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Friday
Aug162019

WOMEN OF OZ HORROR ANTHOLOGY TEASED IN FIRST TRAILER 

Hemlock & Cedar Films have released a teaser trailer for their horror anthology Dark Whispers – Volume 1 ahead of the World Premiere of the film at CinefestOz on August 30.

The selection of 10 horror shorts have been directed by Australian women filmmakers, with a wraparound narrative starring Andrea Demetriades (pictured, above) as ‘Clara’ and directed by Megan Riakos binding the diverse narratives.

The overarching plot focuses on Clara, as she begins to sort through her deceased mother’s home. She discovers a mysterious heirloom, the ‘Book of Dark Whispers’, filled with chapter after chapter of strange stories. Each weird tale reveals a new facet of the twisted human, or not so human, psyche. (Pictured, right; from left, 1st AC Carina Burke, Riakos, Demetriades. Photo: Lauren Orrell)

“Our motivation for making the film was to release more wicked and wonderful stories by women into the world, much as our protagonist unleashes powerful ideas with each page she turns,” says Riakos, director of the 2015 feature Crushed and NSW chair of the industry body Women in Film and Television (WIFT). “It’s a metaphor for the darkness that lurks within us all.”

In addition to Riakos, directors contributing to the project are Angie Black, Briony Kidd, Isabel Peppard, Janine Hewitt, Jub Clerc, Kaitlin Tinker, Katrina Irawati Graham, Lucy Gouldthorpe, Madeleine Purdy and Marion Pilowsky.

A high-profile roster of Australian acting talent is on board, including Asher Keddie (X-Men Origins: Wolverine; The Hunting), Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana; Holding the Man), Tosh Greenslade (Mad As Hell), Melanie Irons (Noirhouse) and Bree Desborough (Home and Away).

Riakos and producing partner Leonie Marsh are overseeing the project, with Deadhouse Films’ Enzo Tedeschi on board as Executive Producer and Briony Kidd, co-founder of female-focussed horror film event Stranger With My Face, serving as Associate Producer. (Pictured, left; l-r, Tedeschi, Riakos and Marsh) 

It was while attending Kidd’s Hobart-based festival that Riakos found inspiration for the project. In June, she told IF.com.au, “The festival focuses on female filmmakers whose films take a unique approach to genre storytelling. I wanted to bring films like that to a wider audience.”

Following the CinefestOz launch, Dark Whispers – Volume 1 will seek further festival placement ahead of a planned 2020 theatrical season.

Dark Whispers Vol. 1 OFFICAL TEASER from Megan Riakos on Vimeo.

 

Friday
Apr052019

ROTTENTAIL: THE BRIAN SKIBA INTERVIEW

Even with a filmography that includes gorehound favourites like Blood Moon Rising (2009), Slaughter Creek (2011) and .357 (2013), Brian Skiba must have been in the most adventurous of creative moods when he decided to sign on for Rottentail, the blood-soaked and bawdy big-screen adaptation of author and friend David Hayes underground graphic novel classic. “The concept of a bunny man going home to seek revenge on high school bullies is just so out there, I knew that I wanted to be the guy to helm such a project,” Skiba says, securing a cast that includes Dominique Swain, William McNamara and an up-for-anything Corin Nemec in the title role (pictured, below; Skiba, left, and his leading man). “It’s okay to laugh, I promise,” the director told SCREEN-SPACE in a lengthy interview ahead of Rottentail's assault on select U.S. theatres from April 12. 


SCREEN-SPACE: When did you first attach yourself to the adaptation? What was it about the creative minds behind the novel that you gravitated towards?

SKIBA: The writer David Hayes, who is a long-time friend, introduced me to Travis McIntire of Source Point Press and together the three of us developed of the film.  I’d read the graphic novel and thought it was very funny with roots that dug into something much deeper. Rottentail is the typical David Hayes screwball humour with a twist of demented horror and a splash of social commentary. David was a huge contributor on my first feature, Blood Moon Rising. I can attribute a lot of my success directly to him and will always be grateful for his help and direction in my career.

SCREEN-SPACE: You mash-up some classic sub-genres - body-horror in the first act; the vengeful anti-hero in the second half. And there are classic ‘romantic literature’ archetypes at work, recalling Beauty and The Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rottentail has legitimate roots in the great monsters of lore…

SKIBA: (Laughs) Thank you and yes, David and I are both English majors who love to mash genres. When we wrote the adaptation we were very focused on making Rottentail an anti-hero-monster who harkens back to the classic monsters mentioned above.  We wanted the audience to cheer for Rottentail.  With regards to him being “The Beast”, I think that’s a great example of how we wrote the relationship between Rottentail and Anna.  Spoiler alert… I love tragic endings.  

SCREEN-SPACE: Rottentail recalls the unleashed id of iconic characters like The Toxic Avenger and Brundlefly. What were the films and filmmakers that influenced you and your directing style?

SKIBA: I was that kid who would stay up all night watching every ‘B’ movie deemed “bad” by my parents that hit the antenna of my tiny 8” dial colour TV.  Kids these days have it so easy; if they knew the positions I would lay in while holding that antenna, just so I could get reception. (Laughs) And then rental stores became a thing and that was a whole new addiction. Films like Bloody Mama, Children of the Corn, Rolling Thunder, Ice Pirates, Cold Sweat, Enter the Dragon, and Swamp Thing; directors like Sam Raimi, De Palma, Craven, Carpenter, Bruce Lee and the comedy of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Cheech and Chong. I remember the first time I watched John Waters’ Pink Flamingo and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that is a work of art.’  I love really big characters that have deranged motives for almost no reason, so Rottentail made sense to me.

SCREEN-SPACE: The aesthetic screams ‘80s VHS horror. There is an authentic ‘griminess’ about the design and look of this film…

SKIBA: I chose a hybrid of old VHS and that ‘dirty film’ look, to homage those old VHS tapes.  There is something to be said about some 16mm grain, dirty pixels, a six-foot bunny-man, an evil preacher, and fifty gallons of blood.  To me, that’s a film.  Furthermore, you can’t just get the ‘grindhouse look’ out of a camera these days, you have to artistically create it, or re-create, and to me that process has become an art that I enjoy.  Rottentail is a grindhouse homage to the films I loved to watch as a pre-teen during the ‘80s. (Pictured, right; Skiba with friend)

SCREEN-SPACE: Given that he’s also an ugly manifestation of angry masculinity, what elements make Rottentail a character for these times?

SKIBA: You have to look at the entire Rottentail story to understand why we designed his look like we did.  In our current day of instant gratification, we’ve also entered the age of instant demoralization.  It’s so easy to feel like a complete piece of shit after spending five minutes on social media.  There is always someone richer, stronger, faster, sexier, better than you. Bullies can create a fake identity, go to someone’s profile, and virtually beat him or her up with little or no consequence. ‘Peter Cotten’ is the embodiment of a geek who has been abused all his life. As Rottentail, Peter gets everything he’s ever wanted, and then realizes that all he ever needed was revenge on the bullies who killed his pet rabbit and to get with his high school crush, Anna. The message that makes Rottentail a character for these times is: Attention bullies of the world!  If you kill someone’s pet rabbit (or post shitty stuff on Instagram or Facebook) watch out! You never know what mutated son of a bitch will pop out and pay what’s due.

SCREEN-SPACE: What was the pitch to Corin Nemec that got him on board? What did he bring to ‘Rottentail’ that was so crucial to the character?

SKIBA: When we started casting Rottentail I went through a couple hundred actors but didn’t feel any of them were the right fit.  I asked (casting director) Ricki Masler to call Corin Nemec, who is a great character actor and just maybe would do this part for me.  A few hours later I was on the phone with Corin, who is a prolific painter and collects graphic novels.  He read Rottentail long before our conversation and when I mentioned the title, and the fact he would play Rottentail, Corin was in. He studied the movements of rabbits, how they ate, even how they copulated.  We had his fake teeth made months before we shot the film and he would call me with different voices while wearing the teeth around his house. When he walked onto set after two-hours in the make-up chair, I knew he was Rottentail.  He embodied the role and gave us little gems that still make me laugh, even after seeing the film a couple hundred times. (Pictured, above; Nemec as 'Peter Cotten')

SCREEN-SPACE: What essential quality did real-world/non-CGI gore and prosthetic artistry bring to your film?   

SKIBA: If I can do it practically, I will.  I would study book after book as a kid on how to build creatures and models for film. The process fascinated me.  When you apply prosthetics to an actor there is a soul under all that foam and latex that gives the character life.  This is something that CGI can’t emulate.  When David and Travis came to me and asked that I direct the film, I told them my one term was that Rottentail had to look amazing no matter the cost. I reached out to producer Josh Tessier and he called Todd Tucker, known for Mrs. Doubtfire and Pirates of the Caribbean. Todd doesn’t do every film that drops on his front door step, but after I pitched him my vision for Rottentail, he was in.  His company provided our makeup effects, puppetry and special effects. I was very lucky to have such a great artist working with us.

SCREEN-SPACE: The thrill of seeing a man-rabbit on a killing spree aside, what do you hope your audience takes from the film?

SKIBA: I want them to laugh! This film has dumb moments, cheap moments, trashy moments, and just plain outrageously wrong moments.  Laugh at it!  Take ninety minutes of your life, let go of being politically correct, let the air out of the stuffy room! Forget the day to day grind that makes you an adult and re-live a simpler time, when we were all young and movies came in a little black box with reel-to-reel magnetic tape that sometimes made more noise than the single TV speaker.  Because, even without the high-end, million-dollar visual effects, those movies were pretty damn good and really fun to watch.

Wednesday
Mar062019

MONSTER FEST, EVENT CINEMAS AGREE TO SHARE MORE SHOCKS IN 2019

Monster Fest will expand their current arrangement with Australia’s largest exhibition chain Event Cinemas to bring a greater degree of horror film programming to key sites nationally it was announced today.

Since 2011, Monster Fest has been Melbourne’s leading genre festival event; in 2019, it returns to the Cinema Nova complex from October 11th to 13th for the 8th edition of the festival. This will be five full weeks ahead of the traditional late November dates usually occupied by Monster Fest, a move deemed necessary to accommodate the new national screening roster. It is anticipated that the first round of the Event Cinema sessions will coincide with the Halloween trading period before rolling out through November.

Monster Fest director Grant Hardie (pictured, right) has overseen successful ‘Travelling Roadshow’ events beyond the Melbourne base in recent years and views this new plan as the natural progression in the organisation’s relationship with exhibition giant. “Since we started the festival our plan has always been to take it nationally and make it the largest and best known genre festival in this part of the world,” Hardie said. “This continued partnership with Event Cinemas in 2019 makes this a reality.”

Claire Gandy (pictured, below), Event Cinema’s General Manager for Content, attended Monster Fest 2018 to discuss with Hardie his vision for a national horror festival rollout. “Having seen the continued growth of Monster Fest Melbourne in the last few years we at Event wanted to bring that experience to some of our major sites around the country,” said Gandy, “and we are very excited to see how we can work together to make that a reality.” In 2018, the 100 year-old cinema chain paired with the horror festival to turn a limited release run of the Nicholas Cage shocker Mandy into an old-fashioned late night cult movie smash. 

Last November, Monster Fest unveiled some of the most controversial genre titles of the year, including Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete with Mel Gibson, Jonas Akerlund’s Lords of Chaos and the latest provocation from Lars von Trier, the serial killer epic The House That Jack Built. The festival prides itself on supporting local talent, with Caitlin Stoller’s 30 Miles from Nowhere and Matthew Victor Pastor’s MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milkman having their World Premieres at Cinema Nova last year; it is envisioned these types of films will enjoy an unprecedented level of national exposure under the new initiative in large-scale auditoriums they may not otherwise occupy.

“In 2018 submissions increased by over 100%, and we had the strongest shorts program since the festival began,” says Hardie. “The interest internationally for Monster Fest is beyond our wildest dreams.” Submissions are now open for features, short films and expanded cinema projects for the expanded 2019 program.

Further information detailing the 2019 Monster Fest program and participating Event cinemas will be announced in the months ahead.

Wednesday
Nov212018

DEVIL WOMAN: THE HEIDI LEE DOUGLAS INTERVIEW

A fresh-faced environmentalist new to the frontline crusade against Tasmania’s ruthless logging practices has her inner beast unleashed in Devil Woman, an Aussie short-film riff on the werewolf legend that has had global festival crowds screaming in terrified delight. It is the brainchild of writer/director Heidi Lee Douglas, founder of Dark Lake Productions and one of Australia’s most socially aware filmmakers. Her work to date – the thriller Little Lamb (2014), documentary project Defendant 5 (2015) and striking music video Wish (2018) – offers rich insight and artistry in their exploration of gender identity, violence and environmental concerns. One of the sector's most pro-active advocates for diversity and equality, Douglas also presides as Co-Chair of the Australian chapter of Film Fatales, a global community of women feature film and television directors. 

Ahead of the Australian Premiere of Devil Woman at Monster Fest VII, Douglas (pictured, above; with actor Peter Healy) spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about her film's origins, aims and place amongst the all-too-rarely explored genre of female-focussed transformative eco-horror…    

SCREEN-SPACE: Devil Woman is a modern spin on classic werewolf mythology. What other influences and inspirations helped gel the concept in your mind?

DOUGLAS: I got the original idea back in 2007, when I was involved with the Tasmanian forest campaigns as a documentary filmmaker [at the time] the Tasmanian Devil facial tumour outbreak was discovered. It’s a horrifying, fatal disease; brutal in the way its cancerous ulcerations are transmitted via biting. I was travelling regularly through backwater logging towns that had a very ‘gothic frontier’ nature and almost post-apocalyptic blockade-style camps, and would witness violent confrontations between loggers and activists. 28 Days Later was the biggest stylistic influence to the original concept, and then I discovered Night of The Living Dead and Dawn of The Dead, which have the tradition of a zombie/contagion film with social issues as subtext. The werewolf/ transformation narrative was originally inspired by the analysis of folk tales in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves. Women transforming into animals to discover their true animalistic strength and power - I love that type of mythic storytelling. (pictured, above; actress Marigold Pazar as 'Eddy')

SCREEN-SPACE: Like all great horror films, Devil Woman tackles bigger issues as well as delivering the frights. You explore toxic masculinity, wide-eyed conservationists, and gender stereotypes across both sexes. Did you go with an attack plan?

DOUGLAS: I wanted to show the tough-as-nails women at blockade camps, which I had never seen represented on screen. Their isolation when up against these burly, angry loggers in real life is very scary and very loaded. The lead character ‘Eddy’ is a fish-out-of-water science student based on my own experience turning up to my first blockade as a student filmmaker, at Timbarra Gold Mine back in 1999. The film’s coda hints that we need to look beyond gender or any other political divides, because if we continue on a path of environmental destruction an apocalypse won’t discriminate. I’m thinking of the 1000 people still missing in the Californian wildfires right now. That is real life horror, real tragedy. Yet President Trump still denies climate change. (Pictured, above; Peter Healy as 'Reilly')

SCREEN-SPACE: The film is both a down’n’dirty bushland yarn and an extremely polished piece of filmmaking – shot in widescreen, against beautiful locations. Tell me about crafting the film’s aesthetic.

DOUGLAS: I looked at the way 28 Days Later and Children of Men were shot, to create that immediate, visceral, documentary-like experience of being in the world with the characters. I used scale in the frame to emphasis power, and colour palette to underlie transformation. Because my background is in documentary and editing I think in terms of coverage and how it will cut together, whilst Director of Photography Meg White (pictured, right) ensured it was also cinematic. We looked at Australian colonial art to think about representation of the forest in daylight, and what makes the Australian forest landscapes unique and scary. We used smoke haze on set in the camp to create texture. For the colour grade I was inspired by Deliverance to subtly reinforce humans as animals within the wilderness. The score was inspired by Dead Man using sparing rawness to imbue an isolated frontier feeling. The location is a main character in the story, so getting that right was very important. I couldn’t shoot it in Tasmania so I had to find a suitable location in regional NSW. Nerissa Davis and Alice Cregan, who brought first hand experience in logging blockades in Tasmania, ran the Art Department. They nailed the production design, which was important for authenticity.

SCREEN-SPACE: It’s an intrinsically Australian film, yet it’s travelling well, finding favour with festival programmers worldwide, having played London's FrightFest and Fantasia in Montreal, to name just two. The terrifically staged horror sequences aside, what are the elements that are resonating?

DOUGLAS: The thought provoking themes, the gritty score by my brother Ben Douglas, Meg White’s superb cinematography, the twists and turns in the plot. Audiences come away wanting a feature version, which is encouraging. There are some amazing films in the eco-horror sub genre such as The Birds, Godzilla, The Thing and Jaws. I reckon it’s a sub genre that’s ripe for modern exploration, and the reaction from audiences, film programmers and the film industry to Devil Woman suggests I’m right.

DEVIL WOMAN will screen Friday November 23 at Monster Fest VII at Carlton’s Cinema Nova. Full ticket and session details are at the festival’s official website.

Friday
Nov162018

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST VII: THE HOMECOMING

The 7th annual re-animating of Monster Fest, Australia’s premiere event for lovers of movies mean and macabre, has left no bloody stone unturned in its 2018 quest to disturb Australian audiences. Having rattled West Coast audiences with a Perth season in mid-October, the festival returns to its spiritual home - Cinema Nova, in the inner Melbourne suburb of Carlton - from November 22, with a schedule of shocking works that have stirred the cinematic pot around the world.

Of the 15 features to play the four-day event, two in particular arrive having stimulated some of the year’s most heated critical debate over the nature of violence in cinema. Monster Fest 2018 opens with Dragged Across Concrete, a bad cop/very bad cop thriller from writer/director S. Craig Zahler. The current enfant terrible of genre films, Zahler’s previous efforts Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017) reset the boundaries for on-screen violence; in his latest, Mel Gibson (pictured, top) and Vince Vaughan play disgraced cops who descend into society’s criminal sub-level to make end meets.

Critics have been largely on Zahler’s side; Dragged Across Concrete currently sits at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, with BirthMoviesDeath.com calling it “outlaw cinema at its finest”. But left-leaning press have gone after it; The Daily Beast published an op-ed piece under the headline, “Mel Gibson’s New Police Brutality Movie is a Vile, Racist, Right-Wing Fantasy”. Zahler also penned Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, a resurrection of producer Charles Band’s killer puppet franchise of yore, its Nazi-themed nuttiness adding fuel to the ‘right/left’ debate (it screens November 24).  

The festival then doubles down on controversy with The House That Jack Built, an epic study in homicidal sociopathy from Lars von Trier. Matt Dillon is mesmerising as a 1970s serial killer (heading a cast that includes Uma Thurman, Bruno Ganz and Jeremy Davies) in the 2½-hour film, a typically divisive, discomfiting drama from the Danish provocateur that inspired derision and walkouts at Cannes in May yet has been lauded as, “art without the boundaries of morality and reason” (SlantMagazine.com).

Two films will have their world premieres at this year’s festival - 30 Miles from Nowhere, a stylish and creepy addition to the ‘cabin-in-the-woods’ sub-genre from Caitlin Stoller, and Matthew Victor Pastor’s MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milkman, which the director describes as, “a bloody, milky, balls out, castration revenge tale.”

The roster of nine Australian premieres in the feature film line-up includes Jason Stone’s At First Light, a thrilling drama that melds teen angst energy with alien abduction mythology (trailer, above); Daniel Goldhaber’s online-sex/stolen identity thriller, Cam; the psycho-sexual chiller Pimped, from David Barker and featuring a searing lead turn from actress Ella Scott Lynch; and, from producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator; Aliens), Gregory Plotkin’s theme-park set love letter to 80s slasher pics, Hell Fest, featuring Amy Forsyth (pictured, right). Closing out the festival will be the Oz debut of Jonas Åkerlund’s Norwegian death-metal horror/comedy, Lords of Chaos.

Monster Fest 2018 will also celebrate the works of those that helped define the horror genre with one of the most comprehensive retrospective strands in the event’s history. With the blockbuster sequel to his genre-defining classic Halloween still in cinemas, digitally-restored prints will be screened of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981) and The Fog (1980); star Nicholas Hope will be present for a Q&A following the 25th anniversary presentation of his cult shocker, Bad Boy Bubby; and, Sam Raimi’s masterwork Evil Dead 2 will come alive via a 4K restoration print (trailer, below).

Fred Dekker’s fan favourite The Monster Squad will screen ahead of Andre Gower’s documentary Wolfman’s Got Nards, a light-hearted examination of the cult following enjoyed by the 1987 creature feature. And the Australian premiere of the anthology pic Nightmare Cinema, featuring five films from directors (pictured, below; from left) David Slade, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, Joe Dante and Alejandro Brugues, will be the inspiration for this years All-Night Marathon, with specially selected works (kept secret until the night) from the five filmmakers playing the popular midnight-to-dawn slot on Saturday November 24.

The invaluable contribution of the short film auteur to horror will be exalted, with 62 shorts programmed including four separate strands celebrating mini-features. The Saturday line-ups are bannered ‘After School’, with the best student works on offer, and ‘Final Girls’, showcasing the baddest of the genre’s femme fatales; then, on Sunday, the ‘Dead Things’ session presents a grab-bag of eclectic horror visions before the Southern capital’s off-kilter icon Dick Dale presents his revered, revolting potpourri of ‘cinematic atrocities and disasterpieces’, Trasharama A-Go-Go.

MONSTER FEST 2018 runs November 22-25 at Cinema Nova, Carlton. Full session and ticketing information can be found at the official website.