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.
Strip away all the torture devices and wash away all the blood-soaked, gore-infested mayhem that the franchise has become synonymous for and some of you maybe questioning what’s left? But with James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original film that kick-started the whole Jigsaw frenzy the audience were treated to an exercise in constrained drama, flickered with tense, psychological elements that quite rightly projected the writer and director partnership into the Hollywood limelight as a result.
Part of Saw’s brilliance comes from the low-budget constraints that were placed on the making of the movie. Once the creative duo realised that the cheapest way to shoot a movie would be to have two actors in one room, this germ of an idea developed into the final product and the birth of Jigsaw and his twisted vision of justice.
Apparently the Jigsaw character began when Whannell feared that he had a brain tumour and pondered the notion of what he would do or need to do if he were only to have a year or two to live. This was the leaping point into the dark recesses of Jigsaws’ mind.
It’s this tightly shot, well structured movie that allowed Wan to develop his technique for manipulating lights and shadow to trick and deceive the audiences’ eye. He would harness this skill further with his sophomore film Dead Silence before working on his masterpiece, The Conjuring.
It wasn’t that easy getting budget for the movie though. With no luck gaining interest from their homeland in Australia, Wan and Whannell tried to taut their project in Los Angeles, but even then had to shoot a short feature to provide a proof of concept before getting any decent interest. You have to applaud their bravado to. So intent were they in getting their vision made, they insisted on having both directing and acting duties respectively. In the end it took newly formed production outfit, Twisted Pictures to give them their desires and have been behind every Saw movie since.
So with one half of the acting team already cast in Whannell as the photographer with a complex past, the team needed a decent actor opposite him as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a Doctor with an equally dubious past. In steps Cary Elwes, normally associated with his comical roles but proved worthwhile in this serious performance, more than holding his own and providing gravitas to the scenario.
The masterstroke comes with the casting of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw aka John Kramer, who simply owns his role and has propelled himself into horror movie history with his performance as the disturbed yet brilliant mind behind the various traps and tortuous devices throughout all the Saw movies.
So with the narrative played out with Adam and Dr. Lawrence wake up in a bathroom, chained to the floor with nothing but a corpse, a revolver, and a tape recorder to guide them on a journey that will test their metal and push them to the very limits of their intellect and perception.
Saw would be released in front of a Sundance audience for its initial premiere where Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights and the rest is history.
Since then, Wan has established a firm career in the director’s chair to the point hat he has been given the chance to give DC movies some decent crowd with Aquaman, and Whannell more recently carved his own success with Upgrade.
So for those who may have been apprehensive about checking out the origins of Jigsaw, before the bloodbath began, I’d recommend going back to the original source as you maybe pleasantly surprised by this outing with a clever, psychological thriller that is an example of how to shoot a low-budget movie with a lot of smarts and a decent narrative to keep the audience hooked.
It still stands strong 15 years on and my bet is that this will still be the case in another 15 years.
Upon writing this review I have to premise my following thoughts by stating that I am a huge fan of everything that Ruth Wilson stars in and as such am fully prepared to admit that I may well have views this movie with Rose-tinted glasses on.
Throw into the mix that Osgood Perkins (son of actor, Anthony Perkins) who in his sophomore outing offers an atmospheric ‘vintage style’ horror that resonates and chills.
Much like his directorial debut, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Perkins tells a slow-burn tale which is both it’s pro and con.
Fans of this style of storytelling will immerse themselves into the narrative whereas equally I can see how some viewers will and can struggle. Perhaps in some cases nod off to its sense of lull that barely registers a heartbeat in places.
In essence the story hinges on the performance of its lead, which brings me back to those aforementioned glasses and Ruth Wilson once again cuts a fine performance as Lily Saylor, a live-in nurse who status to suspect that her elderly employees house maybe haunted.
Carrying the lions share of the screen throughout the 87min running time, Wilson weaves an intriguing character who appears to suit the lifestyle of a ‘loner’ and through her character delves into the history of the house and its owner which slowly unravels a mystery where she may not return from.
Whilst watching this film, it’s easy to see why it has been likened to the works of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick with its rich stylisation.
Whilst it might not be for everyone, Perkins paints a story that stays firmly in the mind and from this writers perspective, is fast becoming a director to keep firm tabs on.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we followed see some awards thrown his way down the track if he continues on this kind of trajectory.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter churns away at the soul and the psyche with a slow and effective grind that resonates deeply.
Osgood Perkins directorial debut which he also penned may not be for everyone with a pace that is so slow you’d be forgiven for that thinking that you were positively stationary.
What lifts this above most standard fare is the performances of Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) who continues to show a level of maturity that belies her age and Emma Roberts (Nerve), who is also carving a strong career path with her film choices.
Told in two separate timelines that isn’t revealed until the climax, we initially follow Shipka’s Kat, a freshman who is waiting for her parents to pick her up from a prestigious boarding school for the holidays.
Surrounded by snow in a wintry climate that is reminiscent of Let The Right One In, Kat becomes increasingly more aloof and her behaviour more peculiar as a result.
Her sense of isolation is further exasperated as she fails to connect with the nuns at the school and the only other student on the premises, Rose (Lucy Boynton) who is herself too consumed with her own pregnancy that she fails to see Kat’s shrinking from the world and inner turmoil.
Meanwhile, Roberts’ Joan is making her own journey towards said boarding school where she is offered a lift by two parents grieving for the loss of their daughter.
The father seems sympathetic to Joan’s plight as if he recognises hisown daughter within her. The irony being that she is far from it and actually the perpetrator of his daughters death.
The struggle of human connectivity or lack thereof is front and centre of this film as the characters are minimal on number and those that we do see are so trapped in their own world that it’s no wonder that Kat is drawn to the darkness that surrounds us all and bows to the whims of a being that lurks beyond our own existence.
Perkins first attempt in the directors chair certainly impresses and it will be interesting to see what he does next as his vision feels like a strong one and for that he’s made a fan from this writer.