Tag Archives: Oz

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.

Drink yourself dead

slaughteredSLAUGHTERED

2009/18/76m

“You’ll be legless… Armless… Headless…”

Director/Writer: Kate Glover / Cast: Chloe Boreham, Christopher Tomkinson, Cassandra Angelia Swaby, Steven O’Donnell, James Kerley, Erica Baron, Michael Lewis, Tudor Vasile.

Body Count: 10

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Britain and Australia share a pub culture like no other, different from trendy bars in the city, “the local” is the choice meeting point for all kinds of folk to sup on a pint, or – in the case of many – down so much that you fall asleep and later stagger on home.

A local pub is the setting for this Australian indie flick, which couldn’t have cost much more than a round of beers. With a plot so simple it was doubtlessly scripted on the back of a beermat, Slaughtered‘s got some problems alright with amateur night acting, a crap sound mix and an obvious killer who has absolutely no motive.

slaughtered1slaughtered2

Yeah, that’s right! There’s no big unmasking or soliliquy of why-I-killed-y’all at the end, it just pretty much stops! Where are the cops? Why aren’t they clearing up bodies and collecting evidence? Why did everyone keep working despite the fact they’d found bodies strewn all over the joint?

If it was intended to be a parody, it doesn’t work. It’s funny but not in the right way and suffers from a major case of predictablosis with a second string of budgets disease. Although it must be said the gore jobs aren’t bad at all, despite that in the scene where a girl is forced to ingest shards of broken glass it’s clear as day that there’s nothing in the liquid!

Silly but inoffensive stuff, notable only for being one of the few slasher films directed by a Sheila.

Time me backpacker down, sport

wolf_creek

WOLF CREEK

2005/18/95m

“How can you be found when nobody knows you’re missing?”

Director/Writer: Greg McLean / Cast: John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips.

Body Count: 5

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Here’s something weird; Wolf Creek is a good film which I never, ever want to see again.

Sometimes this just happens, can be that something is so effective once (Session 9; The Orphanage) that a repeat viewing will only dull its initial impact, can be that it was just a bit too heart-breaking (Brokeback Mountain) but here, despite directorial competence and the presence of actual horror, Wolf Creek is a nasty little production, quite repellent in a lot of ways and I wouldn’t want to sit through it again.

Of course there are other negative aspects to this backpackers-in-peril flick, most notably how long it takes before the travelogue beginning shifts into the horror gear (around the halfway mark). A trio of travellers, Syndey native Ben and British gal-pals Liz and Kristy, decide to drive out to Wolf Creek, a meteor crater in the middle of nowhere. Now, this film is Australian, so the middle of nowhere is quite literal. As well as Great White Sharks, Funnelweb Spiders and killer lizardy things, Australia now seems to have an abundance of psychos, for upon returning to their old car, they find it dead and as darkness falls, macho backwoods “passer by” Mick (Jarratt) offers them a tow to his garage, where they chat affably around the campfire and then fall into a nice…deeeeeep…sleep…

wolf_creek3

Liz later wakes to find herself bound in a shack. She escapes but stumbles upon Mick torturing Kristy and so begins the ever-cranking tension of their botched escape plans from his pit of sadism, complete with rotting corpses of previous victims.

Wolf Creek is far from your average stalker flick and while it’s not especially bloody, it’s explicitly violent and at times downright despairing as the girls suffer at the hands of the perky, wisecracking maniac – but there is little Freddy-style humour to his vicious torment.

Such is the nature of their dilemma that you do find yourself screaming at them to run faster, hurry up with the ignition keys or not do what it seems they’re about to! With just the duo the focus of the majority of the film, there are accusations a-plenty thrown at Wolf Creek for being misogynistic. It’s a difficult call to make; the film has roots in real life backpacker murderer Ivan Milat’s case, who preferred sexually assaulting girls so there’s a real edge to it that’s uncomfortable viewing. At the same time, extended scenes of violence against the girls is grotesquely perverse and could make you feel dirty for watching it. What’s more is that Ben – out for the count for most of the film – simply wakes up and totters away to freedom at the end, oblivious to the fate of his friends and not attacked by the killer at all!

Things move from innovative to cliché once the horror is under way: the girls have ample opportunity to cut the killer’s head off at one point or shoot him, stab him, stamp on his head and instead decide to go it alone in the middle of the bush. Wolf Creek becomes the type of body count movie that thinks above its station at some points but is then unable to discover a new way around a problem, the case in point being when Liz picks a random pair of car keys from a choice of a dozen or so and super magic teleporty psychic psycho Mick is already in the back seat!

This convention succeeds in some rug-yanking as things become a bit silly. Mick is able to track a single person in the huge expanse of the outback but cannot find Ben!?

wolf_creek2

So it’s a scenically beautiful film with characters sharpened by the long, slow build; gritty and documentarian in feel but also harrowing and depressing with no comfortable resolution or confines of the standard mad slasher opus – but then that’s what horror is, right? The absence of hope – definitively, it should be horrible.

Somewhat reassuringly, McLean’s next film, Rogue, which featured a giant killer crocodile munching tourists in the outback, featured no female fatalities at all, so we can at least be sure he wasn’t going Fulci on us. I have a fair few opinions on ye olde “are slasher films hate-women flicks” debate, which I’ll find a suitable home for sometime in the future; this one cuts it fine and I wish there’d been a girl survivor to beat the shit out of Mick, but all’s (un)fair in love and homicidal rampages. Up to you.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kestie Morassi played one of the nurses in Darkness Falls. John Jarratt was in Next of Kin and played the happy coroner in Needle, as well as returning to the role of Mick in Wolf Creek 2 eight years later.

Pant-Soiling Scenes #3: ROGUE

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a film that had me shouting at the screen: “swim faster!!!” But Rogue did the trick as a humongoid saltwater croc chows down on stranded tourists and, in this particular scene, their makeshift rope-bridge to safety collapses three of them into the water…

rogue

It’s an ace flick to rival Alligator as best killer reptile film ever!! Points were deducted for the dog being killed though. Sad times.

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