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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.

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