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?”

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”

Get Out (2017)

Next up the sequel… Go Away.

A young African American man (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) mysterious family estate for the weekend.

It is hard to believe that this is Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut, who impressively also penned the script. Get Out blends horror, satire and social thriller into a smashing mash up of Skeleton Key meets Stepford Wives.

Get Out is a film that has globally hypnotised us all. Certainly due to its strong vein of social commentary that runs throughout the narrative. Don’t be mistaken, Get Out isn’t exactly a movie that deals with racism, rather how some deal with race in general. Peele plays with racism in a way that won’t anger you, but will have you squirming uncomfortably in your seat while you cringe at the awkwardness that poor Chris (Kaluuya) endures from a bunch of white privileged rich folk, who don’t realise they are being racist with their condescending comments.

Get Out is clever and absorbing film that manages to balance humour and horror so fittingly. The actual horror is fairly light, there are more moments of graceless etiquette than moments of terror. Rather the horror here is focused on the slow build up of unnerving paranoia and it is the sound design that will eerily have the fine hairs on the back of your neck stand and the simple chink of a teaspoon against a tea cup that will make you shiver.

The performances of Get Out are wonderfully pleasing. Both Kaluuya and Williams ooze with screen presence and a near unrecognisable Bradley Whitford – my god! – is so authentic as the trying to be hip dad it is chilling. But it’s LilRel Howery (Rod) who steals about every single scene he is in with his side splitting comic relief.

I feel like a proud parent every time I see any form of horror thrive and no doubt Get Out has been a huge word of mouth success. Get Out creates an interesting angle of social and cultural observation, but the narrative does fall a little predictable half way through… it wasn’t hard to guess the villainous twist. Whether you read the films title as a threat or a warning, Get Out will have you hooked with its rich atmosphere, sharp comedy and nail biting horror.

8.0 / 10

“Now you’re in the sunken place”

Raw (2017)

Who’d have thunk it? A cannibal film that is weirdly relatable…

When a young vegetarian, Justine, (Garance Marillier) undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Raw is an absolute gem and an extremely impressive feature film debut from Julia Ducournau. With such a taboo theme, being cannibalism, one would earmark this film to be another fiercely sick entry into the splatter horror subgenre, but surprisingly it is the narrative that is boldly ravenous. The title itself defines the unnerving tale of grisly self discovery that not only Justine goes through, but is a personal journey we all go through in life. Raw is a beautiful coming of age tale, unlike any other before. It is the story of a young woman figuring out herself and the bond she has with her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf).

Raw has the perfect balance of body horror and pitch black humour. The media’s hype of how graphic the film is may be somewhat exaggerated, yes there are moments of stomach churning disgust, but it is handled with such elegance and class, that cannibalism suddenly turns into a delicious nightmare.

The chemistry between Marillier and Rumpf is exceptional. Both girl’s performances are absolutely captivating, Rumpf being particularly spectacular. The film refreshingly doesn’t fall into any trappings of caricature nor does it ever start to feel overblown.

Raw is an extreme yet intimate tale. It is a tender subtle film about family and growth, yet disguised as a stylish body horror. Raw is extremely moving and weirdly relatable. Raw will have you squirming in your seat, giggling quietly, gasping and also questioning are all French veterinary schools this intense?

9.0 / 10

“I’m sure you will find a solution, honey”

Don’t Hang Up (2017)

Are you telling me NONE of the people they prank called have Caller Id?

An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own games against them… with deadly consequences.

Duo directing team Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot follow up from their short film ‘Red Balloon’ with their debut feature, a home invasion cyber thriller, ‘Don’t Hang Up’.

My expectations for this film were so low, judging it from its trailer it didn’t exactly seem to be breaking new territory, the basic premise being ‘shitty teenagers acting badly, get what’s coming’. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find this nowhere near as bad as what I imagined it to be. Sure, the story is very formulaic and every single character is clearly horrible. Like, am I meant to be caring about these assholes? They are mean, so not funny and worst of all use words like “amazeballs”… The single redeeming feature is the two leads are so god damn good looking.

Not all horror films have to have something important to say. They don’t all have to have some underlying social commentary message… sometimes you want just a good ol’ fashion slasher, and Don’t Hang Up delivers with its slick atmosphere whilst giving you vibes of previous classics; Scream, Saw, When A Strangers Calls.

For an awful script, it is directed rather well. With what the actors are given, the performances are a cut above the b grade nature of the script, making everything not as silly as it would appear on paper. To ensure enjoyment one must sacrifice any sense of realism or logic, because there is not for one second that I could buy that this group of teenagers could impersonate law officials in such violent practical jokes, tape it and upload it online and NOT get into any trouble. For Christ’s sakes, we are shown in a horrendous montage sequence that there is a fanbase of muppets loving their pranks… Please, I’m insulted.

Looking past the lack of originality and super predictable story line it surprisingly held my interest throughout. The film is full of the greatest horror cliches; the power is continuously turning on and off, it is a dark and stormy night and the scary voice on the phone is always so calm and monotonous. Best of all the running time is perfect, a swift 83 minutes, any longer and I think there would have been some issues. Don’t Hang Up is a perfect, taut, somewhat hysterical little midnight thriller.

6.0 / 10

“… and no matter what, don’t hang up”

Lights Out (2016)

Admittedly I hate walking around the house at night turning off all the lights because I begin to spook myself that I will see someone standing there in the shadows… So, it is as if the filmmaker delved into my mind, saw my greatest secret fear and put it up on the big screen.

When her little brother, Martin, begins experiencing the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity attached to her mother, Sophie.

Based on the acclaimed three minute short of the same name, David F Sandberg effectively expands his original short to a clever and dramatically interesting 80 minute feature film debut. It is clear Sandberg has talent for devising spooky situations, while effectively keeping the humour light. Lights Out immerses you into a very moody stylish world, that has a touch of J Horror swagger. The stylish sequences are aesthetically hair raising and exceedingly entertaining.

A perfect mix of family drama and horror. The performances are fright fuelled and unsettling. Both Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello are exceptional here, Palmer is the gorgeous strong alternative lead and Bello is the convincingly haggard and unbalanced mother. Following the trend of the 2014 hit The Babadook, Lights Out steps into similar territory by treating mental health as the real monster. Without going into too much detail, Diana is a creature of darkness, metaphorically and literally.

My only real issue with Lights Out is that there is quite a vagueness to the actual story, it never really explains what exactly Diana is. In saying so, I felt the monster didn’t abide by its own rules, ultimately leaving the lore a little messy.

Lights Out perfectly exploits our fears of the dark, with skilful chills and intelligent jump scares, Sandberg doesn’t disappoint and delivers an exceptional debut monster movie.

9.0 / 10

“Every time I turn off the lights… there’s this woman… waiting in the shadows” 

Nina Forever (2016)

Nina Forever is a bizarre gore soaked high concept horror. Ghastly yet gorgeous, this morbid tale balances the uncomfortable topic of grief with deadpan dark humour and sultry edginess.

After Rob’s girlfriend Nina dies in a car crash, Rob unsuccessfully attempts suicide. As he begins to recover from his grief he falls in love with co-worker, Holly. Their relationship is tested however when Nina’s bloody self rises from the sheets, sarcastically interrupting them whenever they have sex.

Brothers, Ben and Chris Blaine deliver a unique portrayal of letting go in their directorial feature debut. This twisted tale blurs the genre lines with its substantial amount of heartbreak underneath the gore. The subject matter deftly explores serious and relatable issues like grief and the possible impossibility of moving on, which stands far more uncomfortable then any macabre scenes.

The twisted love triangle brings an emotionally affecting level to the story. The performances from all seem authentically sensitive. The tragedy of the situation is disturbing but tender. Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s (Nina) performance is both repulsive, in the way she swings her lifeless corpse around, and hypnotic in the nous of her poetic sense of dialogue.

Oozing sick yet sexy eroticism with a dark comedic edge, this inventive film is a superb little gem in the horror genre.

9.0 / 10

“I’d love it if my boyfriend tried to kill himself cause I’d died”

The Witch (2016)

The Witch is a thought provoking, visually delicious boutique horror film. With a slow descent into madness driving the film into unsettling eeriness, this is quite unlike any other horror movie, ever seen or felt. With startling imagery and a cacophonous score, this folkloric nightmare simmers with ever escalating dread, even after the credits have rolled.

Dread gives way to despair, as a puritan family in the 1630s encounter forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.

Robert Eggers, breaks barriers in this spell bounding directorial debut. It is clearly evident the amount of researched devoted to the film, the archaic production quality and true Old English vocabulary, brings a near Shakespearean ambiance to the film. Its an absolute delight of originality and a perfect example of how a movie can be terrifying without any actual horror.

The bleak yet haunting cinematography casts a layer of creepy atmosphere, alongside with a discordant score of anxious strings, unnatural scrapes and a ghastly choir. It composes a sense of utmost paranoia and fear for all characters involved. The performances altogether bring an authenticity to the story, Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, perfectly encapsulates a sense of innocence and an awakening femininity. The true brilliance of The Witch, is the mindset all these characters place you in.

It is mostly a psychological film, heavily focusing on the family’s religious fuelled reaction to the idea of a witch tormenting them. Without relying on jump scares to strike fear into an audience, or gore, the horrific details are in what you don’t see.

The Witch takes on very real issues – religion, grief, hysteria and distrust. However, general audiences may feel cheated out of a horror film, as each scene leaves you hanging by a thread, with no pay off. After watching this with my partner, I wanted to slap him across the back side of the head, after he turned to me and uttered the words “that wasn’t scary” … Since when did the term ‘scary’ only belong to those moments of cheap thrills? The average movie-goer shouldn’t berate this film for its slow building nature for not being ‘scary’. This visceral period piece illustrates the difference between horror and terror. In an age of franchise horror films and found footages spooks, this is why our beloved genre is never taken seriously.

The Witch is a movie that demands repeat viewings (perhaps with subtitles for certain scenes), it’s an intelligent evocative film enveloped in broody atmosphere, a chilling score and hypnotizing performances.

With a bewitching final act, The Witch’s true impact reveals itself once the credits have rolled and your left to your thoughts as it stays buried beneath your skin.

9.5 / 10

“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

Emelie (2016)

Emelie is a home invasion movie of a different kind. A taut slow burner that endlessly builds on unfamiliar suspense. It plays to an honest fear, but fails to leave any real lasting impression with a underwhelming final act.

Michael Thelin’s directorial debut taps into every parent’s worst nightmare – Can we trust the babysitter? By flipping the script, Thelin treats audiences to an effective little thriller with his interesting twist on the tale of the babysitter horror genre.

The Thompson family have a new babysitter. When regular babysitter, Maggie is unavailable, her friend Anna is hired for the job. As we begin to learn very early on, this babysitter is not exactly who she says she is, and has some nasty ulterior motives.

For a horror movie, it does not produce any straight up scares, but tension with a sinister undertone. As we move along through the story, the uneasiness begins to really set in and you find yourself squirming in your chair. Now don’t expect these certain scenes to be filled with knives, machetes or anything sharp. No… just a tampon, and an old VHS tape.

Sarah Bolger (Emelie), is vivid in the lead role as babysitter gone bad. Bolger really inherits this role as she effortlessly swings from darling to disturbing, from innocent to icy.

However, as Emelie’s true intentions begin to unravel, so too does the film. After a solid hour of menacing terror on these poor children, her motivations are revealed and you can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed.

Questions begin to rise, were her actions all really necessary??

What starts off as a genuine fearful tale, its unfortunate the final act couldn’t be further explored and better exploited. Just like Emelie, this film isn’t broken, it’s just cracked….

7.0 / 10

“Sometimes it’s okay to destroy things for fun” 

Intruders (2016)

Intruders offers an intriguing take in the sensationalised home invasion genre. With solid performances and a tight pace this prey becomes predator film is a wickedly fun time.

Intruders (formerly known as Shut In), brings us a cat and mouse thriller about young Anna, who finds herself alone in her large family home after her cancer riddled brother passes away. Anna, suffers from agoraphobia, so bad that she cannot bring herself to attend her brother’s funeral, or even flee her house when three men break into her home.

An exciting directorial debut from Adam Schindler, this film brings you a taste of the thrill of Panic Room, and the agony of Saw.

With solid performances from all, a special mention to Martin Starr, who is usually conveyed in the cinematic world as loveable geeky character, takes a dramatic turn as the overly eager to kill criminal, Perry. The pacing of the film is incredible tight in the first hour, it is wickedly fun and gratuitously violent as we witness timid Anna (Beth Riesgraf), swiftly adapt a very cold manner and become the queen of resting bitch face.

Although, the movie does quite fall apart towards the end, the reasoning behind the puzzle box of a house feels like it spat out in a couple minutes of dialogue. The overwrought exposition is rushed and unfortunately lacks in originality, which is regrettably disappointing as it takes away a little of that authenticity that movie had crafted so well.

Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad in this fun little film brought to you by Jigsaws property developer.

8.0 / 10

“You have no idea what I’m like”