There’s something delightful about watching the camp and extreme elements and personalities on display and with Death Drop Gorgeous the ugly side of the beauty is brought to the fore and is quite rightly been described as an ode to the works of John Waters.
It’s not surprising that it became a festival favourite during its run, as despite its low budget hurdles and all that comes with that, DDG celebrates the dark and drips with bitchiness throughout.
Written, Directed, and Starring Michael J. Ahern, Christopher Dalpe, and Brandon Perras, who manage to work together and produce an insipid view of the drag queen world despite the obvious flaws on show.
There is a mysterious, masked serial killer on the loose, who appears to be targeting young gay men and draining them of blood. A frustrated bartender, Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves) and an aged drag queen are left to fight for survival in a corrupt world and try to find out who is threatening to bring their world to an end.
Death Drop Gorgeous is a wickedly, savage slasher flick with some half-decent kills.
It’s an enjoyable run despite its budget restrictions and it’s a helluva lot of fun all the same.
Martyrs Lane is a slow painful pull into a deep and psychological dive into grief, blame, and self-destruction immersed inside an insular family dynamic.
We witness this story from the perspective of 10 year old girl, Leah (Kiera Thompson) at the family home, an old vicarage, who begins to unearth hidden secrets that her family members have tried to bury.
Slowly, Leah is provided with clues to point her (or lure her) in the direction of truth, but who is behind the mystery and what is the price of uncovering past haunts?
The pacing of this movie is deliberately drawn out to build up the tension of the tale which is to be commended, especially as the actors of the piece beautifully tap into the darkness. It does however serve as a detriment to our engagement, often suffering under the weight of its own caliginosity. There are listless moments throughout the film as we’re often left to languidly drift through the storyline unable to connect.
Ruth Platt’s third outing in the director’s chair proves that she’s no stranger to the craft and manages to steer her actors through a pot-boiler that wrangles every ounce of drama out of them. The children in particular deserve high praise, with some naturalistic performances that grind the drama into a sense of realism.
A hard film to engage with and fall into some of the admittedly beautiful shots on display,
The performances are great and if you bide your time and indulge in the slow pacing, you will be rewarded with a fantastic tale.
On face value Superhost begins by focusing on insipidly vacuous couple Claire (Sara Canning – The Vampire Diaries) and Teddy (Osric Chau – Supernatural) are unbearably false and vain, which is the point right? But as the story unfolds there are glimpses of their former selves, prior to the burning desire to boost their social ratings.
Claire’s and Teddy are a duo travel vloggers who spend their time residing in airbnb’s and promoting their thoughts of the locations and more importantly their hosts online.
Worried that their numbers and fanbase appear to be dwindling they start to up the ante in how to turn around their bad fortune.
So at their next location, when things appear to be hitting a dull point, they encounter more than they bargain for, but is it from the psychotic former host, Vera (Barbara Crampton – Re-Animator) from a previous location that they stayed at leaving unfavourable reviews? Or will it be the slightly off-kilter host Rebecca (Gracie Gillam – Fright Night) from their current place of stay?
Director Brandon Christensen (Still/Born; Z) much like his previous films manages to generate some genuinely cool moments. Here it is notably enhanced by the performances from Crampton and Gillam, but the end result is a mediocre affair and doesn’t generate much of a flicker outside of originality.
There’s enough here to entertain but not necessarily to stimulate.
I really wanted to champion this movie. After all, not only is it a homegrown movie and for this Surgeons of Horror love to support where we can; and it also boasts Cassandra Magrath (Wolf Creek) as its lead protagonist.
Unfortunately the story falls short of expectations, lost in the murkiness of the folklore that it was trying to create and one can’t help but feel that it is the writing that is lacking in depth or clarity.
It’s not like Australia is incapable of producing witchery or the dark arts with investigation and mystery. One need only look at the fantastic series The Gloaming written by Vicky Madden to see what it takes to do this with a contemporary feel and to do it well. Sure, this was worked into a series with ample time to allow the characters to acquire the depth needed to dive into the enigma, but that feels like an easy out as what transpires out of The Witches of Blackwood lacks anything solid for the audience to grab onto and as such, we lose interest quite swiftly.
Haunted by an incident while on duty as a police officer, Claire (Magrath) returns to her old stomping ground to heal old wounds and new ones following the wake of her mother’s death. When she arrives in Blackwood however, she is met with ill-feeling and strange encounters from the locals. This leads her to find her inner sleuth once more, to uncover what people are hiding and revelations that will test her will.
I thought that Magrath was compelling in this and given the chance to show off her acting abilities that have have been left to the wind in other recent movies. Director Kate Whitbread carves out some beautiful moments to highlight the harsh yet beautiful landscape that Australia has to offer, but without any real substance, the film simply can’t lift itself out of the quagmire, sinking into a shallow plot.
Rasmus Merivoo’s latest feature Kratt which is currently screening as part of the 2021 Sydney Underground Film Festival taps into a warped fantastical world, resurrecting the magic of fairy tales in the vein of The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. Here the director propels the stories through a modern lens, with the impact of the internet and social media.
Part of its charm is that the story is told through the eyes of a couple of teens Mia (Nora Merivoo) and Kevin (Harri Merivoo) who are forced to stay with their Grandmother (Mari Lill) while their parents go on a spiritual retreat. Just when they think that their world is heading straight for a world of boredom, and seemingly the only people in town without wifi connection, Mia and Kevin stumble across the instructions to build their own kratt – a mythical creature formed from hay and household materials (think something similar to the golem). The promise that the kratt could bring them wealth and fortune is an opportunity that they are not willing to miss and bring some much needed life into their dull lives.
All does not go according to plan however as the kratt enters into the body of their grandmother and the kids are compelled to find work for her for fear that the entity may turn on them at any given moment.
There are moments where Merivoo blends the quirkiness of eccentric locals from business guru to an occult-like group dedicated to facebook, and wielding torches at the first sign of trouble, and mop-headed priest, who believes he may be of service to
The kids through the power of God.
Merivoo taps into the old-Estonian folklore and places it firmly in a modern-day setting, but keeps the quirks embedded into the tale to bring a little edge to the scene. There is subtle humour on display here too with performances played with tongues firmly in cheek adding a little flavour to the narrative along the way.
Since Donald Sutherland pointed his finger and wailed in the closing credits of 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers I’ve loved the whole alien assimilation scene. Currently screening as part of the 2021 Sydney Underground Film Festival comes an Australian voice to the subgenre in An Ideal Host.Channeling that voice is Robert Woods in his directorial feature debut, who fires off on all cylinders with that unique Australian humour, pulling in the words from screenwriter Tyler Jacob Jones and bringing them to life.
Leading what appears to be an idyllic life, Liz (Nadia Collins) and Jackson (Evan Williams)as they set themselves up in a country town with their sweeping views of a serene yet rugged landscape (and cows). There’s a little more going on beneath the surface as Liz seeks to have everything perfect and in place ahead of a dinner party for the close friends, They’ve even rehearsed a wedding proposal to be performed before their guests during the course of the evening. And yet, you constantly question Jackson’s true motives.
All of which comes secondary when an old friend, Daisy (Naomi Brockwell) invites herself along to the occasion with the threat of destroying the tranquility with her wild and unpredictable ways. Daisy would prove to be the last of Liz’s problems however, when further unexpected visitors make their presence known and start to take control of the human bodies and a plan to take over the town and beyond.
What strikes you about this film though besides the comedy beats is the special effects on show, a testament to Woods vision, when the tentacled creatures make their presence felt. The beauty on display though is the way that Woods slowly dials this up through to a carnage-filled conclusion, leaving you grimacing with glee. You can tell that he has honed his craft with an energy that entertains and delights the audience.
Director Robert Woods proves again that Australia has a distinctive voice when it comes to horror. His blend of humour, effects and narrative shine through to the fore. The beats when hit are strong and effective which is orchestrated with precision.
An Ideal Host surprises through the shifts and tones which also proves that Woods can draw you into the narrative before unleashing a gritty, and savagely satisfying end.
Neill Blomkamp is possibly one of the pioneers in modern creative and technological filmmakers and his latest offering Demonic has sought him to look beyond the lockdown restrictions to produce a film that could still test his innovative storytelling techniques through a new medium. His choice of flexing his vision is through volumetric video capture technology.
There are some curious elements that weave together though the narrative which has a mix of grit or raw energy to it and equally the volumetric video capture used is glitchy and unpolished, something that Blomkamp openly admits, but this for me is part of its appeal and gives substance to the film.
Carly’s (Carly Pope) past has been dormant since the events that happened to her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt). Events that slowly spill out and reveal themselves in the course of her journey to find the truth, but one that leads her on a path to something sinister lurking in the underworld, waiting to be unleashed.
Sometimes we’re only willing to see things from our own perspectives and not go beyond them to understand the views of others. What becomes apparent to Carly is that her mother didn’t simply lose her way and go mad overnight but something else lured her into its domain and controlled her actions.
The opportunity to confront her past and her mother comes to Carly in an unusual fashion when she is approached by a physician and his team to visit her mother, (who is now in a coma,) she can enter through a mindscape using new technology. In her mother’s mindscape, Carly tries to find the answers to what tormented her but in doing so, a portal is opened and a bridge formed that allows a demonic force to find a way back into the real world. Carly must team up with her childhood friend Martin (Chris William Martin) to see if they can prevent the demon from inflicting its wrath on all those that stand in its way.
There is a great element that is slightly lacking here though and felt ripe for further opportunity to explore further in a team of religious SWAT members, charged with exorcising demons in a kick-ass military way, but we’re only treated to the aftermath.
Carly’s descent into her past and the investigative way that she goes about finding the reasons for who she is is what holds you to the story and draws you in.
This along with the uncanny valley feel that the volumetric video capturing does to put you off ease, providing that sense of ill-feeling when Carly enters an alternate domain.
The downfall however is that there are moments in the movie that prove a struggle to connect with and feels too disjointed. It’s a catch-22 situation because part of Demonic’s raw appeal is also what makes the film feel incomplete.
I still applaud Blomkamp’s direction and experimental approach but this one didn’t manage to tick all the boxes.
Demonic will be available to stream across all key digital channels from September 15 and on DVD/Blu-ray from 22 September.
Dave (Tom Vermeir) is a reluctant caretaker of the titular Hotel Poseidon, which lives and breathes its namesake, through the visuals that ooze and breathe its putridity through the screen and submerges you deep within its sensuous void.
The fact that our hapless protagonist has succumbed to the world around him drifting from one alluring scene to the next, lures the viewer deeper into its dark abyss.
Bequeathed to him by his late father, the aquatic themed hotel embodies the characteristics of the Greek God with its swings of temperament, once providing a mood of destruction and anger in a wake of earth shattering proportions before drifting into a jubilant buoyancy, lifting its occupants into a heightened frenzy before crashing once more into melancholy.
Like our protagonist, some of the emotions become overwhelming and the hotel guests overbearing, smothering the essence of humanity out from between its decaying walls. Dave often has to retreat into a false slumber in order to rest from the fury, but it’s always short lived. His infatuation with some of the guests also bring him to decrepitude; a human shipwreck banked on the ocean floor struggling to breathe. The longer he stays submerged, the higher the stakes that he will become a permanent resident in the watery grave.
Stefan Lernous manages to craft a hypnotic film both with his direction and writing style and works this in harmony with Geert Verstraete’s visuals. It’s clear that Lernous draws from his acting theatrical background to draw the best from his cast allowing each of them to flourish to provide strong performances across the board.
Beautifully shot and drenched in humanities faults to the point of smothering and heightened to the extreme.
It’s a slow beast however, which may not suit all tastes.
And so it comes to pass that one of the Surgeons of Horror’s favourite film festivals rears its beautifully ugly head to shed light on the dark and distrubed side of the celluloid screen.
Opening up the 2021 season of the Sydney Underground Film Festival is an Australian premiere from Kazakhstan that at face value can be poorly judged based on the opening 10 minutes. We’re painted a picture of a guy, Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) who seemingly is trapped in a loveless marriage, which he is forced to endure because of expecting their first child. This tone suddenly shifts however when Dastan suddenly goes on a fishing road trip with his two best friends, one who is trying to tap into his business prospects, the other a district police officer, all of who are bumbling buffoons, well outside of the comfort zone and trying to make the most of their outing.
To damn their characteristics isn’t one that scoffs at their downfall but more so embraces their faults with a humorous response to their ill choices along the way.
I read somewhere about the comparisons to The Coen Brothers movies in style and tone, and for this I can totally picture it, especially some of their earlier movies such as Blood Simple. The similarities see these loveable characters trip and fall over their own blunders in a journey that will question if they will see the end and live to tell the tale.
Along the way our trio fall foul of a quartet of questionable characters from the underbelly of the criminal world, who also come with their own level of ignoramuses. These brothers argue and object to their own decisions, tripping over each other to gain a level of power over one another, much to their own detriment.
In a chance encounter, Dastan and his friends witness the brothers blow the head off of a minion. From her on in, Dastan must strive to last the night and find their way back home without the know-how or intellect to do so. Throw into the mix, other oddities in a one-eyed spiritual kick-ass vigilante hell-bent on the revenge of the death of his dog; an enraptured odd young lady with the aid of her equally strange father, then we’re treated with a unique and funny tale that s a joy to behold.
Let this one absorb you and you will be entertained by the farcical, heightened dark comedy on display. There is a lot of fun on display here, and director Yernar Nurgaliyev manages to dance with the sense of humour aimed at your everyman trio subjected to the ridiculous in order to survive and provide a wake up call to the things that matter to them.
In a similar way to the recent Candymanfeature, Queen of Spades tries to tap into a mythological and sinister presence that channels its energies through mirrors or reflected surfaces. Where the previous movie was strung together through depth and integrity, QoS unfortunately does so through superfluous means and never strikes at the heart as a result.
Both films falter on getting the villain to rise or be invoked to carry out their will, and seem only too happy to just get to the nitty gritty, but without that substance to generate real fear from the entity in question, we left without the grit and just the nit.
So, cue troubled teen Anna (Ava Preston) with her mother, Mary (Kaelen Ohm) who is struggling with the burden of being a single parent. Cue a trio of friends/victims; Katy (Jamie Bloch), Sebastian (Eric Osborne), and Matthew (Nabil Rajo), who form the quartet of invokees, blindly following a path without fully being aware of the repercussions.
Cue the invoked spirit who welcomes the calling so that she can spread her curse and ruin the souls of those she encounters.
Cue the knowledgeable character who bears the weight of understanding and the key to stopping the spirit in her tracks, Smirnov; a man who’s own son fell prey to the Queen of Spades.
Maybe I’m just a bi disheartened by the lack of originality on display. Newcomers to the genre may well get a kick out of it, but the performances aside, all of which are solid, there is nothing to grip onto to shake the kernels and add a little creativity outside of the tracks and into the realms of new ground. Same old stuff on display here.
Despite some fairly decent performances, it’s not enough to shirk off the tired cliches that the film relies upon to keep you engaged.