Fantastic Planet Film Festival and Monster Fest closing night highlights


Fantastic Planet Film Festival

Sunday, November 30th, 4.30pm, Dendy Cinemas Newtown, Sydney

Made on the smell of an oily rag, and I when I say rag, I mean loooow budget indeed, but the smell of this new blood is fresh, hungry, passionate. Director Rob Grant, who also conceived the DIY project and edited the movie, has openly credited the creative collaboration process with his three leads. This is very much a co-op, and the results are genuinely impressive. Few experimental filmmakers with such basic elements at their disposal would be savvy enough to keep the ambition level reigned in. Grant rides with spurs dug in hard.

Chad (Jez Bonham) is at the end of his tether. He is sure his best buddy Devon (Justin Sproule) is sleeping with his recent ex, Annie (Teagan Vincze), no matter what Devon says. Methinks he protest doth much, is probably what Chad is brooding on. But a more significant event eclipses their First World problem when it appears a chemical plant in the city explodes causing chaos and disorder. The young men return to their respective apartment blocks. But no ordinary meltdown has occurred, this is an alien invasion.

Grant shot this short feature over a three-year period (thus the production company name of A Weekend Project) with essentially no budget ($US3000, apparently!) and no script per se (and no crew either!) The result is surprisingly effective, a lean and sombre, paranoid apocalypse machine with an excellent ambient soundtrack. Feeling like a cross between Bellflower and Attack the Block (but without the comedy), Desolate is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking achieving maximum atmosphere. The tone of the piece is charcoal grey, both in the palette and the emotional despair that permeates every scene (of which Chad is in almost every one). Chad’s fug fuels his nightmare, and desolation ensues. Stay for the end of the credits.


The ABCs Of Death 2

Monster Fest

Sunday, November 30th, 7pm, Cinema Nova, Carlton, Melbourne

Like the other recent anthology series V/H/S and V/H/S 2, The ABCs of Death has followed up with a second collection that easily surpasses the overall calibre of the first bunch. I haven’t heard of most of the directors on show here, but there are some real doozy lessons in the macabre, with a couple that are worth the price of admission alone. This is one alphabet exhibition guaranteed to tickle almost every perverse horror fancy.

There were only about three of the twenty-six short segments from the first ABCs of Death that really impressed me; Ben Wheatley’s “E is for Unearthed,” Xavier Gens’ “X is XXL”, and the standout, Lee Hardcastle’s brilliant claymation “T is for Toilet”. But, nearly half of the segments from this new exhibition are very good indeed, and a couple that are amazing. Overall most of the segments exude a lot more individual style and nightmarish pizzazz, and there is hardly any of the puerile (“F is for Fart”) that ruined the first. “A is for Amateur”, "M is for Masticate”, “S is for Split”, “X is for Xylophone”, and “Z is for Zygote” are several of the more notable ones.

But there are two segments that have to be singled out: Bruno Damper & Kristina Buozyte, directors of the dark science fiction romance Vanishing Waves, deliver “K is for Knell”, an atmospherically brilliant descent into one woman’s cosmic bloody dread, and Robert Morgan unleashes “D is for Deloused” (another claymation like Lee Hardcastle’s) that effortlessly earns a scarlet purple medal for Lovecraftian nightmarish weirdness. Opening credit sequence is very cool, but make sure you stay for the end of the credits for a last laugh courtesy of Laurence Harvey.

[Suggestion to the producers for the next installment: Be stricter on the segment titles, only ONE word allowed for their allocated alphabet letter. ]