Hounds of Love (2017)

 

Smiths Chips will never be the same again…

 A cold blooded predatory couple while cruising the streets in search of their next victim, will stumble upon a 17-year-old high school girl, who will be sedated, abducted and chained in the stranger’s guest room.

Another gritty Australian entry for the month of May, with Ben Young’s astonishing directorial debut, Hounds of Love. Upon first glance, one would think this simply to be another entry into the poor subgenre of torture porn, but Young has twisted the narrative and instead at its core Hounds of Love is a tragic story of a relationship malfunctioning. For this tale, we are shown the side of the captors, and instead of being a predictable tale of one woman escaping abuse, it’s a tale of two.

Hounds of Love is powerfully acted, it is a trio tour de force of performances from the leading stars – Stephen Curry, Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings. For us locals, we recognize Curry as a very much loveable and generally adorable stand-up comedian so it is a complete shock to the system to see him pull off such a terrifying slimy performance of what could be one of the most heinous, sleaziest characters imagined.

It is easily understandable that these subgenres are definitely an acquired taste, but Hounds has more class than any ol’ torture porn flick. It is violent in nature, but mostly the nastiest moments are implied. Young leaves us to use the darkest depths of our imagination to make sense of what is going on behind closed doors.

Young has pulled off a remarkable entrance by successfully traumatising audiences around the world with his low budget gem, the gritty realism is disturbing and the performances are downright riveting. Hounds of Love is a knock out.

8.0 / 10

“I’ll tell you what. How about… you and I… go in there right now and show her who’s running the show?”

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Killing Ground (2017)

Not exactly a movie for Tourism Australia…

A couples camping trip turns into a frightening ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a horrific crime.

Writer/Director Damien Power delivers an exceptionally powerful feature film debut with Killing Ground. A classic throwback to the Australian Ozploitation era of the 1970s/80s, Killing Ground is a blunt, bloody and brutal journey of a deadly game of cat and mouse. Don’t expect your normal stalker/slasher tropes, Killing Ground transcends any clichés with a pretty simple storyline but with an imaginative non chronological timeline structure.

The real grittiness of Killing Ground is its violence and what it does to people. There are no cheap scares with Killing Ground and although incredibly violent, Powers avoids showing any graphic displays of gratuitous bloodshed. Rather it is mostly shockingly implied and it is the Australian landscape that will once again terrorize audiences with an atmosphere absolutely drenched in dread.

The performances from Killing Ground are unforgettable, Harriet Dyer as young camper Sam is a strong female lead that delivers a white knuckling performance, followed by Aaron Glenane’s psychotic Chook, which feels almost too genuine. Aaron Pedersen also is strong here, going against his normal type cast and playing into the part of the villainous duo.

A minimal yet powerful story, Killing Ground has a real gritty aesthetic and an authenticity that will make some scenes difficult to watch. The cinematography will undoubtedly keep you holding your breath, the steady tracking shots eerily grasping your attention when you want to look away. Only coming in at 88 minutes, a little more exposition on the malicious men would have been inviting, otherwise Killing Ground is absolutely tense throughout and another great entry into the Australian genre.

7.0 / 10

“There were people here earlier and their heading out to the falls”

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Home girl, I’m from Brisbane too – I understand the desperate need of wanting to travel!

A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.

Cate Shortland’s third feature film entry comes in the form of a heart pounding claustrophobic thriller Berlin Syndrome. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten, Shortland’s confident and interesting thriller is a slick atmospheric step into the genre.

Both Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt bring strong sharp performances, they play off one another well in an evil game out cat and mouse. There are moments of truly terrifying spine tingling tension and shocking moments of brutal bloody violence, it is everything you could ask for in a confinement thriller.

The Australian production is beautifully shot but it unfortunately loses its steam half way through, and instead of a slow burn its pacing begins to feel lethargic. Slightly overextended at 116 minutes long, a shorter in length version would have been a far superior film and kept the tension burning throughout.

7.5 / 10

“I wish I could stay”

Red Billabong (2016)

This is what I imagine a Home & Away Halloween special to look like…

In the Australian Outback, two brothers discover old secrets and family lies. As their friends start to go missing they fear they are being stalked by someone or something. But is it just a hoax?

Luke Sparke’s directorial debut, Red Billabong, is terrifying… Terrifying because Sparke’s has quoted he spent seven years fine tuning the script… Really? I personally think it could have been a passable film if the director cleaned up the script, chose practical effects instead of digital and made it much shorter. I mean it’s a joke that this creature feature runs for 113 minutes, at best it is an 85-minute flick.

The film is full of awkwardness and lacklustre direction, the majority of the time the actors look lost in their scenes. No doubt the cringey dialogue doesn’t help. Never have I heard in my life someone exclaim “Let’s get to the partying”.

The characters are deeply unlikeable and cliché. The females are vapid and struggle to think on their own, whilst the men are sexist and have zero redeeming features. The dog is great though.

The problem with Red Billabong is it tries to hard. If you don’t have the budget to do CGI well, don’t do it all, there is nothing wrong with choosing practical effects. Hell, I prefer it! The actual design of the monster is horrible and we see far too much of it towards the end, embarrassingly to much. Take note Mr Sparkes – less is more!

Unfortunately, the interesting indigenous folklore isn’t enough to ignore the unlikeable characters, amateur script writing and laughable CGI. The scariest moment for me was the post credit scene stating… “The Bunyip will return” … Like, can you not?

2.0 / 10

“You don’t know what’s out here. Lions and tigers and bears.” 

Scare Campaign (2016)

My mother always warned me “prank at your own peril”

Popular prank TV show, Scare Campaign, mixes their old school scares with hidden cameras, but in an age of online thrills the team find themselves up against an edgier online community. Forced by the Networks hand the team decide to up the ante on their final scare, but have they gone too far and stooged the wrong guy.

Scare Campaign is the latest venture from the Cairnes brothers, Colin and Cameron. Their sophomore film follows the highly pirated film 100 Bloody Acres, which found brief fame in 2012. This Australian low budget film is clearly a throwback to the classic era of 70 / 80s Oz-ploitation films. Although, with a plainly predictable narrative the witty script and stunningly violent nature creates a satiric horror comedy that is captivating enough for its short running time of 80 minutes.

It’s difficult to discuss the narrative without giving anything a way, unfortunately I think the writers thought the script was far more cunning then it was. That’s not to say the film is boring, the twists and turns of each act are just all very predictable, I must admit though their timing of the initial first twist did pleasantly catch me off guard.

There are some genuinely funny moments in the script, it is clear the actors enjoyed the material they were given to play around with. A particular standout is Josh Quong Tart (Rohan), whose enacts tonal shifts from chilling eeriness to befuddled flippancy. But it is the production design that really shines for the film. The costumes are downright terrifying and the location couldn’t be more perfect, with the brothers opting to shoot the film in an actual abandoned mental asylum; Beechworth Asylum. Truly imparting the ambience of horror and dread.

It isn’t the most original set up, and the Cairne’s brothers have indeed stepped up the severity of tone compared to their debut. A warning to those who are squeamish, the shockingly violent kills could be too much to handle (I personally prefer my chills to spills and at times had to watch this through my fingers), but for all those gore hounds this could be the perfect Friday night flick!

6.5 / 10

“Marcus said,  you know, the best pranks are the ones that go a little off script” 

 

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”

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

Observance (2016)

Observance is the latest addition to micro budget Australian films. Cunningly stylish, this hybrid horror/psychological thriller offers genuinely unsettling scenes filled with moody atmospheric grunge. A film full of visual clues, secretive backstory and answers to questions left for the audience to decipher themselves. Observance will hauntingly fester away in your mind.

From a derelict apartment across the street, Parker (Lindsay Farris) reluctantly returns to work as a private investigator, after the death of his young son, to fund for excessive medical bills. Embarking on an unusual assignment to observe a woman (Stephanie King) and report back daily to the mysterious client. Things aren’t as they seem, as Parker begins to spiral into confusion, delusion and possibly madness.

Ambitiously made back in January 2013 on the director’s, Joseph Sim-Dennett, credit card for just $11,000 and filmed only in 11 days. Observance premiered last year at the reputable Fantasia Film Festival and garnered enough buzz to bring it back home to a limited release in Australia cinemas. The films enigmatic approach to storytelling reverently does not spoon feed the narrative to its audience, rather leaves the riddle of the film left to your own interpretation.

The stylish voyeurism is layered with terror and paranoia. Scenes are tinted in unhealthy shades of green, as if the film becomes sick alongside Parker’s deteriorating mind frame. The majority of the movie lacks any real dialogue and as the unsettling sound design takes hold, not only does it leave the characters in the dark, but the audience too with its insidious ambiance.

Although the film is Australian, the actors speak in American accents, which was disappointing to see Sims-Dennett hide the films heritage. Fortunately, I attended a Q & A session with the director, and typically this questions arose. Sims-Dennett stated it was a creative decision to accommodate the sub plot of Parker’s excess of large medical bills for his son (Australia has Medicare therefore would have rendered the necessity of the high paying job). Really, a non issue though, that shouldn’t break the prominence of the film.

Observance is a unique and impressive achievement. Regular cinema goers may find the mystery frustratingly unresolved, as the final act offers an abrupt loop of suspension. Visually pleasing, thought provoking and undoubtedly oblique, Observance is no doubt a film the requires a re-watch as the ending festers away under your skin.

8.0 / 10

“Stop watching”

Coming Soon: Observance

I truly believe Australians produce the best horror films out there…. call me bias!

There I said it!

Just take a quick peek into some of our previous home grown heroes (The Babadook, The Loved Ones, Wyrmwood, Wolf Creek, James Wan!)

Financially, Australian filmmakers aren’t given the same slice of pie as American’s.

The horror genre, especially seems to suffer in the financial department. With filmmakers tending to rely strongly on creating the spooks through story.

The upcoming horror ‘Observance’ comes from young Sydney filmmaker Jospeh Sims-Dennett. This Hitchcockian inspired creeper creates goose bump raising spooks with a trailer that doesn’t give a whole lot away.

Premieres – VOD May 16th, 2016