Tag Archives: Oz

Family affair / Family o’ fear

YOU’RE NEXT

4 Stars  2011/18/95m

“They will hunt you.”

Director: Adam Wingard / Writer: Simon Barrett / Cast: Sharni Vinson, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Sarah Myers, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Simon Barrett, L.C. Holt, Lane Hughes.

Body Count: 14


Families. You can’t choose them. But you can kill them. Be warned, UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS follow…

An amorous couple are totally murdered in their plush home, the words “you’re next” are painted in blood on a window for one of them to find. Soon after, cutesy couple Crispian and Erin drive out to his parents’ secluded vacation home, which is approximately the size of a small suburb, for a 35th wedding anniversary gathering.

The next day, Crispian’s brothers and sister arrive with their respective partners: Dad’s favourite Drake and his tightly wound wife, Kelly; moody Felix and goth-lite girlfriend Zee; and perky Amy and her filmmaker beau whose name I don’t remember, but Ti West played him.

There’s tension between Drake and Crispian, Erin tries to ingratiate herself as the outsider (in addition to it being her first time meeting them, she’s an Australian in a house full of Americans), and Mom (the always welcome Crampton) is all jittery and hears a few strange noises in the house.

The group gather for dinner and in the midst of a row between brothers, are suddenly attacked from outside by a crossbow-wielding maniac with great aim. There’s panic, chaos, injury and a dead body on the floor. Next, somebody tries to make a run for the car only to career next-first into a wire, and another flees successfully through the woods to the already-dead neighbours and receives an axe in the head for her trouble.

Back at the house, it becomes clear that not only is there more than one assailant, but that some of them are already inside the house. Erin takes charge after Crispian elects to make a run for help, and admits to her bewildered companions that she grew up in a survivalist camp in the Australian outback – something the killers hadn’t banked on, especially when she efficiently begins taking them out.

But that’s not all, the Whys of the situation become clear as it comes out that the three amigos aren’t just randomly attacking the super-rich family, but someone has hired them to do so for their own greedy motivations. Erin learns this, discovers she’s more or less on her own from there on out, and transforms into a gung-ho heroine Sigourney Weaver would be envious of, and she’s dangerous with a blender.

You’re Next doesn’t really pack anything that’s not been seen before in terms of other home invasion and slasher films, though it’s good to see them spliced together with an absence of gunfire for the sake of more conventional slasher movie weapons, such as axes, knives, and cleavers.

The power of the film lies in Erin’s skills at defending herself and fighting back harder than these suckers thought was possible. With the right audience, You’re Next will be a great cinema experience. Fortunately, seeing it at FrightFest meant people whooped and cheered at the right moments, laughed at the (mercifully subtle and few) gags, and were on the final girl’s side early on. Whether it has enough mass-appeal is another thing; it’s not too bloody to put off casual viewers and it thankfully doesn’t feature killers who can’t be put down after numerous counter-attacks.

Blurbs-of-interest: A.J. Bowen was in Hatchet II; Barbara Crampton was in Castle Freak; Ti West directed The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and one of the shorts in V/H/S; Adam Wingard also directed the crappy Home Sick, so it’s nice to see him leap forward here.

Twists of fury: Cut

In this feature, Vegan Voorhees examines those jaw-dropping revelations that the slasher film loves to bat our way from the blue, like a pushy parent tossing softballs at a kid who doesn’t want to learn baseball.

This week, we observe the brow-creasing revelation that Australia’s answer to Scream – the thoroughly fun Cut – spits up when it clearly runs out of ideas near the end… SPOILAGE follows.

Set Up: Film students decide to complete Hot Blooded, a slasher film allegedly cursed after the stuntman playing the killer murdered the tyrannical director (Kylie Minogue, y’all!) and was, himself, killed by one of the actresses. Further attempts to finish the film have ended in death – why should this be an exception? To an old mansion house they go where they are stalked and slain by the shears-toting maniac…

Twist: There is no killer per se. The killer – Scarman – is “a product of the creative energy put into the film.” Thus, whenever the film is screened or toyed with in any way, Scarman hitches a ride with it and kills folk. Destroy the film stock, destroy the killer.

Problems with this revelation:

  • OK… like, HOW does this happen? There’s no evidence of otherwordly goings-on in Cut, which, up to this reveal, is a standard, amusing, and liberally bloody slasher film.
  • Did the electrical current that fuzzed when the stuntman was originally impaled suck him into the film?
  • An old woman – widow of the original producer – stops by to inform everyone that there is a presence at work that is inherently evil. How she knows this is also a mystery. It didn’t stop her writing a cheque to the filmmakers to get the picture finished earlier in the film.
  • If Scarman is the film and the film is Scarman (or something), why does he have Brad’s (the stuntman) face under the mask?
  • Why does nobody explain anything in normal terms???

Likely explanation: Some would say the writer just penned himself into a corner and came up with this ludicrous turn of events, however I prefer to believe that Cut is parodying those late-80s slasher films that tried to climb aboard the Elm Street wagon with all manner of stupid outcomes such as killers travelling through plug sockets n’ stuff… Shocker comes to mind.

All the same, I do *heart* this movie. It’s dumb, sure, but it feels like it was SUPPOSED to be.

A shot of the good stuff

Needle-2NEEDLE

3.5 Stars  2010/15/86m

“Your fate has been chosen.”

Director: John V. Soto / Writers: Soto & Anthony Egan / Cast: Michael Dorman, Travis Fimmel, Tahyna Tozzi, Jessica Marais, Trilby Glover, Luke Carroll, Nathaniel Buzolic, Khan Chittenden, Jane Badler, John Jarratt, Ben Mendelsohn.

Body Count: 7


Imagination in the horror genre is often lacking and so this impressive little voodoo-slasher all the way from Australia deserves extra credit for the ambitions of its premise alone…

College kid Ben Rutherford receives a bizarre antique box – the last item remaining in his late father’s will – an ornate little contraption with ‘Le Vaudou Mort’ on the top. He doesn’t want it but is told by a college professor it could hold some worth and so hides it under his bed after showing his group of school friends.

When he finds the box is stolen, an event that coincides the return of his estranged police photographer brother, Ben isn’t so bothered until the mysterious fiend who has box-napped it begins using it for its created intentions: Killing.

Turns out the box is used to create mini wax figurines that are used for voodoo when the desired victim’s photograph is inserted and blood and wax poured in the top. Said victim hears the cranking of the in-box mechanics before whatever wounds the assailant wishes to inflict on the victim are carried out with various needles.

So it goes, the jock is first to find himself slashed to pieces from the inside out, then a wall-climber is literally broken into pieces. Ben and big-bro Marcus are forced into collaborating to work out what the box is, who has it and why their using it to take out a bunch of harmless college students.

There’s morgue investigations (in which Aussie horror staple John Jarratt plays the chipper coroner), a trip to the nuthouse to see one of the few witnesses to the box’s substantial killing abilities, and eventually ye olde back-to-the-beginning where the hands-free killer and their vengeful motive is revealed.

Needle takes it’s time in setting up the horror, a restraint too many slasher films are incapable of exercising. Though it commits the increasingly present sin of only including a gay couple who are a pair of hot girls (heaven forbid we see a couple of men kissing!), it’s interesting to cast two male leads – final boys? – is the lead roles, while nominal love-interest Mary is a possible suspect…

The eventual identity of the loon is revealed nicely, with gentle memories of Urban Legend and a believable “this is why I did it” jabber.

Aspects of Final Destination portents-of-doom are well played; the jogger who dies first runs past several lights that short out and fizzle in the distance and there’s that underlying question of who is next to hear the crankings of death? Gore is present without being OTT and there’s a certain charm about the interplay between the brothers that you don’t often get when the lead role is a traumatised cheerleader. That said, the writing isn’t too macho to have the guys run in ready for a fight: Ben is scared to go and explore the creepy old house. A refreshing change of pace.

Inject yourself with a shot of Needle, it’ll be quite the trip.

Blurbs-of-interest: John Jarratt was the Mick Dundee-heavy psycho in Wolf Creek and its sequel, plus the TV series, and was also in Next of Kin.

Who killed Cock Robin, possums?

CASSANDRA

2.5 Stars  1987/18/89m

“Cassandra can see the future, you may not want to!”

Director: Colin Eggleston / Writers: Eggleston, John Ruane & Chris Fitchett / Cast: Tessa Humphries, Briony Behets, Shane Briant, Lee James, Susan Barling, Kit Taylor, Tim Burns.

Body Count: 5


Available on video cassette. We’ll never see those words at the foot of a movie poster again, likely. I miss the 80s. Let’s all grow our hair into dried out bouffants and pretend we’re still there. In Australia. Being stalked.

Dream over, this arty export from down under from the producer of 1980’s Stage Fright (a.k.a. Nightmares) mixes wannabe-Argento stylings with the plot of The Initiation, which sounds a bit like swirling bechamel sauce around with ice cream. Ugh.

Things begin creepily enough with the suicide of a young woman as witnessed by a small child, seemingly at the command of an evil little boy to the sounds of a siren-like score, further proving that children are, in  fact, inherently evil. This is the dream that torments titular heroine, Cassandra – the daughter of a fashion photographer who is having an affair with his pregnant model.

When Cassandra discovers them together, the family portrait begins to crack. Then the model is murdered, accompanied by a message in her mirror that reads; “Who killed Cock Robin?” – child-like dialogue from the nightmare. Weird. Cassandra finds sanctuary in the company of her friend Robert and later discovers that her parents are, in truth, siblings and the woman who committed suicide in the dream was her birth mum.

Meanwhile, the knife-toting killer does away with a few others, including a good decapitation with a shovel, before we reach the disappointingly anti-climactic finale in which the obvious conclusive elements are revealed to an audience who figured it out twenty minutes earlier. Well, all of it bar the Cock Robin references anyway.

Cassandra is a prime example of those weird Australian horror movies you get every now and then. They make the most of the often never ending landscapes that just ring the dread and fear bells long n’ loud with the abject nothingness of life beyond city limits. It’s ambitious, littered with visual trickery that peaks during the stalking sequences around the photo studio and is let down mostly by a slack first half hour and the predictable ending. They should’ve tried a bit harder to conceal the killer’s identity, which is made all the more glaringly evident by the limited number of characters. Like all arty horror things, nice to look at but a bit skeletal otherwise.

Blurbs-of-interest: Briony Behets was in Stage Fright. Lead actress Tessa Humphries is the daughter of Barry Humphries, better known as Dame Edna Everidge. Colin Eggleston also directed Innocent Prey, which also featured Kit Taylor.

Puerile / Perfect

CUT

4 Stars  2000/18/79m

“Warning: movies can kill.”

Director: Kimble Rendall / Writer: Dave Warner / Cast: Molly Ringwald, Jessica Napier, Geoff Revell, Sarah Kants, Kylie Minogue, Frank Roberts, Simon Bossell, Stephen Curry, Cathy Adamek, Matt Russell, Erika Walters, Sam Lewis, Steve Greig.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “There is a force at work here… It is not human and it is unspeakably evil. You must destroy that film at once – or you will all die!”


If the worldwide appeal of Scream could ever be doubted, then look no further than this Australian reactive export. Actually, Australia is quite far to go to look.

Self-referentiality, sharp dialogue and comic reflections on the genre abound, but Cut is a wildly misunderstood and consequently vastly underrated film. I had the privelege of seeing it at FrightFest, which turned out to really be a stroke of luck as, to date, it has only ever received a very limited rental release on VHS on these shores. Region 1 DVD it is, then!

Things begin on the set of 80’s slasher film Hot Blooded, where the kill scene of Molly Ringwald’s character’s character is fucked up by the stuntman/actor playing the killer – Scarman – forgets to rip off her blouse before slashing her throat, inducing an explosive outburst of anger from highly-strung lady director Hilary Jacobs, played by the ever-lovely ‘smiley’ Kylie Minogue (not smiling much here, though).

Humiliated by her diatribe in front of the crew, stuntman Brad (who sports a pair of nice, meaty sideburns) kills her and cuts out her tongue before Ringwald’s Vanessa shows up and manages to introduce him to the business end of his modified shears, effectively shutting down production on the film altogether.

For 12 years.

A group of film students with a final assignment to deliver bug their teacher – who was a runner on Hot Blooded - about finishing the movie, which is rumoured to carry a curse that killed the original producer and a director who attempted to complete it some years earlier. Defying their professor, they purchase the rights and get an investment from the producer’s widow, doing enough to tempt Vanessa Turnbill back down under to star in it.

Of course, you can’t keep a good curse down and shortly after the surviving footage is screened, people start to die. Could the professor still be scarred by damaging memories? Or has the interim decade turned Vanessa into a homicidal Hollywood hacker?

Once the group of students are out of the city and on location, just about everybody becomes a plausible suspect, with suspicious close ups of ambiguous facial expressions or questionable utterances and there’s always a few absentees when a murder occurs. Although one would think that Bobby, playing the killer, is the most likely candidate if for nothing more than being the long lost twin of Billy Loomis:

bobby-billy2The outcome of the ‘mystery’ is that there is no mystery killer at all. Cut‘s killer is Scarman himself, as Professor Lossman attempts to explain, the curse is the product of the creative energy put into the film itself – created by belief and emphasized by the rantings of a requisite old person (see Direlogue). Thankfully, such a rubbish resolution is met with perfect sarcasm from Ringwald: “Believe me, there was no creative energy put into that piece of shit!”

This is where Cut likely divides the audience. On one hand it’s a cheat, leading you on a merry game of who’s the killer? only for none of that to count, fobbing us off with a frankly dreadful explanation. As Hot Blooded was a late 80’s film, so the whatthefuck ending of Cut suits that era down to the ground: Shocker anyone? The later, increasingly ridiculous Elm Street films? Bad Dreams? The Horror Show? Dreamaniac?

The tail end of the slasher genre was a dumping ground of stupid ideas such as this: Killing from beyond the grave or through appliances, possession, dreamscapes and the like… It usually sucks, but the forces behind Cut make the right move of fusing their dumbass idea with the all-knowing attitude of Scream, resulting in a great fun flick – but probably only if you view it in the knowledge that it’s sort of deliberately rubbish.

Even outside of the divisive finale, there’s some good stuff in the film and it’s liberally bloody with a high bodycount for a sub-80 minute (PAL timing, people!) production. Jessica Napier is an effective stand in for Neve Campbell as the ambitious young directorette with a couple of secrets and Sarah Kants impresses as the producer with a crush on the former. Ringwald plays with her bratty has-been persona with relish and most of the meat-on-legs backgrounders do enough to elevate themselves from non-dimensional stabbing objects.

Cut wasn’t a particularly lucrative film, scuppering any hope of a pitched sequel with a killer robot (I think, I saw some artwork for it years ago) and will probably go down as one of the many international attempts to duplicate Scream‘s formula, in spite of the fact that it’s better than most of the contemporary efforts. Much was made of Kylie’s involvement in the “Drew Barrymore role,” which coincided with her commercial comeback but considering she appears rather fleetingly, it was a bit of a stretch to try and pivot the marketing on her presence. This is one for genre fans

Blurb-of-interest: Molly Ringwald was in Office Killer.

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