Today we learnt of an exciting new project that is shooting in Northern NSW, Australia which could herald another strong story that exposes the dark underbelly of our Great Southern Land. Australia has been slowly carving out some disturbing tales of late such as the fantastic Hounds of Love,Killing Ground, Rabbit, and Lost Gully Road, all released within the last couple of years and well worth your time.
Described as a psychological thriller, Sweet River is set in between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, a land filled with sugar cane farms, that can grow up to 16 metres in height and potentially ripe enough to harbour secrets within. It’s a beautiful part of the world, so expect some stunning shots from Justin McMillan (Storm Surfers 3D), who also co-owns a drone company.
The story unfolds with Hanna Montague (Lisa Kay – Indian Summers) who is on a quest for closure following the death of her son, and moves to a small cottage, but is confronted by a town hell-bent on hiding its secrets. She is united in her grief with her neighbour (Genevieve Lemon) who has also lost a child in tragic circumstances, but how far into their sorrow are they willing to go in order to uncover the truth?
Also starring Martin Sacks (Wentworth, A Place To Call Home), Sweet River promises to set the mystery that lurks beyond the shadows ablaze, and deliver a tale that could have devastating consequences.
It is expected to be released in 2020 through Film Ink Presents.
Whilst searching through the bank of films from the Tubi catalogue, I was hoping to come across something on a similar vein to The Shining. Yes, I know, you can stop you’re sniggering now, I should have realized that this was a tall order considering the unique position that Stanley Kubrick’s vision had on the horror genre.
In my defense, it does boast a struggling writer holed up in a hotel room, under the guise of finishing a screenplay, but I have to admit this is a fine thread to tie these two movies together, and Do Not Disturb pales remarkably in comparison.
Starring Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night) as troubled screenwriter Don, who seeks revenge of the death of his girlfriend so concocts a plan to off those who were involved in her murder.
The trouble is that Geoffreys performance is incredibly reserved and lacking in any emotion, so it makes it difficult for the audience to connect with him. This isn’t entirely Geoffreys fault though as he taps into a guy who is so disconnected from humanity in his vengeful journey, but in choosing to go down this route, we simply can not engage with his character.
There are some suitably macabre moments in this low-budget movie, and the unhinged moments do enough to resonate with the character enough to wonder how it will end. Aided by Don’s agent Ava, (Tiffany Shepis – Sharknado 2, Victor Crowley) who provides the heart of the movie and is possibly our only entry point into the narrative.
It also boasts one of the last performances from 80s child actor Coey Haim, before he passed away, but this still isn’t really enough of a hook for the film itself, unfortunately.
The film ambles along at an incredibly slow pace and tries to lift through some macabre set pieces, but ultimately leaves you drifting aimlessly to its conclusion.
Just when you thought that you couldn’t sink any deeper, Johannes Roberts delves into a sequel to the mediocre 47 Meters Down, only this time, it’s uncaged. Taking the same concept of an underwater dive into unchartered waters only to come face to face with nature’s deadliest underwater predator.
Director Johannes Roberts, who oversaw the first movie knows his element and develops a fun, and thrilling ride that puts our characters to the nth degree in order to survive their ordeal. Let’s face it though. This is not going to rock any brain cells. I’d say that it’s a pretty watered down affair, but then that would be stating the obvious seeing as we spend most of the time submerged.
Peppered with some offsprings from A-List celebs looking for their big break with Corrine Foxx and Sistine Stallone, to add some bite to the cast, but it’s a pretty big pond, and the impact that they have on screen will hardly turn heads… well not in the way they may have hoped… ahem.
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, the plot. So we once again have two sisters, only this time it’s through a mixed blended family. One girl is awkward and a bit of a loner, Mia (Sophie Nelisse), the other, is confident and strong-headed Sasha (Foxx). Needless to say, Sasha finds Mia an embarrassment and tends to steer clear of her, but when given the opportunity to duck out of pre-arranged tourist underwater trip, she grabs Mia along with her friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Stallone) to have an underwater adventure of their own.
Roberts sets the scene early on by laying the foundations about Mia and Sasha’s father (John Corbett) who happens to be an underwater archaeologist that has discovered an ancient city buried within a cave system and that a shark has somehow found its way down there and gotten stuck. Cue one hangry shark. This allows more time for action and to lengthen the nightmare for the four girls.
Having said that, most of the action gets lost in the murky depths and as such, becomes a little hard to follow. Our connection with the girls is slim and we don’t really care what happens to them by the end.
Equally Roberts is guilty of typical killer shark movie tropes, in particular one scene that feels remarkably similar to THAT moment in Deep Blue Sea.
There are some twists and turns along the way and Director Johannes Roberts continues to entertain but fails to stimulate beyond the usual shark fodder that is already out there.
I rarely go straight out when writing a review by stating my position and casting a prognosis but in the instance of Daniel Isn’t Real my gut reaction was so strong and reactive during and post viewing that I felt an overwhelming compulsion to rave about how fantastic this movie is. I’ve often mentioned how integral it is for movies to evoke a reaction that churns up inside and leaves me with this feeling that is hard to describe, but essentially sends a buzz of excitement and I can literally feel the creative energy being transmitted from the screen.
At its core Daniel Isn’t Real is a window into the psyche of our central character, Luke played by Miles Robbins last seen on the screen playing stoner Dave from Halloween 2018.
Luke suffers a mental relapse when two impactful events occur when he is young. The first is when his father walks out on him and Mary Stuart Masterson, who “Joons” it up as an equally unhinged mother. On the same day, Luke ventures out into his neighbourhood and comes across the aftermath of a mass shooting. It is then that Luke meets an imaginary friend, Daniel, who brings the worst out in Luke’s personality. This results on Luke’s mother making him lock Daniel away in the doll house to suppress this negativity ala Drop Dead Fred without the comedy.
Cut to years later and Luke is now 21, and with his mother’s condition seemingly worse, he begins to fear that the same thing may happen to him. Encouraged by his psychotherapist to unleash his imagination, Luke releases Daniel once more, but this time is lead by this mysterious entity (and takes on the form of Arnie’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger) that only he can see. At first, Daniel encourages Luke to step out of his shell, where he meets Cassie (a magnificent Sasha Lane) but this soon escalate as Daniel is able to possess Luke and make him do things that he has no control over and sends Luke into a transcendent spiral of depression and disillusionment.
Part of the magic of this film comes through the special effects that warp and shape our senses and throws the audience into disarray while we like Luke try to decipher the distinction between reality and a warped imagination.
It’s the age old story of good vs evil told between a disillusioned young man and his imaginary friend. Who will get the upper hand?
Director Adam Egypt Mortimer delivers a beautifully visceral journey that is stunning and encapsulating. This is a must-watch film that needs to be viewed and discussed. Thankfully it can be seen at MonsterFest Australia this weekend.
Tourist Trap is one of those movies that should probably get more recognition than it deserves. It definitely skipped me by and ended up on my must watch list for decades, but somehow kept evading me. Buried among the late 70s, early 80s slasher films that surrounded its release, this eerie supernatural slasher film is often overlooked for its likeness to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and has been labelled as a cliche-ridden failure, and yet I was still intrigued by this concoction of these group of friends who are on a road trip and find themselves holed up at a curious museum filled with mannequins. So I was pleasantly surprised to see Tourist Trap listed on Tubi and felt compelled to finally check it out and I found that I was more than willing to be taken on this ride and immerse myself in the narrative despite the afore-mentioned warnings. I felt encouraged further still when I posted on social that I was sitting down to watch the film and received some positive responses.
Immediately I found David Schmoeller’s direction interesting as he was able to set up an atmosphere that was deliberately offsetting and clearly pulled some learners from this movie that he would lay down for his cult classic, Puppet Master in 1989. The scene is set and we’re introduced to our would-be victims travelling across an undisclosed American terrain, when one of the group, Woody goes ahead in search of a gas station, when he finds one that appears to be deserted, but when venturing out back comes face to face with menacing mannequins and flying debris that appears set out to attack him as if controlled by some unseen force, when finally he’s impaled by a metal pipe and quickly dispatched.
The rest of the film followers the rest of the teen pack made up from token male Jerry, his girlfriend Tina, the hard-headed Eileen, and the meek mannered Molly. They turn up at the gas station trying to find Woody, only for their jeep to strangely break down (nothing that a quick skinny dip can’t fix in order to keep their peace of mind). Here they encounter the overly friendly and slightly off-kilter museum owner, Mr. Slausen, who offers to help them out.
Before long the group of friends find that they are being stalked by someone who may or may not be Mr. Slausen’s brother.
The rest of the movie does play out with some typical horror tropes, but there are enough triggers and quirks along the way to keep the viewer engaged.
Chuck Conners is delightful as the deranged museum owner, Mr. Slause, who you can never quite tell is all there. Connors hams it up to the right side of plausibility. I also enjoyed the whole supernatural telekinesis component to the movie as it gave a nice spin on the usual slasher fare.
This combined with the direction and music supplied by Pino Donaggio gave enough atmosphere and edge to the piece that it was unsettling and engaging, particularly Tina’s harrowing death scene.
Definitely worth the watch and I’m glad that I finally got around to doing so.
The first lines spoken in The Soska Sisters latest feature is something of an odd choice seeing that the film itself is a remake of David Cronenberg’s science fiction body horror feature that was released back in 1977, but then the ‘Twisted Twins’ have built a reputation on face-lifts and transformations within their features that it should come as no surprise that should revamp a cult classic. Cronenberg is clearly an inspiration in the Soska Sisters previous features where body horror, mutilation, and the butchering of the beautiful is constantly a running theme through their narrative. From their low-budget debut feature, Dead Hooker In A Truck, they have been willing to their bodies on the line for the sake of their vision and in doing so, continuously look to raise the stakes, but arguably haven’t attained this since their brilliant sophomore outing behind the director’s chair with American Mary.
So, how does this modern transformation of Rabid fair and does it amount to the twin directors’ previous outings?
I have enjoyed watching the Soska Sisters’ journey, even their paint by numbers WWE venture, See No Evil 2, and I found that Rabid had the right pulse to entertain and satiate the gruesome, and bloody fascination with the human aesthetic and its ultimate destruction. We cast ourselves deep in the fashion world, where there is an expected elegance and if you don’t measure up, then you’re cast aside and considered insignificant.
This is where we meet our lead protagonist, Rose (Laura Vandervoot) who works for a fashion designer, Gunther (Mackenzie Gray), but struggles to meet her mark. One night she is invited out by photographer Brad (Ben Hollingsworth) and believes that her luck could potentially be turning, but soon discovers that it’s a pity date, set up by her best friend, Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot). Humiliated, Rose attempts to flee on her bike but is plowed down by an unseen vehicle and rushed to hospital leaving her disfigured and more depressed. It is only when she learns of a scientific breakthrough that could potentially restore her figure that Rose seizes the opportunity to be considered normal. Once again though, trust comes into question as we are only willing to expose the mask we choose to wear with people and only every so often do we allow our true selves be seen. This is a common theme throughout the movie where we should question everyone’s motives and always be suspicious of the characters we encounter, even within the medical profession as hinted by Stephen McHattie’s doctor when he asks his assistant to lend a deformed Rose a mirror, only to contradict himself by saying that Rose should never look at a mirror.
So, Rose undergoes a significant and delicate operation that not only restores her looks but metamorphosed her whole demeanour with mesmerising effect on her persona. Whilst her life suddenly flips for the better, Rose is consumed with lust for blood and meat that sends her into a frenzy and unleashing a creature within that leaves her victims with something that closely resembles rabies, but spreads as quickly as the black plague.
From here on in the action becomes frenetic and just as uncontrollable as the disease, which is obviously a directorial choice, but I can understand some viewers who might find this approach grating.
Stuck between pursuing her dreams of having her own design on the catwalk and recognition of her style, and seeking medical aid, Rose steers closer to self-destruction and chaos.
The Soska Sisters are back in their domain of stripping the human facade and revealing the tortured soul lurking within in their latest turn in the directors’ chair. Yes, it’s a remake, but there is enough spin on the original and more of the visual style and substance that makes Jen and Sylvia a force to be reckoned with when they are at their best. As always their films are beautifully shot, and manage to infuse some raw energy within the beats, and Rabid continues to project the Soskas into a twisted limelight that feels gnarly and fresh.
Mike Green has been gradually building on his film credentials with a series of screenplays and work as 1st AD on a number of high profile films including Truth starring Cate Blanchet and Robert Redford. Now he has turned his attention to directing his first feature length movie, Outback, a tale of survival in the heart of Australia, and casts a bewildered and fractured American couple in the midst of this savage land.
Before its Sydney screening as part of Monsterfest Australia on Sat 2 Nov at 9pm, Mike sat down with the surgeons team to discuss his journey and his own challenges in creating his vision.
Mike Green interview:
What initially drew you to the story behind Lisa and Wade’s outback plight?
Well, I had a proper budget feature that I was hoping to make with a cast attached and building a team and then Nicole Kidman announced Angel of Mine which on the surface sounded very much like our feature film project. That really pulled the rug beneath our feet and I had a small window of time in which to shoot something because my wife was going back to work from maternity leave and a little bit of money saved on my credit card. So I essentially reverse engineered something I could shoot in a compressed amount of time. And 10 days is what we shot Outback in. So I took a familiar story which was Open Water, the two people that get stranded in the ocean. I thought about taking that situation and placing them in the outback. Limiting your cast means limiting so much of the production, so it was essentially going to be a two-hander. Everyone has a perception of the Australian outback and how vast and dry it is, how it’s filled with critters and creepy crawlies. So I took that idea and instead of having a serial killer or madman as the antagonist, I made Australia and the outback, the antagonist. No one has done a film called Outback which was surprising to me. So I put it all in a blender and out came a two-hander about this couple of Americans and the dynamic between them in a survival thriller with this tragic love story, and place them in a scenario that sees them stranded in the outback.
There is a lot of weight on the shoulders of the two leads, Lauren Lofberg and Taylor Wiese to carry the film. How did you get them to tap into the gravitas of their situation?
The first thing I needed to do when casting was have the right face, character, and persona for the parts, so after reaching out to a few people I spoke to Lauren, who despite her small showreel had something there, but she was looking to do something substantial and put a stamp on something. She put a few self tapes down and she was really emotional and she was going through some things at the time, which I asked with her blessing if I could weave into the storyline because it was something so personal to her and we knew that she could tap into that so easily and access those emotional time stones.
What do you think fascinates us about human survival?
I think there is this primeval situation where you would ask yourself, “what would I do?” It doesn’t take much for the audience to be there with them. The performance and environment helped from a cinematic perspective. You often hear stories of how even locals get lost for two or three days in the Blue Mountains for example, and things can get pretty gnarly quickly. Even with the best intentions and with a phone on you, when you start to get dehydrated, what seems like a smart decision, upon reflection is like, “what was I thinking?”
What has been the most enduring thing that you’ve encountered in your lifetime? Have you had much experience of the outback yourself and what impact did this beautifully vast location have on production.
For me taking from the theme of the movie of not taking tomorrow for granted, was a way into the storyline. From the plot and survival aspect, I used to go to the outback a lot as a kid with a mate who had a property. We were in a couple of situations where we ran out of water and we didn’t have a compass, and when you are out there, you don’t really have any sense of direction other than which way the sun is going. He’d been on the land a bit and I was more of a city slicker, and I remember him saying the mathematical equation that I use in the film, and he knew from my answers that I was dehydrated even though I wasn’t aware of it. I could have been in a lot of trouble if it wasn’t for him and his experience on the land.
What would you say was your toughest challenge during filming?
I’m first AD, I’m producing, I’m catering, like I’m cooking at night, I’m printing off the schedule for the next day for the crew and everyone is working so hard, so you have to lead by example. In that environment and working such long hours in the heat, working so intimately with such a tight-knit crew, It’s not always rosy and part of having such a good team is allowing people to let off steam in certain ways. The toughest thing was keeping everyone emotionally and physically on the same page in what we were trying to do. You’re really fathering a group of people, in the most beautiful way.
What do you think or hope that people will take home after watching Outback?
I’m hoping the audience reflect on their own life and how they can embrace the day or the moment, whether that’s with their family, career, or just life itself, and appreciate it. I know that sounds a bit arty farty, but being in Australia, there shouldn’t be anyone whinging really. Any kind of developed country, I know there has been some bad things that have happened, but each to their own I guess.
Now that your first feature film is released into the festival circuit, what was the biggest learning you will take and what is next on the horizon?
I think the biggest learning for me is to keep making stuff, It’s not always going to click but you should be getting better when you make stuff and that’s the key to improving. It’s that old adage, “Practice, practice, practice”. In regards to what’s next, I’m working with a bunch of writers I kinda wanna be aggressive and get projects made and being prolific.
During filming of Australian western The Proposition, British actor Ray Winstone once remarked that every living thing in this country was out to kill you. It’s this component that director Mike Green wanted to paint of his homeland to evoke that sense of fear and dread in the vast open plain.
Instead of having a serial killer or madman as the antagonist, I made Australia and the outback, the antagonist”
We often vision Australia as this serene, beautiful land which on the surface casts one of the most majestic scenes that our planet offers, but if you delve deep enough, you find the hidden dangers lurking in plain sight. Green lures us into the desert terrain through the eyes of an American couple on what should have been a romantic adventure, but like the land in which they set out to explore, Lisa (Lauren Lofsberg) and Wade (Tyler Wiese) are just as fractured and unpredictable.
We join Lisa and Wade at the start of their journey from Sydney Airport where we learn that Lisa has rejected Wade’s marriage proposal. The result finds the couple disconnected and searching for each other to see whether the relationship is worth fighting for. In doing so, they become lost and insignificant in a foreign land. Testament to Green’s writing skills should be mentioned as he draws out some well-developed characters in his leads which is fleshed out with some fantastic performances. This is a good thing as between them they need to carry the movie with very little other characters to interact with. By the film’s conclusion, we really care about their outcome, because Green has taken the time for us to connect and care for them both.
The choices that Lisa and Wade that lead them to their ordeal are born out of ignorance and naivety but their decisions that are believable and in the moment, as they try to navigate their way to survival whilst facing a number of dangers along the way from snakes and scorpions, to searing heat and dehydration. All of which surmount into a gripping, heart-wrenching drama that captivates right to the end.
Director Mike Green takes the audience on a brutal and harsh journey of survival through the lens of an American couple on the brink of collapse. The gritty realism along with excellent performances helps lift this movie and casts a blistering light on the savage land with a narrative that keeps you hooked and willing the characters to endure their torment and live to tell their tale.
Outback will be screening atMonsterfest Australia 2019, where cast and crew will be available for a Q&A post film screening time below:
So, here’s the thing. I’m not usually a fan of horror anthologies. Whilst I have enjoyed the more well known films that have carried the collective stories that tap into the the dark genre, such as Creepshow, Trick r’ Treat or V/H/S, invariably I feel a little let down by some of the stories that don’t quite meet the mark or the high standard of the better stories within the anthology. For every “The Crate” or “Something to Tide You Over” there’s a “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” or “They’re Creeping Up On You” using Creepshow as an example. So when viewing this latest offering from Australia entitled Dark Whispers Vol 1, I ventured with slight hesitation, but was pleasantly surprised by the result.
Inspired by the recent anthologies A Night of Horror Vol. 1 and XX, Australian director and producer, Megan Riakos teamed up with Leonie Marsh and festival director Briony Kidd to surmount a crack team of female visionists and creatives to deliver 10 highly-crafted tales of dread.
So, let’s delve into each of these tales one by one and see if these collective stories have enough strength and cohesion to drive the narrative together.
BIRTHDAY GIRL Director: Angie Black; Writer: Michael Harden
We open up with a fairly brief and condense tale that sees a grieving mother trying to capture those precious moments with her daughter trapped in a limbo of intense sorrow. The short timeframe on display, Black weaves enough emotion for the audience to connect with the mother’s pain.
THE MAN WHO CAUGHT A MERMAID Writer/Director: Kaitlin Tinker; Writer: Jean-Phillipe Lopez
This next tale dives into the fantastical, as an elderly man sets out to snare a mermaid amongst laughter and ridicule, but all is not as it appears as the story reveals a dark and sinister world lurking beneath the depths of fancy.
I’m a huge sucky for stop motion and Peppard showers our visual senses with a glorious tale of heartbreak that is stunning and captivating, whilst tapping into a lamentable suffering.
WATCH ME Director: Briony Kidd; Writer: Claire d’Este
This was one of my favourites of the bunk as Kidd projects a tale of vanity and self-appreciation. Told from the perspective of a glamorous actress who is reminiscent of Norma Desmond with her ambition and thrives so much on attention that without the attention she will wither away.
I equally had a lot of time and love for this tale of two kids in the Kimberely who venture into the mangroves despite the warnings of the Gooynbooyn Woman, believing her campfire stories to be the stuff of myth and legend. Clerc invokes an old story and infuses it with modern storytelling that beautifully captures the Dreamtime stories passed down from generation to generation through Aboriginal culture.
THE RIDE Writer/Director: Marion Pilowsky; Story by Issy Pilowsky
Here I was reminded just how dark and glorious Anthony LaPaglia’s performances can be, and how he portrays an average Australian guy who can slip into sinister so easily. Playing a guy who picks up a hitchhiker, who gets more than he bargained for and a ride that will change his life forever.
Online dating from the perspective of a female vampire in search for her next prey provides us with an enjoyably dark story that defies your assumptions and adds a little twist in her desire for blood.
WHITE SONG Writer/Director: Katrina Irawati Graham
This one also left a lasting impression on me and uses the famous Indonesian ghost story of Kuntil Anak as its inspiration. Kuntil Anak is a ghost who died whilst pregnant and when she appears before a grieving widow, she is confronted by a force far greater than her dark haunting embodiment has encountered before, unfolding a battle of energy and light in her wake.
LITTLE SHAREHOUSE OF HORRORS Writer/Director: Madeleine Purdy; Writer: Joel Perlgut
This quirky tale on the concept of “you are what you eat” or in this case, smoke, sees Maeve searching for a healthy alternative to her smoothies, but finds a strange concoction in the mix. When nature fights back, it attacks the weak-minded souls, and Purdy provides a witty and sardonic view of humanity.
THE INTRUDER Writer/Director: Janine Hewitt
Rounding out the dectet of stories comes a dark and wondrous tale that is beautifully played by its performers Asher Keddie and Bree Desborough. The homogeneity that marries this film alongside the first tale, Birthday Girl and the sense of being stuck in one’s emotions helps to cement the collection, as Zoe has become a prisoner in her own home, terrorized by a stalker containing her in her fear and despair.
Weaving its way through the various tales, Riakos envelops a series of segments entitled, The Book of Dark Whispers, as a young woman who inherits a mysterious book from her mother that symbolises the passing down through the years and the shared emotional baggage that we inevitable take on from previous generations.
It’s a captivating performance from Andrea Demetriades who manages to embody all the viewers thoughts and emotions and projects them through her character, and in doing so provides the heart and soul of the movie.
Dark Whispers Vol 1 really exceeded my expectations when it comes to horror anthologies that are so often worn down by the lesser stories in the collection.
Here though are some excellently well-crafted stories that make for a highly enjoyable narrative and proves that there are some dark and sinister tales to be told from some exciting female creatives that deserve praise and recognition. I look forward to further tales from these powerful and thought-provoking storytellers.
Dark Whispers Vol.1 will be screening at Monsterfest Australia 2019, where cast and crew will be available for a Q&A post film screening time below:
SUNDAY3rdNOVEMBER, 6.15PM Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney
When director/producer Megan Riakos took the helm as President for Women in Film & Television NSW, little did she know that she was on the verge of establishing a potential pathway of hope for women in the industry. With a feature film already on her credits, Crushed, which was incredibly well received, Megan would team up with Leonie Marsh and Briony Kidd to produce a horror anthology that would unite Australian female directors and writers in a powerful collection of stories that shake the soul. Dark Whispers Vol. 1 is currently screening as part of Monsterfest Australia 2019 and Megan recently chatted with the Surgeons team ahead of the Sydney event to dissect and discuss the creative process involved.
Megan Riakos interview:
One of the key strengths behind this anthology, is the strength in the storytelling, pulling from various aspects across the Australian landscape to combine and make a cohesive and powerful narrative of our great southern land. When it came to selecting the stories that would bind together for Dark Whispers Vol. 1, what specifically were you looking for?
I worked with Briony Kidd, festival director of Stranger With My Face International Film Festival (SWMFIFF)on the curation of the anthology and we received submissions via the general callout as well as approaching people directly to ask them to submit. Briony’s work on her festival meant she was privy to some great films that weren’t on my radar and gave us a good cross-section of films to consider. When submissions closed, we created a long list for discussion based on the film’s horror characteristics, as well as the quality of directing, acting, production values, script and originality. There was no set theme required for these films beyond it being a horror film by a female identifying director who is a resident or citizen of Australia. We curated the films that resonated with us and that would complement the other films in the anthology.
Your vision overall was to shed light on the wealth of female talent in the industry, which has this great myth that there is a shallow pool out there. How did you go about shattering this myth and in what way do you hope that Dark Whispers will transform the cinema audiences expectations?
The very act of creating a women’s horror anthology and kicking off the project with a call out to the Australian screen industry for horror films by women generated a discussion around the issue and now with the festival release, it is helping to recalibrate our expectations of who can be a horror filmmaker. At our Melbourne Monster Fest screening we had several emerging women horror filmmakers in the audience who said that up ’til they point, they felt like they were the lone female horror maker amongst their peers and that they felt hopeful seeing a whole bunch of other women out their creating really great content. I am a firm believer in ‘If you can see it, you can be it”.
With 10 fellow directors involved in the short features in the film, how much weight did you allow them to let their creativity flourish?
We discovered these films when they were fully complete, so had no impact on how they were made, however I was heavily influenced by each film when it came time to write and direct the wraparound segment which tied each segment together.
You have spoken about recent inspirations from anthologies, A Night of Horror and XX. What did you learn from these films and how did that impact on your direction?
There is a rich history of horror, thriller and sci-fi anthologies over the years from the likes of Twilight Zone & Creepshow to the more recent Southbound, Black Mirror, ABC’s of Death and Holidays and they all use their own devices to create a cohesive bond around the Anthology. As an audience member, I really enjoy it when there are “easter eggs” that tie otherwise disparate chapters together – whether it be a prop, a stylistic choice, a reference to a time or place or character that pops up in a different episode. The two anthologies in particular that gave me the impetus to actually make Dark Whispers are A Night of Horror and XX which both came out about the same time. A Night of Horror was also curated from existing films and I really enjoyed the way they developed their wrap around, referencing each proceeding film with the horror element within it – This project showed me that it was achievable to create a really great project with a low budget and I knew it was something that I could take on, especially once Enzo Tedeschi, the creator of that anthology, come onboard as Executive Producer on the film. XX was also a big inspiration – it was one of the first female horror anthologies out there and I wanted to do an Australian version for the horror filmmakers being overlooked here.
You’re a creative artist yourself and direct the segments called The Book of Whispers that unite the ten tales together. What inspirations do you draw from in the creative process and what challenges did you face when creating this anthology?
Due to the broad call out for horror films, I wasn’t able to start working on the wrap around segment until we had locked in the final 10 films. It was at that point that I started breaking down the inherent themes and similarities the films shared. Many of the films explored longing, grief, regret and navigating life. There were several films about family, kinship and motherhood and I was curious about the idea that we carry dark lessons with us from one generation to the next and we need to learn how to deal with carrying the darkness in life without succumbing to it. The concept at the centre of the anthology is around a haunted book which is passed between helped to unify the diverse chapters within it.
The Book of Whispers centers around one character played by the magnificent Andrea Demetriades. How did she become involved in the project and what was it like working with her?
My producing partner Leonie Marsh and I were brainstorming ideas about who could play our lead Clara and we both thought of Andrea Demetriades. We have loved seeing her work on Crownies, Pulse and Janet King and thought she would be perfect for the role. Working with Andrea was wonderful, we only had one day to shoot all her scenes and she jumped right in and nailed it.
What has been the reaction you have received so far, and could we expect a Vol.2? Are there any other future projects on the horizon?
We are proud of Volume 1 and are really pleased with the response during our festival release. We will gauge how we go over the following six months but are definitely planning a Volume 2 – whether that be a second horror anthology or perhaps steering over to explore science fiction. Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment, in whatever guise that might be!
Dark Whispers Vol.1 will be screening at Monsterfest Australia 2019, where cast and crew will be available for a Q&A post film screening time below:
SUNDAY3rdNOVEMBER, 6.15PM Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney