Acolytes (2008)
By: Devon B. on January 18, 2010  | 
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 88 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jon Hewitt
Starring: Sebastian Gregory, Joshua Payne, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Michael Dorman
Screenplay: Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause
Country: Australia
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Not too long ago I had the opportunity to watch Dying Breed. While the movie wasn't entirely bad, it was awfully, awfully slow, and it made me wonder: hen did Australian horror get so boring? A movie about inbred, cannibal people and thylacines that can't keep me engaged has failed abysmally. Just the word "thylacine" made me want to rush out to the cinema to see it, but I couldn't quite convince my better half it would be as brilliant as I expected simply because there might be a Tasmanian tiger in it. Acolytes is another lacklustre flick marring Australia's good name.

A shy teenager has got a yearning for a girl who happens to be dating his best friend, and his best friend is a jerk. The yearner comes across a guy burying something in the woods, and all three friends go to dig it up. Before setting out, they've speculated it may be the body of a missing girl, but decide the best thing to do is go dig it up themselves. They do uncover a body, but it's not quite what they were expecting. The jerk has the clever idea to look for the killer without police involvement (the reason behind this logic is given later). The jerk also gets some other clever ideas, like falsely accusing the local bully of the crime, then driving past said bully's house while the cops are there just to make sure the bully knows who dobbed him in. The three friends accidentally find the killer, but they now have the bully after them...and because the movie has such a slow, lumbering set up, that's a third of the way into the film so I won't discuss the plot any further.

Acolytes is convoluted and confusing at first, but eventually the story starts to make sense (well, most of the story makes sense). The problem is, while the story has some nicely grim elements and some very bleak things to say about human nature, it's ultimately told in such a dreary fashion that no one will give a fuck. At one point I thought the movie must be nearly over and was dismayed when I found I was only an hour in, which is always a bad thing. Comparisons to Wolf Creek are unavoidable as both films share some real life inspiration, but Acolytes lacks anything to pull the viewer in. Joel Edgerton does a good job as the killer, but his character is far less flashy and entertaining than John Jarratt's and when he's not on screen Edgerton obviously can't save the film from the curse of tedious character development. Character development isn't always a death knell for a movie. Another recent Australian film, Boxing Day is nothing but character development, and that's a highly charged piece of cinema. The problem with the character development in Acolytes is that the characters being developed are dull, pretentious shits. I understand that they're troubled, emotionally scarred individuals, but that doesn't make them interesting. I spent enough time with cliques of wankers in high school, so didn't need to relive the drudgery through Acolytes.
The film is starkly photographed and the print is very clean. Colours are muted, nicely capturing a sense of bleakness, but also leaving the print a bit dark at times.
The audio is available in a 5.1 or an unlisted 2.0 mix. The 2.0 is a flatter sounding, naturally, but the 5.1 isn't hugely necessary.
Extra Features
There's a mildly interesting making of, "2" alternate endings which are darker than the theatrical ending, a commentary, extended interviews, the soundtrack in 5.1, the trailer and teaser trailers, deleted scenes, a pointless behind the scenes mash up, and trailers for other non-genre related Palace Films. The commentary is one that's been harshly cut together, and has the unnerving effect of seemingly like various people involved are yelling at you about the film. There're cuts within an individual's comments as well, which makes the track feel really jumpy. The alternate ending is discussed, but all that is explained is what happens on screen, so that's a bit pointless. Acolytes is described as having two alternate endings, but really it's more of one alternate ending and a coda that would go on that alternate ending.
The Verdict
Acolytes has a few nice moments, but the other 87 minutes aren't worth slogging through to get to them.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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