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Entries in Horror (8)

Saturday
Jan122019

PIERCING: THE MIA WASIKOWSKA INTERVIEW

Mia Wasikowska has spent the last decade establishing herself as one of the most daring and in-demand actresses working in film today. With only a handful of local credits to her name (including Greg McLean’s killer-croc romp, Rogue), Wasikowska hit the Hollywood casting circuit, where everyone noticed her immediately opposite Gabriel Byrne in the TV series In Treatment. In quick succession, she was sought out by such A-list directors as Edward Zwick (Defiance, with Daniel Craig); Lisa Cholodenko (the Oscar-nominated The Kids are All Right, with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore); Tim Burton (her breakthrough lead role in the blockbuster Alice in Wonderland, opposite Johnny Depp); Gus Van Sant (Restless); John Hillcoat (Lawless, with Tom Hardy); Chan-wook Park (Stoker, opposite Nicole Kidman); Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, with Tilda Swinton); John Curran (Tracks, for which she was AACTA-nominated); David Cronenberg (Maps to The Stars, co-starring Robert Pattinson); and, Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, with Jessica Chastain).

Her latest is the body-horror/romantic thriller Piercing, in which she stars opposite wanna-be psychopath Chris Abbott as a prostitute willing to go the gory distance with her latest john. The sophomore effort from The Eyes of The Mother director Nicolas Pesce, the film is playing a limited season in Australia before its US run begins on February 1. In front of a sold-out session at her local cinema, the Dendy arthouse multiplex in the cool inner-city Sydney suburb of Newtown (“It’s the first time I’ve been able to walk to a Q&A!”), Mia Wasikowska joined SCREEN-SPACE managing editor Simon Foster to discuss the light and dark of her latest challenging role… (Main photo: Sharif Hamza

SCREEN-SPACE: You were coming off a string of very big productions – Crimson Peak, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Man With The Iron Heart – when you took on the part of ‘Jackie’ in Piercing. Was part of the appeal its two-room shoot?

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah, sort of. I really wanted to do something modern, very contemporary, very different to the repressed women I’d been playing for the last few years; anything that means I didn’t have to wear a corset. This was the most obvious antidote. I was originally approached to play the wife, with an older actress set to play ‘Jackie’. Then, a week before shooting, shat actress fell out and Nicholas came to me and said, “How about you play Jackie?” I had 24 hours to decide and then I was into the role. (Pictured, right; with co-star, Christoper Abbott)

SCREEN-SPACE: So not a great deal of time was spent crafting a backstory for her?

WASIKOWSKA: I used to do that quite a bit, in my earlier days, but [now] I just like jumping in, not thinking about it too much. Especially with a character like Jackie, who is a character that could have overwhelmed me, it was better just to not overthink the part. As I get older, I’m looking for more and more movies that I just hope I am going to enjoy making.

SCREEN-SPACE: You put a lot of faith in your collaborators when taking on this sort of material. How did you find those early days with your director, Nicolas Pesce?

WASIKOWSKA: I was a little dubious (laughs). It is a bunch of men making this type of movie and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get when I turned up. I couldn’t quite figure out who was going to make this movie. But when I first met Nic I was really comforted by the fact that he just seemed like a really genuine guy, someone I could trust, and then the excitement set in. (Pictured, left; l-r, star Chris Abbott, Wasikowska, director Nicolas Pesce)

SCREEN-SPACE: Did you draw upon the same source material as Nicolas? Did you read Ryû Murakami novel?

WASIKOWSKA: No, I didn’t. I still haven’t (laughs). I didn’t have time. Chris, Nic and I decided that this film talks about the affect of trauma, notably childhood trauma. You get an indication, in those flashbacks, of what Reed has been through and how that applies to who he is now. We applied a similar thinking to Jackie. Although there is nothing stated in the film, I took the notion of two traumatised souls finding each other as a starting point to understanding her and their dynamic.

SCREEN-SPACE: Despite all the on-screen nastiness, it is a very sweet film, a true romance in every sense…

WASIKOWSKA: When we were making the film, we were always conscious of both sides of these characters. Of course, there is their darkness but there’s also a kind of childlike vulnerability or sweetness that comes through in their interactions. That subtext was really fun to play, given the outwardly nasty nature of the film’s context. (Pictured, right; Mia Wasikowska as 'Jackie' in Piercing)

SCREEN-SPACE: Piercing exists within the same sub-genre as Secretary or American Mary; the author’s previous work was adapted into Takashi Miike’s shocking masterpiece, Audition. Are these stories you would gravitate towards as viewer?

WASIKOWSKA: I would much sooner make this movie than watch it (laughs). I loved the idea of playing Jackie, not least because it allows you to be somewhat removed from the stylised graphic elements of the story. When we shot the scene where I stab my leg, I was fitted with the prosthetic and two guys on the other side of the room pumped blood through the holes. That’s hard to watch, but it was fun to play. When I made it clear to Nic that on-screen violence is not something I am always comfortable watching, he rationalised it away by telling me, “There’s no murder in the film, there’s no sex.” (Laughs) 

SCREEN-SPACE: The slightly surreal sense of time and place adds to the film’s allure…

WASIKOWSKA: I love that so much about Nic’s vision. You never see daylight in the film. Part of the set was a window, and outside that window was a screen that showed Asian cities that kept changing. He wanted everything about the setting to be somewhat disorienting, never allowing the audience to be sure where they were. He allowed me to use my normal accent, as part of bringing this eclectic style and feel into the mix. That confusion, that sense of slight unreality, is so much part of what the film is. (Pictured, left; Chris Abbott and Wasikowska)

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve made inner city Sydney your home. Does this mean you will be focussing on making more Australian films, or is this the hub from which you continue an international career?

WASIKOWSKA: I guess both, really. Of course, I’d love to do more work here at home. We have such a great industry, with wonderful storytellers and craftsman, so it is more just about if we have the funding to inspire them and increase the numbers of productions here. We have so much talent but sometimes we just don’t have the [financial] resources. That’s something that’s not necessarily in my control, but I’d love to work here more. I love living here and would love to be able to stay here to do my work.

Presented by Monster Fest in conjunction with Rialto Distribution, PIERCING is screening for a limited time via Dendy Cinemas. It is released in selected US markets and on VOD on February 1.  

Thursday
Aug092018

PREVIEW: 2018 SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL

The latest from New Zealand’s ‘New Wave of Comedy’, a German film student’s thesis being hailed as one of the most exciting debuts in years and a triptych of punkish retro classics are just some of the avenues that adventurous patrons can wander down at this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF). The 12th annual celebration of cinema that shocks, confounds and seduces kicks into gear September 13 at its spiritual home, the iconic Factory Theatre in Sydney’s inner-west.

The 4-day soiree leads with the Australian premiere of Mega Time Squad, a crowd-pleasing, off-kilter romp from across The Ditch. Having won hearts at the genre confab Fantasia (rogerebert.com called it a, “sci-fi mini-odyssey with lots of creativity and even more laugh-out-loud gags”), writer/director Tim van Dammen’s time-loop comedy features Anton Tenet as a wannabe gangster who stumbles upon mystical jewellery that allows for time-space shenanigans. Co-star Jonny Brugh, who stole all his scenes in What We Do in The Shadows, will attend Opening Night ahead of hosting the Screen Acting & Improv Workshop on Saturday, September 15.

The feature film roster runs to 27 idiosyncratic visions, including 11 Australian premieres. Most notable amongst the 2018 line-up is Tilman Singer’s Luz (pictured, top), a film-studies thesis project shot on 16mm that Variety lauded as, “equal measures demonic-possession thriller, experiment in formalist rigor, and flummoxing narrative puzzle-box.” Other sessions certain to rattle adventurous Sydney patrons include Reinert Kill’s Norwegian yuletide slasher epic Christmas Blood; director Ethan Hawke’s Blaze (pictured, right), a deconstructionist musical-biopic of redneck country music star Blaze Foley, starring Benjamin Dickey in the title role alongside Alia Shawkat and Sam Rockwell; Wang Jinsong’s How Far Tomorrow, one of the first Chinese films to address drug addiction and in doing so, defy the strict censorship laws governing the nation’s filmmakers; and, Lucio A. Rojas’ appropriately-titled Chilean home-invasion horror ordeal, Trauma (read our full review here).

Underground icons represented this year include Canadian badboy Bruce La Bruce with The Misandrists, a lesbian-anarchy patriarchal takedown that deconstructs feminist ideals; Sion Sono, whose buckets-of-blood mini-series opus Tokyo Vampire Hotel has been re-edited into a still-epic 144 minute theatrical cut; and Winnipeg’s favourite son Guy Maddin who, with collaborators, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, presents his latest montage masterwork, the Vertigo-inspired The Green Fog.

SUFF will also recognize one of the lesser-known DIY giants of alternative art in the form of Stephen Groo, a micro-budget auteur whose output of over 180 films of next-to-no quality has earned him cult(ish) status and fans such as Napoleon Dynamite filmmaker Jared Hess, screenwriter Mike White and Jemaine Clements. Scott Christopherson’s profile-doc The Magic of Groo will screen ahead of the World Premiere of Groo’s latest effort, a remake of his own 2003 film The Unexpected Race, which this time around has ensnared Jack Black in a lead role (pictured, right).

The always-popular retrospective sessions include a 30th anniversary screening of William Lustig’s cult ‘video nasty’ Maniac Cop, set to screen after the Sydney premiere of the documentary King Cohen, a profile of the legendary Larry Cohen, the film’s writer (read our review of King Cohen here); a restored print of Slava Tsukerman’s 1982 post-punk/alien invasion oddity, Liquid Sky; and, with director Alex Proyas in attendance to front a post-screening Q&A, the 1989 dystopian desert-world freak-out Spirits of The Air, Gremlins of The Clouds. Also enjoying a resurrection of sorts will be Charles Band’s VHS-fuelled Puppet Master franchise, with the latest installment Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (written by Bone Tomahawk’s Craig Zahler) having its Australian Premiere at The Factory.

The 2018 factual film program once again honours a diverse range of free-thinkers, from vanguard artists (Oren Jacoby’s Shadowman, a profile of NYC street-artist Richard Hambleton; Philipp Jedicke’s study of enigmatic muso Chilly Gonzalez, Shut Up and Play the Piano; Chuck Smith’s Barbara Rubin & The Exploding New York Underground) to left-field theorists (Daniel J. Clarke’s insight into the Flat Earther’s movement, Behind the Curve; Werner Boote’s environmental industry expose, The Green Lie). Of the 13 feature-length docs programmed, six films bow on these shores for the first time, including Josh Polon’s MexMan and Jerry Tartaglia’s Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith.

The traditional five-tiered Short Film program returns, under the banners Love/Sick, LSD Factory, Ozploit!, Reality Bites and WTF! Most intriguing amongst the eclectic agenda is Allen Anders Live at The Comedy Castle Circa 1987 (pictured, right), a now legendary stand-up session meltdown that was thought to have been lost to time but which has resurfaced in all its grainy, white-knuckle glory thanks to director Laura Moss.

The 12th edition of SUFF will close out with one of the hottest genre titles on the 2018 festival circuit, Panos Cosmatos' bleak and brutal headscratcher, Mandy. Starring Nicholas Cage in one of the most critically-praised roles of his contemporary career, Cosmatos takes on 80s-style revenge-fantasy cinema with a pulsating urgency and nightmarish bent that Sight and Sound described as, "a mind-melting genre orgy of cosmic proportions that’s ridiculously fun."

The 2018 SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL will run September 13-16 at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville. Session and ticket information can be found at the events’ official website.

Saturday
Nov182017

LOST GULLY ROAD: THE DONNA MCRAE INTERVIEW

MONSTER FEST 2017: The great horror films, works that linger in the minds and hearts of genre fans, are those that have meaning, convey a message, confront truths. Writer/director Donna McRae’s Lost Gully Road establishes a classic ‘cabin in the woods’ premise; a lone heroine (Adele Perovic) in a secluded location, an unseen menace threatening her, physically and psychologically. But McRae, a Lecturer in Film & Television at Deakin University when not behind the camera, wanted to confront the very nature of violence against women within her genre setting. The shoot was isolated and McRae’s depiction of domestic brutality, unflinching. “I think that this was the only way to do it,” the director told SCREEN-SPACE, ahead of the World Premiere of Lost Gully Road at Monster Fest on November 25….

SCREEN-SPACE: Lost Gully Road adheres to an Australian cinematic tradition via its contemporary spin on the 'haunted country home' genre. What are the films, books and art that influenced the project?

MCRAE (pictured, above): A sub-genre of recent independent horror films has been the secluded house by the lake, or deep in the forest, as a site for psychological upheaval. Films like Honeymoon (2014) or Shelley (2016) use this trope well – the seclusion, the claustrophobia and the landscape. The Australian Gothic is fascinating, and I think the landscapes rather than films from here are influences, although I loved the elegant simplicity of Lake Mungo (2008) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and The Babadook (2014).  The presumed quiet of the bush is something that intrigues me. We scouted for locations in The Dandenongs frequently. It’s so cinematic but offers an uneasy feeling of one step wrong and you are lost. There is a sense of concealment; unlike the outback where you can see what is coming, in the forest one never knows what is out there. Having said this, some of my favourite films are the older ones that use the house as character, such as The Haunting (1963), The Innocents (1961) and, strangely, The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947).    

SCREEN-SPACE: A key thematic concern is how the past continues to haunt the present. Why is your film specifically, and the horror genre in general, so effective in dealing with grief and memory?

MCRAE: I have always been interested in ghosts and haunting. In fact my Phd was on (cinema) ghosts and memory. I feel that they are inextricably linked. The horror genre, or its subgenre the ‘ghost film’, is a fantastic place to delve into this area as it offers an arena to present many levels of an idea. You can represent grief or memory as a ghost, which, depending on which way the story goes, can be loving, traumatic or very nasty. So it is no wonder that this genre is so inventive. (Pictured, right; a scene from Lost Gully Road) 

SCREEN-SPACE: Your casting of Adele Perovic (pictured, below) catches her primed for her first feature lead role. How close was she to the 'Lucy' that you and writer Michael Vale envisioned, and what did she bring to the characterisation?

MCRAE: I had seen Adele on television, and was struck with the immediacy of her performance. When we first spoke, she came across as the embodiment of our character – a millennial that was smart, aware of the world around her but with her own point of view. We only had two weeks to shoot so we had no rehearsal time scheduled, [yet] Adele gave the most naturalistic performance, which I doubt would have been possible if we had tried to rehearse. She put herself in the character’s shoes and just went with it. It was a textbook study of an actor producing truth.  It was important to us all that she remain ‘in the moment’, to make decisions for her character, and I would only interfere if I wasn’t seeing it in the monitor. It was risky, but having trained as an actor myself, I know how hard acting is on a film set, so I was happy to take the risk.  My DOP Laszlo Baranyai is a great believer in letting the actor do what they need to do and then we shoot it. Laszlo and I had days of script conversations, so by the time we got to the set, we had made many decisions. He just got on with his department and I concentrated on the performance. I did have my favourite scenes though in my head, like the one where she walks down the corridor with a camping lantern. I wanted it a particular way, so I very much led those.

SCREEN-SPACE: Violence and horror films go hand-in-hand, of course, but your use of violence is not exploitative or gratuitous. What functionality does your depiction of violence serve?

MCRAE: I needed to get my point across. I wanted to show a disintegration of trust and the complications of when no means no. It is a film about random and domestic violence and I saw no point tiptoeing around that. I made choices about how it would be done; I didn’t want to make it a typical ‘cinema’ depiction of domestic violence. As a female filmmaker I found it hard to write these scenes but they were connected to the story so they needed to be in there. These were the only scenes that we rehearsed with a stunt co-ordinator and we were very careful to make it seem real. The fact that Adele does it all by herself is amazing. (Pictured, above; the director, on location).

SCREEN-SPACE: The final frames hint at the cyclical nature of violence against women and the inevitability of those actions. Is that the message you hope audiences will take from the film?

MCRAE: The primary message that I want to get across is that no means no. It doesn’t mean yes but I’m just being coy, it means I’m not interested and please stop. Women’s actions should never be misconstrued. And yes, the last frames of the film do reflect the cyclical nature of violence against women. But there is also another aspect, and that is the enablers of this violence. I don’t want to give the story away but there are lessons to be learned here – and I have seen it time and time again – people let things slide because of connections.

LOST GULLY ROAD will have its World Premiere on Saturday November 25 as part of Monster Fest 2017. Ticket and session details can be found at the official festival website

Thursday
Apr132017

IN THE FLESH: THE JULIA DUCOURNAU INTERVIEW.

It was the film that became the cause célèbre at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, driven by a wave of glowing trade reviews and the passionate response from audience members, as they emerged ashen-faced from crowded screenings. Raw tells a contemporary tale of sibling rivalry and familial tradition, of a young woman (Garance Marillier) struggling to embrace a destiny forged in blood…literally. For writer/director Julia Ducournau, whose coming-of-age horror/drama earned her the Festival’s FIPRESCI 'Parallel Sections' Prize, it was a challenge to humanize her characters, even as they performed the most inhuman of acts. “Cannibals are usually the bad guys,” the French auteur told SCREEN-SPACE during her visit to Melbourne in November, where Raw earned Best Film honours at MonsterFest 2016

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the great joys of my 2016 Cannes experience was watching Raw with a receptive, energised audience. There was a point – let’s call it the ‘finger scene’ – when we all realised the nature of the journey we’d undertaken…

JULIA: That is so good to hear, because that is so much about what I am aiming at in my film. You would know that, since you started watching horror movies behind your parents back, you do it with your friends or your sister or your cousin. You do it under a blanket or behind cushions on the couch, bonding with that other person over whatever is happening on the screen. It is a scary but also a joyous aspect of watching horror and I love working within a genre that inspires that sense of community, of complicity.

SCREEN-SPACE: What conventions of the cannibal genre did you want to embrace and explore and what tropes were you determined to avoid?

JULIA: I researched a lot of books, but I did not go back to the movies I had seen about cannibalism. I wanted to keep focussed on the ideas that had inspired my story and not over analyse the movies that had come before, so I was not thinking in terms of conventions. I love horror because it has its codes and it is interesting to subvert them, especially with body horror. The one thing I really wanted to adhere was a super realism. My main fear was that people would compare it to vampire or werewolf movies. I wanted people to really identify with this girl, and her needs and desires. I did not want to make it easy for the audience by putting a fantastic veil on it, by giving them some fantasy element that keeps them distant. I didn’t want anyone thinking, “Well, I can’t really identify with these girls because they don’t exist, so I am safe.” I want the audience to be vulnerable to Justine’s developing humanity and to draw comparisons to their own. If you find yourself identifying with a cannibal, you start questioning yourself as a person. The cannibals of such films as Cannibal Holocaust or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exist in some perverted version of the world. In Raw, I wanted it to be the opposite. (Pictured, above; Garance Marillier as Justine, in Raw)

SCREEN-SPACE: The film is unique in its depiction of sisterhood, both within the narrative and with reference to the often-constrictive boundaries the horror genre can place upon female characters.

JULIA: I wanted to talk about the love they share. It was important that, at the end of their story, there is heartbreak. They have to be separated, not because they want to but because it is deemed that they have to. Their paths are forever intertwined yet completely irreconcilable. This dynamic of love/hate, of rivalry, without ever being able to explain why they change moods from one scene to another is the (essence of) sisterhood, of a bond that every girl understands. I didn’t want any of those boring scenes where sisters spell out their issues to each other. I was trying to create a relationship where you didn’t have to have these explanatory scenes, but instead just go straight to the core of the bond they share.

SCREEN-SPACE: The themes also embrace that dark heart at the core of even the most seemingly pleasant family environment.

JULIA: That’s right, especially in the light of how family politics have been portrayed since the dawn of humanity in all the myths we have created. Back to the days of the pharaohs, through Shakespeare and right up until today, the dark side of the family unit is portrayed as incestuous, cannibalistic, as a rivalry exposed. It is always portrayed in very violent ways. So we are prepared for the family horrors in my film, because we have read Greek tragedy and we have read the Bible. It works in all languages, especially cinematically. (Pictured, left; Marillier and Ella Rumpf, as Alexia, in Raw)

SCREEN-SPACE: In terms of your national cinema, your strong female leads fit well with the great films of the French Extreme movement, like Martyrs and Haute Tension.

JULIA: There is no French Extreme movement. What are we talking about exactly? There are, maybe, seven films that have been made over the course of 20 years. Do you call that a ‘New Wave’, a ‘Movement’?

SCREEN-SPACE: Those films, and films like Inside and Frontieres, reflect a very specific point in French genre cinema when your peers explored undeniably extreme depictions of horror…

JULIA: Those films are totally unrelated works, made by directors who barely know each, over the course of 20 years. For me, a ‘New Wave’ is when a small group of directors talk between themselves, establish a dogma that dictates the direction their collective works will take, like we had in France in the 60s. I am kind of sick of talking about this French Extreme movement that does not exist. I have talked about it with Alexandre Aja, who totally agrees with me. His movie that you mentioned, Haute tension, came out in the 90s! It is so old (Ed: Haute tension was released in France in June, 2003). How can you relate a movie that is 25 years old to what I am doing today? So much has changed. The context in which they are made has changed. I am sick of being put in the same bag just because we are French and we make genre movies.

SCREEN-SPACE: I wasn’t trying to imply that, but I would say that a direct line could be drawn between those films and the portrayal of violence that your film employs. There is a lineage, don’t you agree…?

JULIA: No, I don’t, not at all. And it is not that I don’t like these movies, some of them I like very much. But I am waiting for the writer or the journalist who writes the powerful essay that convinces me that any of what you say is true. You should do it!

(Pictured, above: l-r, Rabah Nait Oufella, Ella Rumpf, Ducournau, Marillier and Joana Preiss, Cannes 2016) 

SCREEN-SPACE: Maybe. Let’s talk specifically about your attitude to and use of gore.

JULIA: Well, I hate gratuitous violence. I always feel used, then I feel annoyed, then I am bored (laughs). If a movie starts with extreme violence, and ends exactly the same way, there has been no evolution. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has very intense action but very little blood, at least before you meet the family. That film achieves a remarkable sense of balance, which is important for me. Any violence that I portray is really the violence that is internal for my characters. Let me say that my problem is not that we are desensitized to violence, but more that violence is completely taken for granted. That is a terrible shame. One of the main reasons we make horror movies is so that we can explore and express our relationship with violence in the most channelled, precise and intelligent way we can. The opportunity to express one’s sense of violence in this way is not given to everyone, so it is more often repressed. Horror movies exist to help those people, and if you use them for no reason at all you are denying the viewer this act of catharsis. Horror movies have always been the true underground cinema, because we talk about what is repressed.

SCREEN-SPACE: You show an unflinching dedication to that principle in Raw…

JULIA: In my own small way, I was determined to show things that must be shown. And when I show it, it will be revealed in the most confrontational, full-frontal way possible, in a manner that stops you from looking away. Just like Cronenberg does in The Fly; very little camera movements, still shots, frontal, centre-of-frame, so that you cannot avert your gaze. This kind of cinema demands that you confront your own mortality. Then your film starts to work in the crevices between scenes, where the moments you don’t show add to the impact of what you eventually do show.

READ The SCREEN-SPACE review of Raw here.

Saturday
Nov052016

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST 2016

There was once a time when dabbling in the horror genre or grabbing a paycheck for some tawdry ‘B-thriller’ suggested an actor’s status was on the slide. One only need skim the star power on offer at Monster Fest 2016 to know that the richest characters and most compelling narratives in contemporary film exist amongst international cult cinema’s weird and wonderfully eclectic palette.

Newly appointed festival director Kier-La Janisse has adhered to a half-decade of high standards and festival traditions, topping and tailing the fifth edition of the four-day event with two of the year’s hottest horror titles. Opening night honours have been bestowed upon Julia Ducournau’s Raw (read the SCREEN-SPACE review here), the teen-cannibal shocker that has left a trail of rattled audiences since scoring the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes in May; closing out the programme will be Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, a bona-fide cult sensation that The New York Times noted, “overflows with extravagant flatulence, frenzied gore and preposterous copulation.”

Audiences drawn to name talent will seek out the frenzied gunplay of Free Fire, a collaboration between director Ben Wheatley, producer Martin Scorsese and the dream cast of Oscar winner Brie Larsen (pictured, top), Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Australia’s own Noah Taylor (also fronting Nick Jongerius’ backpacker slasher pic The Windmill Massacre); Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch in The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the gory mortuary-set English language debut of Troll Hunter director André Øvredal; and, Patrick Wilson, Jim Belushi, Ian McShane and an unhinged John Leguizamo in Spanish auteur Gonzalo López-Gallego’s bloody neo-western-noir, The Hollow Point (pictured, right).

Also certain to sell tickets are director Paul Schrader’s insanely anarchic Dog Eat Dog, a blackly comic crime thriller that stars Willem Dafoe and Nicholas Cage; Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton in Chris Peckover’s Yuletide home-invasion thriller, Safe Neighbourhood; a masterfully maniacal lead turn by Natasha Lyonne, opposite an against-type Chloe Sevigny as her trailer–trash bestie, in Danny Perez’s paranoid fever-dream, Antibirth (trailer, above); and good ol’ boy icon Burt Reynolds in documentarian Jesse Moss’ The Bandit, an adoring insider’s take on the late director Hal Needham and his 1977 blockbuster, Smokey and The Bandit.

The industry respect afforded Melbourne’s premiere genre showcase has meant the presence of international guests is all but assured. In 2016, the big draw is Ted Kotcheff, one of Hollywood’s most revered and respected directors. In addition to an ‘In Conversation’ event with director and genre expert Mark Hartley, Kotcheff will present rare screenings of some of his most enduring works, including the Australian classic Wake in Fright (1971); the iconic Sylvester Stallone thriller, First Blood (1982; pictured, right, Stallone and Kotcheff on-set); the cult favourite, Weekend at Bernie’s (1989); and, a digitally-restored print of his little-seen ‘religious cult’ drama, Split Image (1982), featuring Peter Fonda, Michael O’Keefe and Karen Allen.

In addition to Raw director Julia Ducournau and the stars of The Greasy Strangler, Michael St Michaels and Sky Elobar, guest attendees include director Neil Edwards, fronting for the Australian debut of his documentary Sympathy for The Devil: The True Story of The Process Church of The Final Judgement; Lao filmmaker Mattie Do, director of Dearest Sister, and the only woman to date to helm a feature film in her homeland; director Matthew Holmes and key cast members from the Australian bushranger saga, The Legend of Ben Hall (trailer, below); veteran producer Anthony I. Ginnane (Turkey Shoot, 1982; Thirst, 1979; Harlequin, 1980), who will front the panel, ‘Australia After Dark: Tales from The Golden Age of Ozploitation’; Jai Love, the young director of Dead Hands Dig Deep, a moving profile of 90s alt-music great, Kettle Cadaver frontman Edwin Borsheim; and Evrim Ersoy, festival programmer of the Texan genre event, Fantastic Fest.

Alongside the screening schedule, the sidebar Monster Academy will present a series of panels and Q&As, several of which offer free admission. In addition to the Ted Kotcheff talk, events will include a panel of women directors and festival programmers discussing ‘Genre Matters: Women Genre Filmmakers’; exploring the ins-&-outs of film festival strategizing, curating and presenting in Film Festival 101; and, a retrospective look at genre on the small-screen, including rare screenings of the Australian anthology series The Evil Touch, a witchcraft-themed episode of 70s cop drama, Homicide, the British ‘real life’ haunted house telemovie Ghost Watch, and a legitimate appraisal of the role of the supernatural in soap operas, called ‘Diedre Hall is The Devil’.

Monster Pictures boss Neil Foley will himself front one of the highlights of the week when filmmaker Geoffrey Wright leads an evening of 25th anniversary recollections of his controversial classic Romper Stomper, in which a young Foley had a small role as a skinhead neo-Nazi.

Monster Fest runs November 24-27 at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn; Monster Academy runs at several venues from November 23-24. All session and ticketing information at the official website.