real chemistry between the two leads. The excess jibber jabber of fate, destiny, chance, luck, purpose and so on, chokes the life out of this film. Steve Mouzakis’s, Steven, was agonisingly the tough guy who cussed too much and seemed to lack the impression that consequences may arise from carelessly shooting dozens of people…

What could pass as a really well done student grad film, The Suicide Theory contains a tonne of cliché filmmaking mistakes and a very tacked on ending. However, this low budget Australian film somehow will win you over with its inventive story line and gritty sense of amusement.

6.5 / 10

“You’re lucky to be alive”

Darling (2015)

Darling is a stylish exploration into madness and paranoia. Artfully displayed as a black and white piece, Darling may be light on plot, but it is heavy on style.

Lauren Ashley Carter (the titular character, Darling) accepts a position as the caretaker of an upscale New York manor. Whispers of a past haunting and a forbidden room lead to a quick descend into madness and confusion.

Mickey Keating delivers a haunting tale, but without any real presence, both figuratively and literally. Although Carter’s solo performance was a time hypnotic, the lack of back story made it difficult to connect with her. Was it mental health or malevolent entities that evoked her spiral into insanity? The questionable chapter entries also bring a manner of fruitless pretentiousness.

Some general horror fans may be put off from the ambiguity of the film, but with a quick paced running time of 78 minutes there isn’t enough time to really feel under satisfied.

A little derivative of cult classics films, even Carter manages to arouse a likeness to the iconic Audrey Hepburn with her impossibly large doe eyes and bee hive hairdos. Despite the underdeveloped character work, the intense violent blasts of metallic strings contribute to an ever present ominous atmosphere. Darling is a twisted entry into art house horror, a classy addition but an easily forgettable one too.

6.0 / 10

“Is it true what they say about this place?” 

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin is an exceptionally ordinary well executed revenge story. Viscerally intelligent, the stripped down story offers a thrillingly grim unpredictable journey while being oddly endearing.

A mysterious drifter’s life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Seeking retaliation for the long ago murder of his parents, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect himself and his family.

Jeremy Saulnier’s 2013 low budget gem refreshingly takes on the classic eye-for-an-eye riff. Cleverly unpredictable, this dark hill billy gothic tale has a sicko sense of humour and truly conquers the significance of less is more.

With a brilliant opening, Blue Ruin covers in twenty minutes what most revenge thrillers would spend their entire running time on. Instead following the fallout from those actions here begins the unpredictable journey of our damage drifter, Dwight (Macon Blair). Portrayed brilliantly by Blair, holding nothing back, the raw honesty of his performance dramatically builds the tension complimented with the everyday realism. There is no Hollywood gloss here, just average looking people and clumsy violence.

Blue Ruin is a graphic but simple intimate story of a broken man. Taut and refreshingly authentic, Blair exceeds exceptionally as your unusual leading man.

8.0 / 10

“You know what’s awful? Just ’cause my dad loved your mum… we all end up dead”

He Never Died (2015)

He Never Died is a welcome dose of quirky humour. It’s hardly a comedy, but an enjoyable, questionably strange bloody horror drawing out the gloomy side of eternal loneliness.

Jack, a social pariah, is reluctantly thrust out of his comfort zone to save his daughter from mafia clutches. As the outside world bangs on his front door, Jack struggles to contain his violent past.

Jason Krawczyk melds elements of crime, revenge, supernatural and dry comedy in this bizarre movie. The dark bloody humour is so deliciously deadpan and incredibly subtle that you might not realise it is there for the first half of the film. It took me awhile to figure out if I really loved or hated this film. But, as the movie proceeds the winking undercurrent becomes more pronounced, all you need to hear is Jack (Henry Rollins) relay his very long list of previous jobs.

Though the title acknowledges Jack’s immortality, the film is coy about its nature. The slow moving action and odd sense of humour may catch some audiences off guard. But, for those who can enjoy putting their plausibility aside, will relish in the raucousness of the film and be rewarded with giddy gore.

He Never Died is just plain weird and performances don’t come more deadpan in this original, sternly charming horror.

7.0 / 10

“So… the Civil War, what was that like?” 

Coming Soon: Scare Campaign

The brotherly director/writer duo, Cameron and Colin Cairnes, are following up their wickedly entertaining debut horror, 100 Bloody Acres, with a second entry in the genre field – Scare Campaign.

Popular prank TV show, Scare Campaign, mixes old school scares with hidden cameras. In the age of online thrills, the team finds themselves desperate for ratings. Deciding it’s time to up the ante, have the the team gone too far this time and are they about to prank the wrong guy?

Returning to the good ol’ fashion slasher flick, Scare Campaign looks to be a throwback to Australia’s ‘Ozploitation’ era of the 1970s/80 filled with schlock horror and ocker comedy.

Blending reality Tv and satiric horror comedy, Scare Campaign is the latest Aussie horror to be filled with murderous mayhem in a bloodbath of brutality.

Release date – July 7th, 2016

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

The Raid 2: Berandal steps up in scope and territory but doesn’t hold up to the novelty of its predecessor. A bulkier and slower set up then the first film, the sheer inventiveness of carnage will kill you enthralled but the intensity falls flat when the action stops.

Only hours after the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta, planning to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within the police force.

Gareth Evan’s follow up martial arts spectacular doesn’t disappoint with its heavily precise choreographed action. An early prison riot scene is startlingly harsh, as the roving camera hurtles between mud slathered combatants. The virtuosic camerawork mares well with the high energy plot and the over the top violence, a kitchen set showdown and a dizzying car chase sequence are among the best action set pieces seen in modern cinema.

While it’s a visual feast to experience, it has its flaws. I wanted to love this movie, but with a plot that’s a bit superfluous and a little on the long side, the pacing issues are really detrimental and the film just doesn’t possess the same charm from the original.

Running at 150 minutes, the jaw dropping action sequences are worth it in the end. Remaining stylish in a blur of insane brutality, The Raid films are unquestionably on a whole other level to anything else in the action genre.

6.5 / 10

“Only a fool argues for the pride of a dead man”