|Unfortunately there was a clash of sessions tonight so I missed seeing the Australian Short Film showcases. I was particularly keen to see Joshua Long's Evil Dead-esque short film Axed having seen the trailer. However, the appeal of seeing Lance Henrikson proved too strong.
As has occurred on many of the sessions of this year's festival, we had the bonus of watching a short film. Based on the Ray Bradbury short story The Small Assassin was well-constructed and a lot of effort had been put in to getting the 1950's detail down. The story itself perhaps was not translated as well, leaving a feeling of it being incomplete.
Wilderness (Dir: Scooter Downey/USA/2010)
Wilderness is the debut feature of Scooter Downey. Gaining the participation of Lance Henrikson is a major coup, and here he is not doing some bit part but takes up a large part of the screen time. The story is about a father and son who are attempting to reconnect after some time apart. As the film unfolds, we learn about the reasons for this separation and the effect this has had on them both. While in the Wilderness, the father suffers an accident that necessitates the two of them banding together as they are repeatedly attacked by some unknown creature. The tension is handled well throughout, and the twin storylines are evenly paced as past and present collide. A tighter ending may have assisted, moving away from the metaphoric realms it goes into, would have made a greater impact. As it stands, however, this is a strong film and I look forward to seeing what happens next for Mr Downey.
Night 8 - Thursday, April 7
Midnight Son (Dir: Scott Leberecht/USA/2011)
Surprisingly, the first vampire feature I'd seen during this year's festival. Could this lack of fangs possibly be a reaction to the current wave of vampire fandom in the mainstream? Even Midnight Son derives more from one of my personal favourite Romero films, the stunning Martin than more traditional vampire films of late. A fact I was rather pleased about, as I suspect were the majority of attendees at the session.
Midnight Son is the story of Jacob, a security guard who works nights and paints sunsets in his blacked out apartment during the day. Hiding from the sun, ostensibly due to a rare skin disorder, Jacob notices other changes, physical and psychological, occurring to him as well. This sense of change, and of an overarching sense of impending doom, is accelerated when he meets Mary. She is a sometime bartender, and a slow courtship evolves between the two. When people start dying around Jacob, he begins to suspect that he is not who he thinks he may be.
Moody, beautifully shot and with a sense of its own timing, Midnight Son explores territory about who and what we are, and being our true selves. The Director is also comfortable with silences between the two leads, and it is in these quiet moments when the looks between the two reveal so much of the inner longing, but for blood or love you are never quite sure. The climax, when it comes, is suitably graphic and well-handled.
#12 (Dir: Jorje Krippe/USA/2011)
First off for the late session we had the short film The White Face, a stylised, sepia-toned period piece about robbery and the murder of a young woman. Vengeance comes in the form of the eponymous White Face of a painting on the wall. Very gothic and an interesting contrast to what would follow.
They had been playing trailers for #12 throughout many of the screenings I attended. These gave the impression that you would be seeing some Hostel or August Underground style torture porn type film, so expectations were for some sort of gruesome marathon.
After a false start (where we were shown a rough cut version with a different introduction) the official version was shown. An unnamed young man is forced to film a movie for a gang of masked men, allegedly for some indiscretion that is never fully explained. The gang have kidnapped his wife and the man is given a series of instructions to follow, all while filming. He is told to go to a hotel where he is instructed to kidnap a woman, someone whom the man apparently is familiar. She seems to know something about the men who are forcing him to film the night and is suitably terrified when she learns about his reasons and intentions. Once she is subdued, he then takes her to an abandoned apartment building, and the tension escalates from there, as the two attempt to survive the night.
Despite the expectations built from the previews, #12 is a different kind of film, closer in feel to Rec. Using the handheld camera technique gives this an intimate feel as the two main characters try to flee their captors and make sense of what is happening. While there is an element of torture in this film, this is a significantly different kind of experience. #12 focuses instead on the survival aspect, meaning that you get to see a lot of stairs as the two people run and hide from their tormentors. There is one protracted scene of torture, but is more of a psychological kind about what could happen rather than what one would expect. The viscera here is more of what has happened afterwards, such as finding a stack of bodies or another torture chamber, as the two stumble their way upwards and inwards. The filmmaker plays on our expectations about this genre of film to great effect as we watch two people trying to survive the night in an abandoned apartment building. There is little characterisation on offer, and a lot of questions remained unanswered, and the film could have benefited from another action sequence to break up the continual running. That said, this is a clever film and is suitably tense throughout.
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