Another directorial debut from Australia plays a part of our 31 days of horror.
This time, the guy behind the camera is Storm Ashwood (great name by the way) who leads his vision and marks another chapter in the growing genre from the land down under.
Ashwood’s vision takes the audience on a journey into a Lord of the Flies type of underworld where the kids have formed a tribe within a school setting and try to defend themselves against the various entities that reside within the rotten and dank domain.
Our guide on this journey through the land that strides between the living and the dead is Doctor Amy Wintercraig, who is so consumed with her profession looking after people in hospital that she neglected to attend to her own family.
When tragedy strikes, her son slips into a coma following a drowning accident leading Amy to become consumed with grief and detached from the ‘real world’.
In an attempt to take her own life she winds up in the School of the damned where she attempts to find her son again and bring him back home.
The story is a compelling one with Amy coming to terms with potentially losing her son and is played with remarkable strength by Megan Drury.
It was also rewarding to see Nicholas Hope (Ash vs Evil Dead, Event Zero, Picnic at Hanging Rock TV series) albeit briefly as voice of reason, Dr Wang.
The fact that most of the cast are kids and that they are all incredibly believable in their roles is a testament to Ashwood’s direction and that he isn’t afraid to tackle one of film productions more troubling areas.
Ashwood certainly has a visual style in his direction that seemingly feels part Hellraiser, part Labyrinth, and a trickle of 80s to he raw and untapped edges that ground this movie and give it an unexpected appeal that belies it’s low budget. It’s this vision that is the glue to the movie where every surface seems to leak or ooze through the ceilings, walls, and floor.
All we see is a dark analogy and constant reminder of why Amy has found her way there anyway.
If there is one niggle to be had, it’s in the audio. The choice of production music and sound effects feel low budget and breaks you out of the narrative on occasion as it smacks of made-for-tv movies of the late 70s and early 80s (and not in a good way).
It’s a shame as the movie has some interesting concepts and Ashwood is clearly a storyteller with a creative eye.
It feels a little harsh to be so downbeat on an otherwise well crafted movie from a storyteller with a unique vision but the audio is such a killer for me and pulls you back to the surface, ripping you away from the dark and delightful playground that Ashwood has created.
- Saul Muerte