Sydney Underground Film Festival's 10th anniversary dark delights!

We Are the Flesh

Friday, September 16th, 10.30pm

If Gaspar Noe raped Alejandro Jodorowsky the bastard offspring might look, sound, and behave like this perverse mind-fuck of a movie from Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter. It’s a sexual baptism by ciné fire, a bewildering and shocking existential study of identity, crisis of faith, and freedom. Or maybe it’s just about sexual entrapment and carnal oblivion. Whatever the hell it’s about, it’s a wildly sensual and visceral experience, part Enter the Void, part Holy Mountain, and part snake eating its own tail for nightmarish measure. Tenemos la carne is a journey that will test your boundaries, it will grab your crotch, lick your neck, and then slap you hard across the face.

But what is it about? Two young adults, a brother (Diego Gamaliel) and sister (Maria Evoli), find their way into a derelict building, seeking refuge from an apparent ruined outside world, and are befriended by a madman (Noé Hernandez), who has been surviving on his own, making oil from animal fat, and dosing himself with an elixir of some kind. He preaches a kind of sex magick. He is, without a doubt, one of the most genuinely creepy and quietly menacing characters you will ever see on screen. He coerces the two siblings to engage in sexual intercourse, and that’s just the start of their descent into this cavernous wilderness.

We Are the Flesh is demanding and gruelling, it drips and it oozes, it is confronting and unapologetic, it screams and it crawls. The performances are wonderfully unhinged, the production design and cinematography grimy and lush in equal measure. Leave your sensibilities behind, shed your inhibitions, throw caution to the wind, and let yourself be embraced, groped, and ravaged by this subversive piece of lurid art-porn.

I Am Not a Serial Killer

Saturday, September 17th, 2pm

A UK production set in Clayton, Minnesota, this independent thriller, with strong science fiction and horror undertones, is one of the year’s most surprising movies. It feels like a kind of Catcher in the Rye gone awry. A Cat Sick Blues on the back of a White Reindeer. Yes, it’s blackly comic, rather disquieting, disturbing even, and yet, never fully becomes the horror movie you’re expecting it to be. This is Irish writer/director Billy O’Brien’s third feature, and it’s a highly atmospheric and accomplished tale of teenage confusion wrapped up in a small town mystery.

There is a serial killer on the loose and John Cleaver (Max Records) is being bullied at school. He understands himself to be a borderline liability; that if he doesn’t keep control of his emotions, especially his rage, he will murder people. He assists his mother, April (Laura Fraser), a mortician, and he seeks therapy from Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary), who is keen to help John get through this difficult period. John feels a sense of abandonment from his father, and he tries to act normal, but he struggles with an even stronger sense of ennui. Matters become complicated when John suspects his next door neighbour, the elderly Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), as the town’s psycho butcher.

Great performances from the leads, and a suitably chilled tone add real weight to this curious caper. Though the ending doesn’t quite hit the mark it should, and the movie definitely demands a pay-off, the rich characterisations and its dark sense of humour provide the movie with more than enough mettle. This is the less hysterical, alternate Stranger Things, and well worth it too.

Trash Fire

Saturday, September 17th, 6pm

Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur) are having some problems. Well, to be precise, Owen is the one with the big issues (he’s an emotionally stunted bulimic orphan), and poor Isabel is the long-suffering girlfriend who deserves better. Perhaps Owen can sort his shit out (if his therapist doesn’t keep falling asleep), or maybe his demon drink will devour him? There are definitely some skeletons in his closet that need rattling, but truth be told, the wool’s been pulled over his eyes, this lamb is off to the slaughter.

Trash Fire is Richard Bates Jr.’s third feature, and he loves scraping horror’s funny bone. I’m a huge fan of his first movie, the nightmarish, contemporary fable Excision (2012), and while I enjoyed Suburban Gothic (2014) for what it was, a latter John Waters-esque melodrama, I was hoping Bates would return to the sharper, darker edge he brandished on his debut. Trash Fire is a stunning, immersive piece of work, with sensational performances, especially Grenier and Trimbur. The light reflecting off this satirical blade is brilliant. Easily one of my favourite movies of the year.

With the kind of razor-sharp dialogue and jaded characters you might find in a Bret Easton Ellis novel, combined with the clean, symmetrical, widescreen compositions favoured by Stanley Kubrick, Richard Bates has fashioned a scathing, but truly memorable study of relationships, and the spectre of vengeance. Owen is an asshole, a prick, but you can feel the familial thorn in his side. Isobel matches his snide remarks with her own acerbic wit, and the two of them play a game, set and match of wicked verbal tennis. But let’s not forget the two characters whose presence and agendas will throw big spanners into the proverbial clockwork; Owen’s tough-as-nails grandmother, Violet (Fionnula Flanagan), and his deeply scarred younger sister Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord).

There’ll definitely be tears before bedtime. And there will be blood.

For further information on the complete SUFF program and venue visit