63rd Sydney Film Festival - highlights!

The Man From Mo’Wax

(Friday, June 17th, 8:45pm & Saturday June 18th, 8:15pm - Event 9 & Dendy Newtown)

Matthew Jones, a successful commercials creative director and producer, has fashioned a brilliant documentary about a pivotal era in contemporary electronic music and the ambitious young man who spearheaded one of the most influential record labels of the 90s. James Lavelle was a teenager with big ideas and a serious passion. Dropping out of school he landed himself a column, “Mo’Wax” with respected rag Straight No Chaser, and before you can say "bangbangboogiesayupjumedtheboogie" Lavelle had formed a record label named after his column, and had a swag of artists clambering at his feet. He was the architect, the visionary, and he was just eighteen. In a world of cowboys and indians, he was the pirate, an honourable rogue ... and he triumphed and suffered for his art and ambition. 

The Man from Mo’Wax (formerly known as Artist & Repertoire) features interviews and appearances from all the key players of the period (with the notable exception of co-founder Tim Goldsworthy), including DJ Shadow (instrumental to Lavelle’s initial success), Ian Brown from The Stone Roses, Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Grandmaster Flash, Gilles Peterson, and 3D from Massive Attack (Lavelle’s primary inspiration), plus many of the long-suffering friends and colleagues who were part of the evolution of Lavelle’s baby, UNKLE, and Lavelle's ongoing vision. It’s a very colourful collage and it's fascinating stuff to watch the rollercoaster career of someone like Lavelle, who lived fast and furious, nearly lost it all, and in very recent years has been able to enjoy his own legacy (as curator for Meltdown’s 2014 program, the most successful one yet, and which featured an exhibition of all the Mo'Wax art, merchandise and memorabilia), and even bury a few hatchets.

This is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the hiphop culture that merged with the trip-hop scene from Bristol, essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the machinations and pitfalls of the late 90s music industry when selling vinyl was considered in its swan song, and essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in DJ and club culture and the headstrong creative artist caught in-between. Man, I just can’t recommend this documentary highly enough. James Lavelle became very wealthy, very quickly, and his unorthodox methods - being A&R and artist and not playing by the commercial rules - subsequently lead him into troublesome, divisive waters. His naiveté was a double-edged sword; he was a revolutionary, a pioneer, and some of the risks didn’t pay off. But what a legacy, and what a great documentary this is. 

Under the Shadow

(Friday, June 10th, 9pm & Saturday June 18th, 6:15pm - Event 8 & Dendy Newtown)

It’s not often you see a horror movie from the Middle East, and it’s not often you see a ghost story that gives you not one, not two, not three, but at least four terrific scares, and I mean, jolt out of your seat stuff, these aren’t just your stock-standard “Boo!” machine effects, these have serious grunt. Yup, this is a double-whammy rarity; a Middle Eastern ghost story that’ll make you jump out of your skin. 

It’s the story of a mother and daughter, struggling with a war-torn post-revolution Tehran, at the end of 80s. The father, Iraj (Bobby Naderi), has been called away to work in another city. Shied (Narges Rashidi) can no longer continue her medical training as her political active past has caught up with her. Her young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) relies on a cuddly doll for comfort, and when that doll goes missing, all hell breaks loose, for it becomes apparent a malevolent spirit, Djinn, has entered the apartment building, having arrived in an unexploded missile that has torn into the top story of the building. Where there is fear and anxiety, and in the war zone it is rampant, the evil winds of these insidious spirits blow. 

This is the first feature for director Babak Anvari, and Under the Shadow is a co-pro between Iran, Jordan, Qatar, and the UK. Essentially its a chamber piece, taking place primarily in the apartment and the building's basement, and it’s a two-hander with most scenes between just Shideh and Dorsa. Anvari does a masterful job at creating suspense, tension, through his camerawork and the use of sound and music, and he delivers some truly powerhouse nightmare shocks that would give any of the best J-Horror a run for their money. The performances are excellent, especially Narges Rashidi, as she is in almost every scene. I sigh when I say that no doubt when the American execs see this dark gem they’ll be clambering over each other trying to get the rights for a Hollywood makeover/remake, so, get in quick and see the scariest ghost story the other side of The Conjuring 2

63rd Sydney Film Festival - reviews in brief

Hotel Coolgardie

(Fri 10 June, 6:15pm, Event Cinema 9)

Crammed full of the social claustrophobia and tunnel vision that comes with a one-horse town full of miners, and reminiscent of the nightmarish, dust-laden cult classic Wake in Fright, comes the tale of two Finnish girls (well, actually one of them is half-German) “trapped” in Coolgardie, an isolated township west of Kalgoorlie. The Denver Hotel is its name, but "hell" all the same. The two young girls are desperate to save some money, having been ripped off in Bali. It’s simple bar work, but they are pounded by the bully owner, and hounded by the sex-starved locals, mostly young miners needing to slake their thirst. Lina and Steph’s contracts are for three months. Can they make it. 

Director Pete Gleeson, who also shot and edited the documentary weaves in a sly sense of humour. He’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall, and how he manages to get the locals to act so, well, local-like, is terrific. It’s warts-and-all as the two girls work shifts, and sleep in rooms above the pub. There’s sweet little else to do in the town. A few of the local lads try their darnedest to get their leg over, but the girls won’t have a bar of it. The pub owner is none-too-impressed with their attitude. But the girls are endearing, and, despite the crusty, hardened machismo that permeates the place, the doco steadily envelopes the viewer’s emotions. The epilogue is heartbreaking. 


(Sat 11 June, 6:15pm & Wed 15 June, 6:15pm, both Event Cinema 8)

Tubby, middle-aged Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) arrives on a small Greek island as the new local GP. Summer is just around the corner, and the island comes alive with the smell of swinging, hedonistic young flesh. Kostis is a lonely man, and after being befriended by a small group of young European tourists, he falls for the most flirtatious of the group, Anna (Elli Tringou). She strings him along, but it’s obvious this isn’t going to bode well for either party. The endless nude beach romps and all-night imbibing in the island’s hotspots can only last so long. What has become an obsession for Kostis has only been a frolic for Anna. 

Director and co-writer Argyris Papdimitropoulos has fashioned a compelling modern fable on love’s bitter cruelty. Excellent performances, especially the two leads, combined with a subtle, but affecting score, and the director’s sly use of thriller technique, gives Suntan a surprising edge. The sun might be out in full force, but this is definitely a dark tale. I’d be more inclined to call the movie Sunburn, as there are definitely tears before bedtime, but in the end it’s all in the contrast; the juxtaposition of the fertile, supple young against the grasp and slip of the ageing. Stay for the end of the credits for a final, lingering image that bookends the narrative in disquieting, but satisfying style. 

Letters From War

(Mon 13 June, 6pm & Tues 14 June, 11:45am, both State Theatre)

One of the most beautiful monochromatic movies I’ve seen in a long time, deeply reminiscent of the high contrast luminescence of the 1964 docu-drama I am Cuba, and in many ways similar in style and tone. Director Ivo M. Ferriera’s romantic lament is a powerful tale of longing, told in a beautiful, sensual style. A voiceover (Maria José) reads the letters of Antonio Lobo Antunes (taken from his novel), one of Portugal’s most acclaimed writers who served in East Angola in the early 1970s for the Portuguese Army. His pregnant wife is occasionally observed, almost like an apparition, trying to cope with her husband’s absence, as he does the same, but is constantly distracted and embroiled in the machinations of war, and increasingly the corrupt politics that has fuelled the conflict. 

Like all the most affecting and memorable war movies, Letters From War manages to find a distinct sense of beauty amidst the chaos and carnage of the frontline. The high contrast cinematography is absolutely stunning, and the camerawork floats through the mise-en-scene like a butterfly. What lingers is an elusive, but profound melancholy; a romantic, tranquil sadness, if there is such a thing. 

Sydney Underground Film Festival 2015 - feature highlights!


Fri Sept 18, 8:30pm (Cinema 4) & Sun Sept 20, 3pm (Cinema 3)

Based on the hard truths of one Arielle Holmes (who plays herself, as Harley) who penned her exploits under the title Mad Love in New York City, and capturing the raw essence of a junkie’s life on the streets Heaven Knows What is a grim study of desperate love and the inherent loneliness that shrouds such a fragile existence. It is the mundane routine of searching for the next fix, the angry chaos that spikes the day-to-day grind, and the small jagged pleasures of those heroin hits. Directing brothers Josh and Benny Safdie bring the kind of powerful authenticity that hasn’t been seen since the likes of Paul Morrissey. It’s the kind of movie that begs you to ask why am I watching such depressing squalor and yet there is an elusive beauty that permeates this contemporary tale that floats timelessly and tragically. Caleb Landry Jones co-stars as Harley’s volatile boyfriend Ilya, the other object of her affections.



Sat Sept 19, 10:30pm (Cinema 3)

Taking five years to make (I was wondering why Frozen artwork was appearing in the background of so many shots) Adam Green’s mockumentary (and, indeed, the tongue is definitely lodged in cheek) is a highly entertaining monster movie collaboration with artist Alex Pardee who specialises in depicting all manner of grotesque beasts from other realms. In this case, Green and his production partner and cameraman Will Barrett follow a nutcase by the name of William Dekker (Ray Wise) who knows where the monsters hide, underground in The Marrow. Digging Up the Marrow melds the found footage sub-genre with the basic concept of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and comes out with an amusing treatise on just what are monsters? There are some genuinely tense and creepy moments, even if it’s hard to see what the hell is going on in the thick of the darkness. Turns out Green is quite the comedian, whilst Wise is obviously relishing his inspired lunacy with aplomb. And those Pardee monsters are something else! 


Fri Sept 18, 6:30pm (Cinema 3) & Sat Sept 19, 10:30pm (Cinema 2)

Quite possibly the most original horror movie of the year, certainly the most brazenly surrealistic, and I soaked it up with glee.  The hardworking Canuck Bruce McDonald returns to the horror genre, after the existential Pontypool, and delivers one hell of a cool ride. This is the Halloween concept I came up with twenty-five years ago, dammit! A teenager, Dora (an excellent Chloe Rose), is left to fend off a bunch of demons in the guise of masked children, who are after more than just lollipops and chocolate. There are no treats here, just nasty tricks. It looks and feels like End of Days, the sky awash in red, and the trusty town sheriff (Robert Patrick in perfect grizzled mode) might not have what it takes to protect our pregnant angel. A brilliant original score by Todor Kobakov & Ian LeFeuvre soaks the movie in a truly nightmarish atmosphere. Think Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava trapped in an American cul-de-sac on All Hallow’s Eve. There’ll definitely be tears before bedtime, and there will be blood. Hellions is definitely one of my favourites for the year! 


Fri Sept 18, 8:30pm (Cinema 1) & Sun Sept 20, 5pm (Cinema 4)

Sick of rom-coms? The Baine brothers will provide you with the perfect cure. This is one dark romance, black as a kettle, the comedy smeared in coal, the kisses tasting of copper. A date flick for the sexually adventurous, a horror movie for the lonely-hearts, Nina Forever is sarcastic, and oh, so sweet. Ben and Chris have made numerous shorts, but now they apply their talents to a feature and the result is one of the best fucked-up genre flicks of recent years. Rob (Cian Barry) is struggling to deal with the accidental death of his girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). He meets Holly (Abigail Hardingam), who almost immediately takes his mind off Nina. Until Nina’s broken and bloody body materializes through the sheets of Rob’s bed whilst he’s making love to Holly, and proceeds to spout her displeasure. Holly is bewildered, and Rob is in despair. Holly and Rob want to be together, so they need to deal with Nina. Yes, deal with Nina. With excellent performances, and a striking narrative and visual style (sensual!) the Baine brothers have created quite the exploration of identity and affection. Just who is screwing with who?  


All Sydney Underground Film Festival screenings are at The Factory, Marrickville. Tickets and complete information available from the site, click here

Revelation - Perth International Film Festival 2015 - reviews in brief

Dark Star: HR Giger’s World

Sun 5, 1:45pm (Luna), Fri 10, 8:15pm (Paradiso)

Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger died before this documentary had its premiere, and so it becomes a kind of eulogy. It is a sombre and intimate work directed by Belinda Sallin, who was granted access to Giger’s darkened domestic realm; a large cottage, cluttered with the artist’s work, shrouded in dim light, embraced by close-knit trees, the property surrounded by the urban sprawl of Zürich. Giger’s second wife, Carmen, is the director of the Giger Museum, but this documentary focuses chiefly on the extensive work found within Giger’s home, and gently probes into the man’s work ethic and inspirations, which included his lover and muse, Li Tobler, who committed suicide in 1975, and, most famously, the amazing, award-winning design work he did for Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Dark Star feels like a portrait made by a dear friend, who has visited for tea. It is an unassuming study of a truly brilliant artist who sketched, painted (a champion of the air brush), sculpted, and built (including a small train and track that circumnavigated his labyrinthine garden). Giger delved into his own “nightmare” world and preferred to inhabit it, rather than just pluck from it. He fetishised the vivid themes of birth, sex, and death, and fused them with a fascination with industrial machinery and gadgetry: startling, often erotic, bio-mechanoid creations that shone from the abyss of his soul.


Sat 4, 7:15pm (Luna), Sun 5, 9:15pm (SX), Sun 12, 3:15pm (Luna), Sun 12, 9pm (Paradiso)

Imagine a screenplay written by Hal Hartley, and then snatched away, manhandled by David Mamet, and directed by the Coen brothers. Hollywood might be that bastard, might be that bitch. Or it might be something else entirely, perhaps early David Lynch delving into some of the Mulholland Drive ideas that he’d revisit later. This is a Tinseltown that is so highly stylised and self-conscious it threatens to slap it’s own reflection in the mirror. Instead, it lays the mirror down, snorts a line or two from it, winks knowingly, and laughs hard at the once-pretty and weathered face it sees lying in the gutter, staring hopefully at the stars.

Writer/director/actor Davidson Cole made a feature back in 2002, which almost no one saw. The ideas about fate, identity, self-control, and free will have surfaced again in Hollywood, only this time they are bitten by a very dark satirical chomp. A father (Grainger Hines) and his adult son (Cole, uncredited) are holed up in a Vegas hotel with a pretty pricy call girl (Dana Melanie). The father has a ton of baggage, the son is a struggling screenwriter, and the hooker gives great eyebrows and has a sensational wardrobe. Over the next few days the father’s bullshit surfaces and barks loudly at the son. Hollywood features great performances from the core players (Hines, Cole, and Melanie), an excellent score, and a peculiar (and frustrating) narrative (with literary-style “chapters”) that makes for a most memorable strange dream experience.

Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre

Fri 3, 9:45pm, Fri 10, 10:15pm (Luna)

Writer/Director Stefan Popescu’s third feature, shot once again in the wintery Canadian landscape, features Kathryn Foran (who co-starred in his previous Canadian co-pro Nude Study) as porn star Vixen Velvet, who has loftier aspirations, but is clutching onto reality as the fictional horror premise of her latest porn flick invades the real world. Can she save the world, or at least, save herself and her hapless colleagues? The spit and mascara might be running, but it’s the blood and jism that’s gonna hit the fan!

A guerilla mockumentary that straddles the no-budget rodeo and takes the crazy bull by the horns, this is one black comedy that takes no prisoners, as much a gonzo satire as it is a horror parody. Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre is the lowbrow exploitation indulgence for highbrow’s wanting to get down and dirty. A classic example of DIY filmmaking, that takes the creative urge and shoves it into the proactive blender. A shameless cult projection that threatens to tear up the undead etiquette book and use it as a gimp gag! All hail Velvet!


For more information and complete Revelation festival programme click here.

Love & Mercy double-pass movie ticket giveaways!

Hey all you harmonious surf rock legends! 

Cult Projections in conjunction with the lovely folk at Icon Film have four DOUBLE-PASS movie tickets to giveaway for the awesome new bio-pic on the career and life of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson called LOVE & MERCY. 

"We all know the music, but few know the true story of musical genius, Brian Wilson and his struggles with brilliance and balance. LOVE & MERCY paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments from his youth and later life. The role of Brian Wilson is masterfully shared between Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) as the younger, 1960s Brian; and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, High Fidelity) as Wilson in the 1980s. The film explores the many challenges Brian has faced, both from his point of view in his younger years; and from the perspective of his now wife, Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) when she meets Brian in his 40s and under the questionable medical care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). The Beach Boys were already experiencing chart topping success with Surfin’ Safari, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls and Good Vibrations when Brian found himself driven to move in a new musical direction. Whilst this would ultimately lead to the creation of what is widely ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time - Pet Sounds – and songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows [Ed: One of my favourite pop songs of all time!]; it also lead to the band breaking up and Brian breaking down."

Drop me a message in my LETTERBOX and tell me what you think is the greatest rock bio-pic of all-time and one sentence why. Don't forget to include a mailing address!!

I will pick the four best answers and drop a double-pass AND a bonus biopic DVD (of some other musical legend) in the mail. 

This competition is only open to Australian residents, sorry!

LOVE & MERCY is released in cinemas in Australia on 25th June. 

Freak Me Out at the 62nd Sydney Film Festival

In what is easily the best selection yet for SFF’s hugely popular Freak Me Out section, the sidebar dedicated to all things weird, wild, and shocking, programmer Richard Kuipers has garnered an excellent looking array of confrontational nightmare movies. Seven features and an attack of the double feature!

From the dark corners of Bavaria comes German Angst, an anthology (very hip at the moment) featuring three short films from three of the country’s maverick shockmeisters; Jorg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski, and Andreas Marschall.

From neigbouring Austria is one of my most anticipated horrors of the year, Goodnight Mommy, combining elegance and grindhouse style to bizarre and nightmarish effect.

Three flicks from the US of A; Karyn (Girlfight) Kusama’s dark thriller The Invitation, from the producers of the superb The House of the Devil comes We Are Still Here, a haunted house number that echoes the atmospheric depths of Fulci. And from the directors of the excellent low-budget Resolution is their sophomore effort, Spring, a romance steeped in Lovecraftian dread.

New Zealand is currently enjoying a fantastic limelight in horror, and there are two in FMO: the comedy-horror metal extreme of Deathgasm, and the post-apocalyptic thrills and spills of Turbo Kid (a co-pro with Canada).

The double feature delight is none other than two of the great black and white horror movies of the 50s: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (a stone-cold classic of paranoia), and Them! (arguably the best of the plethora of post-war American nuclear-threats).

Also of note is Sunday June 7’s free Horror Tragic Talkfest upstairs at the festival Hub, with Richard Kuipers and Ant Timpson (executive producer on Deathgasm and Turbo Kid) going head-to-head on a freewheelin’ discussion about everything horror juicy. 


The Freak Me Out section's teaser talk presentation is on tonight at Newtown Library, from 9pm. Free entry. 

For more information and screening times for programme click here.

Sydney horror anthology feature with international short film competition announced!

A Night of Horror and Deadhouse Films call for short films from across Australia and the World for Anthology Feature!

Australia's number one horror film festival, A Night of Horror International Film Festival and independent production and distribution company Deadhouse Films, both based in Sydney, are calling for short horror film submissions to include in their upcoming feature film anthology.

Now in its 9th year, Sydney's horror film festival has opened up a special new entry category to coincide with the 2015 event. The competition calls for filmmakers from across Australia and around the world of any skill level to submit a short film containing the signature theme: “blood”. 

Finalists will be part of the first annual A Night of Horror anthology: a feature length film showcasing terrifying filmmaker talent from around the world which will premiere at A Night Of Horror International Film Festival 2015. Each finalist will also receive a share in profits from sales of the film.

A Night Of Horror International Film Festival has a long and proud history of highlighting "fresh blood" in the genre. "The curators at A Night of Horror have a deep passion for showcasing the best new talents in the industry. And it's a great way for fans and artists to bond and share knowledge amongst each other to expand both the art of filmmaking and the evolution of the genre to new heights", said director Peter Cornwell, whose debut Hollywood feature THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT screened at the festival in 2010.

The anthology film will be produced by Australian producer Enzo Tedeschi (THE TUNNEL, EVENT ZERO, AIRLOCK) and A Night Of Horror festival director Dean Bertram, and distributed by Deadhouse Films. 

Tedeschi says of the project: "I've been a regular at the festival for years now, and have even had the pleasure of screening my own films here - it's a standout genre festival in Australia, and I'm excited to be a part of this unique next stage of evolution for A Night Of Horror."

For more details visit: www.anightofhorror.com

50 cult classic nightmares! Vote for five favourites!

I've put together a list of fifty horror movies, cult favourites and classics, that capture the essence of the nightmare. It was a difficult selection process, and in the end I opted for movies that were more well known.

Now it's time for you dear True Believers to vote for your favourites from my list!

You can choose just FIVE movies!

Click on the link below to take you through to the polling site.


Voting will close in a few weeks.

There will be blood!

Jane Campion's The Piano remastered Blu-ray giveaway!

Cult Projections and the lovely folk at Icon Home Entertainment have three Blu-ray discs of the digitally remastered edition of Jane Campion's masterpiece The Piano, a rousing tale of love, betrayal, and the power of music to be released in December 10.

Winner of 3 Academy Awards® including Best Actress (Holly Hunter) and Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin), The Piano weaves the passionate tale of Ada, a young mute woman who reluctantly arrives in 19th century New Zealand for an arranged marriage.

Jane Campion won the Palme d'Or at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival in 1993 for her work on The Piano and was the first female director in history to do so.  Also starring Hervey Keitel and Sam Neill, and featuring a stunning score by Michael Nyman and ravishing cinematography from Stuart Dryburgh.

Drop me a message in my Letterbox and tell me what is your favourite period romance and why. I will select the three most seductive answers and send them a BD of this modern classic. Don't forget to include a mailing address with your answer!

This competition is only open to Australian residents.

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. ]

A Night Of Horror & Fantastic Planet Film Festival 2014 preview highlights


Sat, Nov 22, 5pm

Jason Bognacki delivers his debut feature, after two mesmerising shorts The Red Door and The White Face, and in many ways this is a tale from the same universe: a realm of intoxicating gorgeousness and grotesque weirdness. Bognacki’s oneiric visual narrative style reminds one of the slippery seduction techniques of David Lynch, entwined – divine, divine – with the sexy supernatural clutch of Dario Argento’s "three mothers" trilogy, and the histrionic hedonism of Jess Franco’s more lush escapades.

Jordyn (waifish beauty Paulie Rojas) discovers dark and dreadful truths about the origin of her existence, and those dangerous female figures (Nancy Wolfe and Maria Olsen) that are inexorably tugging at her, pulling her back into the abyss, and Kym (Lillian Pennypacker), another beauty harbouring tenebrous secrets. There’ll be hot tears before the hoods are pulled back and the dirty talons exposed.

Bognacki is a truly impressive practitioner of dream/nightmare atmospherics. Unlike many other contemporary genre directors he is able to conjure sustained heady and resonant vibes that are purely cinematic. Another’s narrative and character trappings are confidently disguised by the hypnotic overspill of thematic motion and blurred intent. The shadow of the devil is brighter than any ray of innocence; Another lies comfortably in the scarlet darkness.  


How To Save Us

Sat, Nov 22, 9pm

Jason Trost’s fourth feature is easily his most accomplished to date, and it resonates strongly as his most personal. Steeped in loneliness and brushed with melancholy, it’s the journey of Brian (Trost in stoic form), a man marred by emotional wounds, searching for his brother Sam (Coy Jandreau) across the rugged desolate beauty of Tasmania. There has been some kind of supernatural infection and the familial ghosts of Brian’s past have joined forces with the spectres in his present.

Beautifully shot by Phil Miller, the static compositions of the landscape efficiently capture the essence of Brian’s emotional and physical isolation. The music, composed by Tori Letzler, and sound design are also very effective in maintaining the movie’s sombre tone. This is a disquieting tale of anguish and redemption.

One could aptly describe How To Save Us as a road movie for paranormalheads. As Brian traipses from empty house to empty house, over field and rock, the ocean lingering in the background like a watchful eye, circles of human bone ash mark Brian’s trajectory. There is a damaged poetry at work, a rough, ashen commitment to love, and a fractured nightmare that seeks a dream release. Wholly original, Trost’s independent spirit soars high. How To Save Us sees the dark light of the apocalypse, and slaps it in the face, with a curious poignancy.


The Incident (El Incidente)

Thur, Nov 27, 7pm

A few years back Mexican writer/director Isaac Ezban won ANOH’s best short film with his crazy Cosas Feas (Nasty Stuff). Now he returns as another of the festival’s alumni (along with Bognacki and Trost) with his debut feature, an elaborate, yet deceptively simple tale of existential limbo. The Incident deals with a kind of purgatory, characters trapped in a nightmarish existence, desperate trying to solve the bigger issue, trying to escape their dream cell. Logic askew reigns supreme.

Two brothers are fleeing from the clutches of a determined detective. But all three find themselves trapped in the apartment building's fire escape stairwell after a strange boom is heard. Now the stairwell has no top or bottom, no entrance or exit. Meanwhile a family on a holiday road trip find themselves at the mercy of a similar event; the same sonic boom, and the road won’t end! The daughter is having an asthma attack, whilst one of the brothers in the stairwell is dying from the detective's bullet (inflicted by some higher/lower force). Time is ticking … and the bomb of the living will soon explode.

Like a snake eating its own tail, these two groups of time-space continuum prisoners are feeding on each other to try and decipher the rationale behind their temporal/spatial incarceration. But perhaps it’s not that difficult? Perhaps the answers are staring us right in the face, only we can’t see the wood for the trees. Ezban is obviously a fan of the big questions, and there is much sly play at work in The Incident - the popular Lost television show especially - but he refuses to provide all the answers, instead mischievously tricking us with false endings, and allusions. The performances are excellent, and the production design and art direction makes effective use of a low budget.


All festival sessions are at Dendy Cinemas, Newtown, Sydney. To book tickets visit here.

Monster Fest 2014 is about to attack!

Melbourne's annual immersion into horror and exploitation depravity MONSTER FEST is back. Now in its fourth year the festivities have been split over two locations – Cinema Nova in Carlton and Yah Yah’s in Collingwood, where The Monster’s Lair: a festival lounge/bar/event/screening space has been established [ED: And where you'll be able to see my short film UMBRA, screening before Jason Trost's How To Save Us on Weds, November 26th, 5pm!]

This year generous sponsorship has resulted in an impressive lin-up of international guests: American horror icon Bill Moseley, Troma legend Lloyd Kaufman, The Twisted Twins: Jen & Sylvia Soska, Conor Sweeney and Matthew Kennedy of Astron 6, Ashley C. Williams star of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, Tristan Risk star of AMERICAN MARY, Nathan Jones hulking star of CHARLIES FARM, Jessica Cameron star and director of TRUTH OR DARE, Matthew A. Brown director of JULIA, James Cullen-Bressack director of PERNICIOUS, to name just a few.

Additionally to all the screenings there is the introduction of The Monster Fest Academy of Horror and Mayhem: five days of master-classes, presentations and panels from a mixed bag of genre luminaries. The spotlight will be across the whole process of making genre cinema, from concept right through to market place, and everything in between.

Monster Fest's feature programme kicks off with Chris Sun’s slasher reboot, CHARLIES FARM, and finishing with the highly anticipated THE ABCS OF DEATH 2. In between there’s close to forty films, mostly Australian premieres, a smattering of classics - including a Troma retrospective and the FRIDAY THE 13TH All Night Marathon - plus two programs of shorts, Dick Dale’s infamous Trasharama, and the all-new Monster Shorts.

Every evening from 5 ’til 7pm, at The Monster’s Lair we have The Happy Hour Screenings – two hours of cheap booze, food and free movies. And then, glistening like weeping wounds in the moonlight, there’s the Evening Events - The Collingwood Horror Trivia Massacre, Trasharama, and the Chocolate Strawberry Manila DVD Launch & Karaoke Extravaganza. Not to mention the Opening Party and the Closing Party Awards Ceremony. It’s eleven days and nights of madness that should have genre goons licking their lips with anticipation!

For further details and the full programme schedule click here

Double-pass cinema ticket giveaway to The Babadook at Indie Gems

Western Sydney's premier Independent film festival – Indie Gems – has announced the program for 2014. At Riverside Theatres Parramatta from 11th – 14th September, the festival showcases a stellar line up of local and international independent cinema alongside film industry discussions and networking opportunities for aspiring filmmakers.

With Sydney's most western arthouse cinemas currently in Newtown and Leichhardt, the festival gives Western Sydney residents an opportunity to see some of the best independent films of the year on the big screen and close to home.

Cult Projections and the lovely Indie Gems folk have a double pass to give away to The Babadook which screens on 9pm Saturday 13th September. A movie best watched on a big screen!

Drop me a message in my LETTERBOX and tell me what was the scariest children's book you read when you were young. I'll pick the best answer.

Don't forget to include a mailing address.

Competition is only open to Sydney residents (unless you plan on visiting Sydney around the time of the screening).

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For cinema double-pass giveaways!

Cult Projections and the lovely folk at Icon Entertainment have three double-passes to see Robert Rodrqiguez's hotly anticipated follow-up to his 2005 cult smash Sin City!

Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reunite to bring Miller's visually stunning Sin City graphic novels back to the screen in SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Eva Green stars as Ava, a temptress who enlists Dwight McCarthy (Brolin) in a bid to escape her ex-husband. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Johnny, a mysterious gambler set on taking down his sworn enemy in a high stakes game of life and death. Weaving together two of Miller's classic stories with new tales, the town's most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants. Newcomers Juno Temple and Jeremy Piven join the all-star cast including Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, and Jaime King who will be making their return to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR.   

Drop me a message in my LETTERBOX and tell me what your favourite Robert Rodriguez movie is - apart from Sin City - and why? I'll pick the three best answers.

Don't forget to include a mailing address!

Competition is only open to Australian residents.

17th Revelation - Perth International Film Festival preview highlights

Concrete Night

Fri July 4th, 6:30pm, Paradiso & Sun July 6th, 6:30pm, Luna

A Scandinavian co-production that features the year’s most striking cinematography, stunning visually poetic monochrome reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish; a portrait of adolescent angst that is both tender and raw, a muse on fraternity and the spectre of loneliness, again reminiscent of Rumble Fish. Johannes Brotherus is superb in the lead role as fourteen-year-old Simo, struggling to find his rightful place alongside his distant mother and his criminal brother, living in a cramped public housing apartment block in Helsinki, quietly aching for adventure, danger even. Concrete Night drifts with a dreamlike sombre tone, a hypnotic slow burn of coil and release.



Sat July 5th, 6:30pm, Paradiso, Mon July 7th, 8:30pm, SX, & Fri July 11th, 8:45pm, Luna

This is Nicolas Cage’s best movie in years, playing Joe, an ex-con trying to keep his head above water, still fighting his demons. He meets 15-year-old Gary (newcomer Tye Sheridan in an extraordinary performance), a tough lad with an even tougher father, a violent drunkard (non-professional Gary Poulter, a talented street bum who died shortly after shooting was completed), who is jealous of the bond his son makes with surrogate father Joe. This is one of those tales you know from the opening scenes is going to end frayed and torn, but just how the tragedy unfolds makes for compelling viewing. Director David Gordon Green and screenwriter Gary Hawkins (based on a novel by Larry Brown) have created a deeply moody (some of the scenes are as dark in palette as they are in tone) study of crooked redemption.


Palo Alto

Sat July 5th, 8:45pm, Paradiso, Sun July 6th, 2pm, SX, Thur July 10th, 9pm, Luna, & Sun July 13th, 6pm, Luna

The ridiculously talented James Franco published a book of inter-linked short stories about teenagers in the Californian township of Palo Alto (south of San Fran, north of San Jose). It’s the first feature directed and adapted by Gia Coppola (the daughter of Francis Coppola’s eldest son Gian-Carlo, who was killed aged 22, leaving a pregnant wife). Although there is nothing really knew on display, there is still a freshness, a deliciously listless atmosphere, similar to that of Bellflower, that lifts this rambling narrative above most others of its kind. It’s the three superb central performances from thoughtful Jack Kilmer (son of Val and Joanne Whalley), ingenue Emma Roberts, and volatile Nat Wolff that really drive this movie. Franco plays a support role (he couldn’t help himself) as a cradle-snatching soccer coach, whilst Val (whose actual home was used as one of the key interiors) makes a cameo as a stoned step-dad.  Dazed and Confused for the hipsters.



Fri July 4th, 8:30pm, Paradiso, Mon July 7th, 8:15pm, Paradiso, Wed July 9th, 8:45pm, Paradiso, Fri July 11th, 6:30pm, Luna, Sat July 12th, 9pm, Luna, & Sun July 13th, 6pm, SX

From the director of Combat Girls comes this astonishing celebration of bodily fluids as metaphor for psychological issues. Well, at the very least, it's a wild hybrid black comedy-romance-drama, based on the bestseller novel by Charlotte Roche. The story of Helen (Carla Juri), a young woman with an obsession with her sexuality in all its beauty and ugliness. But what it’s really about is Helen’s preoccupation with her parents broken relationship, and the effect it has had on her psyche. Filmed with the same kind of dynamically creative verve as Danny Boyle did with Trainspotting, it’s a circus of true ick and unexpected splendour, and simply unlike anything you’ve ever seen – or experienced – before. Taking the trophy for brazen originality, indeed, this is the kind of movie only the Germans could make, it’s brilliant in its outrageousness. Carla Juri is utterly fearless and utterly amazing. Wetlands soaks hard: an instant transgressive cult classic, but, please be warned, it’s NOT everyone’s cup of excretion! You will probably be put off pizza and avocado for a while,but hey, it's crazy, filthy fun!


Who Took Johnny

Fri July 4th, 6:15pm, Luna, Sun July 6th, 12.30pm, Paradiso, & Mon July 7th, 8:15pm, Luna

A disturbing reminder that the most powerful nightmare movies are often documentaries that delve into the hideous inhumanity that seethes below the surface of society. This riveting true crime story exposes (hell, we all knew it anyway) the truly heinous monster that is human trafficking. It’s an American horror story, but the bigger picture is indeed international in scope. Thirty years ago fourteen-year-old Johnny Gosch was abducted whilst on his paper route. The culprits have never been caught. Local police continue to insist the boy ran away from home and he is still listed as a missing person. Johnny’s mother has been on a crusade ever since, inexorably uncovering corruption and conspiracy every step of the way. This is a truly insidious darkness that stretches far and wide, and continues to be “covered” because many of the super-wealthy are evil. Who Took Johnny is an exceptional documentary; a hard, hard truth about the darkness that surrounds us.