Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Australian

Skinford – World Premiere

Directed by Nik Kacevski
Written by Nik Kacevski and Tess Meyer
Produced by George Kacevski, Tess Meyer, and Enzo Tedeschi
Starring Joshua Brennan, Charlotte Best, Coco Jack Gillies, Kaitlyn Boyé, Joshua Morton, Roger Sciberras, Ric Herbert, Georgia Scott and Diana Popovska

It was supposed to be so simple. You do a job, you make the meet, you get paid.

As an experienced flipper, Jimmy “Skinny” Skinford knows the protocol all too well. Having said that, being kidnapped and forced to dig your own grave will spanner the nicest of deals in the sharpest of ways.

But his fortune turns when a push of his dead man’s shovel unearths the opportunity of a life time; a woman, buried but still breathing, who just can’t seem to die. Her mysterious gift extends to others through touch and in her company Skinny launches head first into a scheme of unparalleled mayhem.

Coming face to face with the most depraved deviates of the criminal underworld, Skinny will have to pay his dues in order to make the meet, get his payload and have his chance at immortality.

But this gift horse comes with plans of her own, and dark consequences that threaten to sever Skinny’s world piece by piece.

Skinford will have it’s world premiere at Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney, on Sunday, March 12 at 7pm. Tickets available HERE


Deadhouse Films

Great news for fans of Australian horror. Enzo Tedeschi, producer of Australian indie horror The Tunnel, has established Deadhouse Films as a new Australian production and distribution company for genre films with the aim to overcome Oz audiences’ reluctance to see genre movies in theatres.

Deadhouse says that it is “focused on boutique online global day and date distribution of genre movies and shows.” It will launch with Distracted Media’s science-fiction series, Airlock, at an unspecified date in the first half of the year. It expects to provide “unique and tailored guidance on production and release strategies to ensure the success of each project.”

“With an aim to provide independent film makers with a production and distribution avenue, Deadhouse Films’ scope will be to connect the many great Australian genre films out there with a dedicated and established audience,” said Tedeschi in a statement.

Australia has a long history of producing cult horror and genre films, including Mad Max, Saw, Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones and Razorback, but the country’s theatrical audiences have largely turned their back on the segment. Last year’s The Babadook, which got a launch at Sundance, was hailed by critics and genre fans, but grossed only US$200,000 (A$256,000) on local release. In contrast The Babadook earned $1.09 million in France and $2.03 million in the U.K.

High releasing costs, steep ticket prices and competition from English-language Hollywood are among the issues facing Australian genre films in their home market.

“The kind of film that we made, it’s kind of an art house film and a psychological thriller slash horror. These don’t traditionally do that well in Australia,” “Badadook” producer Kristina Ceyton told The Guardian recently


Wolf Creek 2 knifed by intellectual snobbery

wolf-creek-2-posterThat shameful refusal by Australia’s top Film Reviewers to not review Wolf Creek 2 on their popular At The Movies show just won’t go away… check out this excellent article by Jessica Balanzategui in The Age.

In the late 1980’s, Mick ”Crocodile” Dundee playfully encouraged audiences to question what really constitutes a knife when you’re in the untamed wilds of outback Australia. More recently, Mick Taylor of Wolf Creek similarly compelled potential visitors to the outback to think deeply and painfully about when a knife is really a knife.

He implores some German tourists to consider ”what the bloody hell are you buggers doing here?” And rightly so, considering what lies ahead for them.

The Wolf Creek films revel in the nightmarish underside to the myths of rural idyll, mateship and charming ockerism that have become so central to our ideas of national identity.

Horror films have long crept alongside the comedies, dramas and art films that make up the bulk of our cinematic output: before Babe, the adorable little pig who dared to dream big, there was Razorback, the giant wild boar that gleefully ripped its victims to pieces. In fact, some classic Australian films that we proudly hold as pinnacles of the craft, Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971), Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975), are basically horror films masquerading as lofty art pieces.

I can distinctly remember watching both Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock as a child – my well-intentioned parents evidently hoping to instil within me early a respect for great Australian cinema – and being haunted by nightmares from both for weeks. (At least I escaped being subjected to Wake in Fright at a young age – the consequences may have been much more severe.)

Wolf Creek 2 follows in the footsteps of these films, and in fact references Wake in Fright directly a number of times. Yet Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, the deserved royalty of Australian film criticism, refused to review Wolf Creek 2 on their influential television program, At the Movies, despite the fact the film is currently the top earner at the Australian box office.

For decades Pomeranz and Stratton have been vital cogs in the rather badly oiled machine that is the Australian film industry. Australian releases face a David and Goliath battle from the outset, being forced to compete with the flood of heavily marketed blockbuster Hollywood films.

Throughout their careers Pomeranz and Stratton have made it their mission to champion Australian films – even the ones they don’t particularly like – by raising awareness of Australian releases through their insightful reviews and interviews. Yet it seems that films classified as ”horror” are not extended this support.

This genre bias did not start with Pomeranz and Stratton: it has been an entrenched component of the Australian film industry since its revival in the 1970s. In the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Phillip Adams, who helped to establish Australia’s government film funding system, admits that in setting up the guidelines for funding ”many of us were very snobby about genre films, there’s no question about it. We didn’t approve of them.”

Wolf Creek director Greg McLean and producer Matt Hearn are all too aware of this issue. Hearn mortgaged his house to finance Wolf Creek; their follow-up, Rogue, was financed by American studio executives the Weinsteins; and Wolf Creek 2 was delayed for years due to funding shortfalls.

Snobbery towards horror films does nothing to help strengthen the Australian film industry. Just because a film is packaged as ”horror” does not automatically mean it is devoid of artistic and intellectual value: it just makes it easier to sell. Even Stratton, in his caustic review of Wolf Creek 2 in The Australian, reluctantly admits that the film’s cinematography, courtesy of Toby Oliver, is ”pristine”.

Wolf Creek 2 is indeed violent and confronting, particularly because of the disconcerting mash-up of Mick Taylor’s true blue Aussie humour and his sadistic, murderous intent. However, so was Wake in Fright, which Pomeranz described as ”menacing and sinister” with a ”disgustingly seedy” antagonist, yet which Stratton went on to describe as ”a great milestone in Australian cinema history”.

So, too, was the recent Snowtown (Justin Kurzel, 2011), a thoroughly disturbing film about the infamous ”bodies in the barrel” murderer John Bunting. Yet Pomeranz lauded this film – classified as an ”art film” due to its minimalist style – for it ”does not pull back from exposing the audience to … grotesque brutality”. Stratton also complimented the film on its ”dark power”.

Yet Wolf Creek 2, which employs similar tactics wrapped up in a commercially viable horror film package, is by contrast ”ugly and manipulative”.

I deeply respect Stratton and Pomeranz and have idolised them for as long as I can remember. But their refusal to review Wolf Creek 2 – even just to declare their hatred for it – points to a long-standing problem within the Australian film industry.

The confected division between ”lofty” art pieces and ”low brow” horror is outmoded and unhelpful. Horror has some powerful and revealing things to say about our society, just as art films do.

Jessica Balanzategui is undertaking a film studies PhD at Melbourne University. Her research explores the cultural power of horror films. Read more and comment at The Age HERE

 

 


Wolf Creek 2 – Ignored by Australian TV Reviewers

Wolf-Creek-2_Poster_bannerWolf Creek 2 writer-director Greg McLean has slammed Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton for failing to support local productions, after the ABC duo decided against reviewing his horror sequel on Tuesday’s At the Movies.

Despite the film hitting the #1 spot at the Australian box office on debut, the pair gave it a wide berth, without explanation. The pair chose to review Lone Survivor, Non-Stop, Gloria and The Wind Rises instead… so much for supporting Australian film.

greg_mcleanIn an emailed response to Fairfax Media, McLean said: “Seriously, what on earth are they thinking? Simply not reviewing an independent Aussie movie that beat its US studio competitor Lone Survivor … is worth paying some attention.”

He added that Lone Survivor, the Mark Wahlberg war epic, cost $80 million to produce and market and featured on about 15 per cent more screens.

“Even if they didn’t enjoy the movie, there are many, many Wolf Creek fans out there who love horror and thriller movies and want to support locally made productions,” he said. “Like them, I’d love to hear their thoughts on our movie, whatever they might be. I really hope they reconsider and give Wolf Creek 2 the fair go it deserves.”

The At the Movies website does carry a four-minute Wolf Creek 2 report, with clips and interviews with McLean and star John Jarrett, but neither Pomeranz, Stratton or in fact any reporter make an appearance.

Wolf-Creek-2_John-Jarratt-Mick-Taylor_Director-Greg-McleanIncredulous fans have taken to Twitter to question the TV show’s absent review. McLean also questioned the move on Twitter, saying: “Apparently there’s a new category of movie review from David and Margaret called – no review at all! That’s gotta be a first, right?”

He added that he did want a review from them: “Kinda fun watching them rip a movie apart or gush over something… either would be fine. Curious really.”

Stratton wrote a scathing review of the film in The Australian just days ago, calling it “manipulative and ugly” and only gave it two out of five stars. He also noted in his review that “this is not the place to discuss the worldwide appeal of torture-porn and extreme screen violence”.

In their 2005 At the Movies review of Wolf Creek, both critics gave the film four stars but expressed concern over the level of violence. “The film is incredibly sadistic. I think it’s foul in some ways, in terms of violence. I think it really is thoroughly nasty,” Stratton said at the time.

Pomeranz responded that it was a “worry”, while Stratton added: “I think people and audiences, potential audiences, have to be warned about it.”

WolfCreek2 (1)The MA15+-rated Wolf Creek 2 was the top draw at the Aussie box-office on its debut last weekend, pulling in $1.681 million.

In the past Stratton has refused to review 1992 skinhead drama Romper Stomper, causing its director Geoffrey Wright to throw a glass of wine over him nearly three years later at the Venice Film Festival. Stratton later said he feared the film could “stir up racial violence”.

At the Movies executive producer said Jo Chichester said in a statement: “Margaret and David reviewed the first Wolf Creek, David’s thoughts on Wolf Creek 2 are in his review in The Australian, and there is an interview with the filmmaker and lead actor on the ATM website.” SMH


Crawlspace – Trailer

Check out the trailer for the new Justin Dix directed, Australian horror movie Crawlspace… and don’t forget to check out my exclusive 2-part interview with special effects guru and director Justin Dix HERE (part 1) and HERE (part 2) for insight into Justin’s account of the film-making process, his thoughts on horror and the state of the Australian film industry. You should also check out the website for Justin’s Melbourne based SFX studio, Wicked of Oz, for information about all of his work, past, present and future HERE


The Tunnel: Dead End

The creative team behind the Australian internet sensation, ‘The Tunnel’ have begun working on another Tunnel movie! Distracted Media have also announced that The 135K Project won’t be dying with The Tunnel. A new Sci-Fi thriller titled ‘Airlock’ will be the next in line for some personalised frame-owning goodness. The Tunnel is still available as a FREE download.

Here’s the official press release:

Fans of 2011’s internationally successful local horror film, The Tunnel are in for another scare with the “The Tunnel: Dead-End” receiving funding from Screen Australia this month.

Currently in development, “The Tunnel: Dead-End” will pick up the story years later as Tangles’ sister is determined to answer once and for all what happened to her brother in the gloomy underground tunnels.

“Initially, we weren’t anticipating doing another Tunnel film but the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the original, as well as our fans clamouring for another on an almost daily basis, made us go back and give it a second thought. We weren’t going to go ahead unless we could find a story we were 100% behind, which we now have and are thrilled to have the support of Screen Australia,” said Distracted Media’s Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey.

The Tunnel became last year’s most-talked about film locally and internationally based on its unique crowd-funding model and distinctive distribution. The film enjoyed a simultaneous online, DVD, theatrical, a world TV premiere on Showtime Premiere and an iPad release well as winning many industry award accolades.

Based on the success of the crowd-funding scheme for The Tunnel, Distracted Media has announced another 135k Project is in the pipeline. “Airlock” is a claustrophobic science-fiction thriller in the vein of Alien. the 135K Project.

““The Tunnel: Dead End” is a great opportunity to take Distracted Media into a different playing field but as producers we still very much believe in the basic principles of the 135k Project. Having a more mainstream film in “The Tunnel: Dead End” will enable us to up the stakes significantly with “Airlock” which will hopefully raise the bar for our free internet releases and what we can put back into their success,” said Distracted Media’s Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey.


Redd Inc. Interview – Part 2

GEORDIE: Australia has a long history of offering something different to the horror genre, from the 70’s schlock through to modern hits such as Wolf Creek, Saw and the criminally overlooked The Loved Ones. What will Redd inc. add to that culture?

JG: Hopefully we’ll be considered to fit in with that esteemed list. We think we’ve added a unique twist to the genre by taking a place that so many of us are all too familiar with, the office, and give a whole new meaning to the idea of being chained to your desk. Again, it’s amazing to me that no one has set a horror movie in such an horrific location before!

AOC: A lot of Australian horror is set in the outback because that is a huge part of our cultural identity. But what about horror for people who don’t go camping in creepy, rural settings? What about the 9-to-5’ers? What if your BOSS was genuinely insane? That’s the cool ‘what if?’ scenario Redd Inc. brings to the table.

SS: indeed Redd Inc. is a new view on the horror genre, one that includes genuine suspense and scares but also some clever comedy so that the audience can really enjoy the ride… that has always been the ideal intention, to be scared but to also enjoy it, and to stand out from other films.

DK: I don’t really see REDD INC as an Australian film. Its setting is the office – it could take place in any major city – from London to NYC to Sydney. Having said that, I would be honoured if REDD INC were mentioned in the same breath as films like “Wolf Creek”, “Saw” and “The Loved Ones”.

GEORDIE: What were you influenced by during the development of Redd Inc?

JG: That’s too broad a question for me. If you mean what movies was I influenced by: Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Hostel.

AOC: Oh wow. Well a mix of old school horror – The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Argento’s Deep Red – and more recent stuff like Martyrs, Audition and Seven. Also I was reading a lot of horror: Bentley Little, Richard Laymon, Jeff Strand and Jack Ketchum. Although to be fair I would have been doing that even if we weren’t making a movie.

SS: The idea of taking a similar approach to other timeless, enjoyable and successful films that achieved the majority of their effects in-camera and without the over-use of visual effects…… Films such as the Romero zombie flicks Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead.. Also Friday the 13th and Evil Dead…..  Absolute favourites that stand up to repeat viewing over many years!

DK: I was careful not to watch too much horror during the development of REDD INC. I didn’t want to be overly influenced by any one filmmaker or style. I wanted to keep my approach as fresh and original as I could. I guess my main influence towards the story and filmmaking approach of REDD INC was to make it “real” insofar as it has its own logic and reality.

GEORDIE: The elephant in the room question. What was it like working with Tom Savini? I presume like most horror fans you would have been a little starstruck at first?

JG: What a guy. He is a generous spirit who lives in the moment and who gave himself utterly to the scenes and the people he was working with. We have extensive coverage of his involvement in our making of doco which will be released eventually with the Blu-ray and DVD.

AOC: It was a literal dream come true. I got to pump blood with my childhood hero, TOM SAVINI! Even as I write these words I can’t quite believe it all happened. He’s a total gent and he did amazing work with the MEG team. He also tells the best stories and brought such a great energy to set. The days when Tom was there had a kind of magic about them. Plus some of the things we have on the DVD/Blu-ray are horror fan GOLD. We also gave him the Australian nickname “Savvers” which he loves.

SS: After watching and enjoying his work for so many years, it was an absolute honour.  Tom doesn’t really allow you to be starstruck, he has such an approachable and warm personality.  He has been so generous with his time, experience, advice and enthusiasm, it has been so much fun and we cannot speak highly enough of his contribution to Redd Inc.

DK: Working with Tom Savini. VERY COOL! He was the consumate professional and a gentleman in every sense of the word. A real joy to work with. He brought a calm atmosphere to the set, and a bloody menace to the screen.

GEORDIE: Films like Funny Games, the Saw series and the recent spate of torture porn have a strong streak of sadism in them, with psychological as well as physical torture. Dario Argento said recently that all taboos are fair game now… What are your thoughts on the current state of the horror genre?

JG: If they’re not really ABOUT something as well as being unnerving and scary then they’ve lost me. I like a little story and meaning with my elevated heart rate.

AOC: Yeah, I agree. Story is king and having something to say is really important. I watch pretty much everything that comes out in the horror genre – and a lot of it is amazing – but I do feel sometimes we get a lot of style and not much substance. I miss the horror-as-social-allegory element that Romero brought to the table with Dawn of the Dead. With Redd I think we’ve made an office giallo. It has a lot of tension and surprises and a really kinetic energy, plus twists and turns along the way. It’s the kind of film that I’d like to watch.

SS: I enjoy being scared, especially in a make-believe, movie kind-of way…. I want to enjoy the ride and have fun with it…. I don’t mind the physical violence stuff if it is not all too serious and nasty, give us a bit of relief in some way that makes it a guilty pleasure so that we can enjoy the scare and I think that’s the best recipe for the genre.

DK: For me it’s all about story, no matter what the genre. I’d liken a good horror film to a roller coaster ride at a fair ground. You can have the shit scared out of you in a safe environment and live to fight another day. Having said that, I like a good scare and gory moments… but as a rule I think that less is more.

GEORDIE: Hollywood has been remaking so many of these classic auteur horror films, driven by demographics and brand-familiarity, like the way Halloween is ubiquitous in other movies. How can Horror get out of that loop again?

JG: There are plenty of originals getting made amongst the remakes. They’ve got to break through to get noticed though so maybe it’s just that the remakes are sucking all the marketing air away from the originals. My guess is that independent distribution of horror over the internet will make a big difference to redress the balance over the next few years.

AOC: I’ve been joking for a while now that for Redd Inc.’s poster we should have the tagline: “It’s not a remake. It’s not a prequel. It’s not a reboot – You’re welcome!” However, I’ve met a lot of people who are making new, innovative horror so I’m not cynical. I think 2012 is going to be a great year for horror.

SS: Remakes can sometimes bring a new life to a great film.  However there is a big fan base out there that are always looking for new, original, exciting product.  Redd inc. is that film for those fans in 2012.

DK: In a sense a remake is like a sequel – people wanting to have some kind of “sure bet” in an industry that is fraught with uncertainty. Hopefully REDD INC (and its sequels) will be given a fresh lease of life in 20 or 30 years with an exciting batch of remakes. I would take it as a great compliment.  🙂

GEORDIE: Where to next for Green Light Productions?

JG: Redd Inc 2 of course!

AOC: Yeah, we have such an awesome story for the sequel.

SS: Looking forward to it!

DK: Count me in.

GEORDIE: When and where can we see the movie?

JG: First festival screenings will be announced over the next month or so and theatrical dates will be posted on the website reddincthemovie.com

GEORDIE: Finally, your favourite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favourite; and any new releases that have impressed you?

JG: A lot of the classics don’t stand up for me anymore because I’m just older and wiser and I guess I have my bar set higher than before. In terms of highest impact on first viewing I’d say watching the old Hammer Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee when I was 11 or 12 years old because I watched them at midnight when my parents thought I was in bed and discovered the joy of scaring the shit out of myself! Of course they’re laughable now.

AOC: John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably the movie that blew me away the most when I was a youngster. The score, Carpenter’s meticulous direction, Rob Bottin’s amazing FX, the cast and the palpable sense of distrust and paranoia all add up to one of the greats. It was the film that made me take notice of film as an art form. Also the first two horror movies I ever saw were Creepshow and An American Werewolf in London and they both still rule. Recently I dug Martyrs, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Super and Theatre Bizarre (which has a segment directed by Tom Savini called Wet Dreams).

SS: Evil Dead has got to be my favourite, classic horror film.  It was so scary the first time I saw it as a teenager. It still is, if you let yourself get swept up in it, even after many, many repeat viewings.  I think it is still a favourite because it has that element of humour that doesn’t let you take it all too seriously, and it’s not too realistic and that’s the great part about making these sorts of crazy films because it’s just make believe.  I don’t think a lot of the new releases are scary enough, they concentrate too much on being nasty and shocking, rather than the suspense and scare elements that make great horror.

DK: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Loved it then, Love it now.

GEORDIE: Thanks again for the opportunity to put a few questions to you and your team about Redd Inc. Best of luck with the project. I’ll post as many updates as possible nearer release date.