|The 5th Annual A Night of Horror Film Festival has finished for another year. Another worthy collection of independent and under the radar horror films have been presented, making this festival an increasing must-see for fans of this genre. Where else are you going to find such a collection of eclectic thrills all on the big screen? So, after an exhausting ten days, over twenty hours of film watching, this writer can present a brief run-down on some of this year's program. Unfortunately I was unable to attend all the sessions, so this is not an exhaustive review of every film. But here are some of my thoughts on those sessions I did see of this year's program.
The Festival opened with a special preview night with two films. The first session featured the international premiere of Skew, followed by the second film, and Australian premiere, Ludlow. Lamentably I was unable to attend the opening sessions, but the Writer and Director of Skew, Seve Schelenz, a guest of the Festival, was kind enough to present me with a screener of his film. So I managed to watch this one in the comfort of my own home.
Skew (Dir: Seve Schelenz/Canada/2010)
Skew is the story of three friends who embark on a road trip to attend a friend's wedding. There is the young twenty-something couple Rich and Eva, and Rich's friend Simon. The tension starts right from the beginning when Simon's girlfriend Laura refuses to join them. Simon uses his video camera to record the whole trip, using it as a travelogue, showing various landmarks along the way (the giant Viking Head is a particular favourite). The trip starts to take a macabre turn when various strange events take place, such as when they hit a coyote on the road and they witness the aftermath of the shooting death of a hotel clerk. Parallel to these external tensions are the personal tensions between the three, escalated by Simon's continued use of the video camera and increasingly odd behaviour. And then the video camera seems to be predicting who is going to die next.
Taking five years to complete, Skew is an especially accomplished film. The simple use of visual effects proves that bigger is not always better, working in a way that is subtle and unnerving, while the use of the handheld camera to move the narrative is assured and intelligent. The camera informs the viewer in subtle ways of the relationship between the three with slightly overlong shots, others that are unsettling in being just off-centre, so that the camera almost becomes a character in itself. The acting is solid, with Simon remaining faceless, leaving Eva and Rich to take up much of the screen time. The use of shocks and scares along the way keeps the plot moving at a good pace, and the climax will definitely have you thinking. This is a film of a high standard, and will hopefully gain a wider audience on the festival circuit.
The official Opening night was with the Australian film The Tunnel and New Zealand Film Wound. Really kicking myself that I missed these but work commitments got in the way.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk (Dir: Jen and Sylvia Soska/USA/2009)
First up for Night 2, a short film called Waffle was shown. A menacing little flick with plenty of excessive blood effects, self-mutilation, strange family dynamics and waffles. Short, sharp and suitably gruesome, a precursor to what was to follow, one hoped.
With a brief filmed introduction from the twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska who wrote, directed, produced and starred in this, away we went. The story revolves around the two sisters, one of whom is the bookish, churchy type while the other is a hellraiser, who fights and fucks with equal passion. When after a particularly big night, they discover a dead hooker in the boot of their car, the sisters and their friends try to come to a conclusion about what to do with the body.
While there were some good set-pieces, gore and comedy (particularly the scene where an arm is lost in traffic), this felt a somewhat lacking in direction. With some tightening this could have been more impressive. As it was, it left an impression of being overly long and that it wanted to be everything to everyone rather than trying to create its own identity.
The Reef (Dir:Andrew Traucki/Australia/2011)
The second session featured the new Australian film from director Andrew Trauchi of Black Water. Matt and his girlfriend Suzie, along with Matt's sister Kate, arrive at a remote part of the Queensland coast for a sailing holiday. There they meet Luke, Kate's ex-boyfriend and travelling with them is Luke's first mate. Once at sea, with some stunning location shots, the boat overturns, leaving the five of them to make a decision about what to do. The four friends, under Luke's firm argument that he can lead them to land, decide to swim for it, despite the risks involved. Pursued by a shark, the environment and battling their own fatigue, the film becomes a struggle for survival.
This is an impressive looking film, and the cinematography is stunning. The special effects involved in creating the shark are impressive. The overall atmosphere, despite being in sunshine, feels oppressive and threatening. For me, a bit more attention to character development would have helped me to care more about what happens to the four of them. However, this is quite a tense and effective addition to man versus shark film canon.
A Night of Horror 2011: Night 4 >>