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A Norwegian death-metal tragi-comedy, a romantic millennial riff on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a sexy Aussie revenge-noir were the eclectic feature film honourees at Monster Fest 2018. The four-day event closed out its 7th season at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova last night, with an awards ceremony/after party that maintained the high spirits and horror community camaraderie that have become synonymous with Australia’s premiere horror film celebration.

A raucous true-life account of the toxic dynamic within an Oslo rock group, Jonas Åkerlund’s Lords of Chaos was the popular winner of the Golden Monster Award. Featuring a charismatic lead turn by Rory Culkin (pictured, above) as founder of the group Mayhem, whose legacy included genre-defining music, acts of domestic terrorism and murder, the announcement of the film’s win was met with a collective roar of approval from the large crowd, many of whom were metal aficionados energized by just having seen the Closing Night film.

Best International Film was awarded to Jason Stone’s First Light, an alien abduction-themed love story starring Stefanie Scott (pictured, right) as a teenager who returns imbued with special powers and Théodore Pellerin as the love-struck boy who helps her flee. Adapting story beats from Spielberg’s classic UFO tale, Stone deftly melds sci-fi elements, teen romance innocence, blue-collar suburban life and indie sector cool into a deeply affecting fantasy-drama.

David Barker’s Pimped, a dark dramatic thriller in which an act of sexual deception leads to fatal complications, earned the Best Australian Film trophy in a very closely contested category. So tight was the race for the top honour, feature judges Jon Nilsen, Film and Content executive from Event Cinemas, and SCREEN-SPACE managing editor Simon Foster awarded director Robbie Studsor a Special Jury Prize ‘for Artistry and Vision’ for his surreal Perth-shot Oz-noir thriller, Burning Kiss.

Not for the first time in his career, Lars Von Trier proved a divisive influence, with judges split over the worth of his serial killer epic, The House That Jack Built. It would ultimately earn the Dane the Best Director trophy, in a field that also featured S.Craig Zahler for his own controversy-rousing pic Dragged Across Concrete, and Gregory Plotkin for the stylish, crowd-pleasing ‘80s slasher homage Hell Fest. (Pictured, below; Von Trier, centre, with his cast at Cannes, 2018).   

Monster Fest’s commitment to the short form horror narrative was reinforced with a further four award categories honouring truncated terror stories, judged by the team behind the popular Plato’s Cave film show on Melbourne’s 3RRR 102.7 FM. The Best Victorian Short went to Feast on the Young, a dark-hearted ‘woodland nymph’ folk tale from Victorian College of the Arts graduate, Katia Mankuso; the Best Australian Short was won by Joshua Long for his colonial-era creepshow, Post Mortem Mary; and, Santiago Menghini’s kitchen-set nightmare Milk earned Best International Short. Taking the fan-favorite honours for Best Overall Short Film was the Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, a timely piece of MeToo-inspired pitch-black satire from Finnish filmmaker Ilja Rautsi.

The final award handed out was the Trasharama Golden Lomax, presented by the reliably 'engaging' raconteur Dick Dale, programmer of the iconic 'extreme shorts' program; it was bestowed upon US filmmaker Brian Lonano's BFF Girls. Awarded earlier during the festival was the Best Student Short, which was won by Neuroplug by Deakin University student Caleb Turland. 


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