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Entries in Australian (4)

Thursday
Nov302017

THE MARSHES: THE ROGER SCOTT INTERVIEW

Time spent deep in one of New South Wales’ most beautiful yet misunderstood eco-systems can mess with a young man’s mind, if Roger Scott’s debut film is any indication. The Marshes is a psychological eco-thriller, brought to malevolent life by a new kind of mythological Australian killer, The Swagman. Ahead of the World Premiere of The Marshes at A Night of Horror Film Festival, Scott (pictured, below) spoke at length to SCREEN-SPACE about conjuring menace and mayhem from Australia’s dark past and stunning landscapes…

SCREEN-SPACE: When did the mythology of The Swagman, Australia's most iconic bush figure, strike you as the inspiration for a horror film?

SCOTT: Ten years ago, I was working in the Macquarie Marshes as a research assistant.  I had been struck by the landscape’s filmic nature and that it was an Australian environment that audiences never see. I had a fair amount of discontent with how we manage our landscapes, which fed into the story process. From local level water resource management through to global level climate issues, you could say I was gripped by fatalistic sense of horror. [So] horror was the only genre in which the narrative symbolism would have the power and plasticity I desired. And the fact that it was a landscape of billabongs and Coolibah trees brought Waltzing Matilda to mind. Once those elements had come together the story took on a life of it’s own.

SCREEN-SPACE: You pull a skilful bait-&-switch on your audience; the film opens with familiar genre tropes but then begins to deconstruct its own reality. What influences and inspirations did you draw upon?

SCOTT: My observations of the difference between people’s perceptions of the world they inhabit and the reality helped form that structure. To capture that, I drew upon films such as The Cabin In The Woods, Deliverance, 12 Years A Slave, The Descent, Onibaba, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Upstream Colour, Under the Skin, Walkabout and Sampson and Delilah. Also non-film sources such as the art of Alexis Rockman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Terra Incognita. (Pictured, above; the the three leads of The Marshes, on-set) 

SCREEN-SPACE: One way you defy horror traditions is by finding terror in broad daylight. What specific challenges did that hold?

SCOTT: Trying to create tension and horror without darkness meant we were relying more heavily on performance, pacing and psychology. Deliverance is a film that does this particularly well. Lighting was still an issue, of course. Giovanni (Lorusso, DOP) is experienced at shooting against the light, aided by Andy (Robertson, gaffer) who has decades of experience lighting in tricky locations, so he was able to create great images despite the limitations. Once the characters became lost in the reed beds I wanted the light to remain ‘mid-afternoon’ for the entire time they were lost. It reinforced that sense of being trapped in a maze-like timeless limbo. This added a scheduling headache for Elisa (Pascarel, 1st AD); there was a lot of ‘cheating’ of shoot times to achieve this. Going into the grade I was hoping for enough latitude in the images for our post team to balance. Thanks to Giovanni’s skills, we were able to balance them. (Pictured, above; Mathew Cooper, left, and Sam Delich)

SCREEN-SPACE: The Marshes continues our strong cinematic tradition of being fearful of the 'The Bush', of city folk being at the mercy of the mysteries of this huge land. How did the location influence your storytelling?

SCOTT: It is common for directors to say that the location was one of the characters in the film, but this is only true when changing locations changes the story. This landscape is entwined in the story. The physical features of the land effect the movements and decisions of the characters. It provides both ‘Pria’s world and the socio-political context for the story. It also gave us a beautiful sort of eerie Australian gothic. Audiences have come to expect that when characters in an Australian movie drive inland that they will arrive in a dry red environment, so being in the marshes immediately confounds those expectations. In some ways, the story continues the cinematic tradition you refer to, but in other ways, less so; it is more about being at the mercy of the mysteries of the mind. I hope that different audiences view it in different ways.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does The Marshes further demonise country types? That the 'hillbilly horror' genre takes a condescending 'city-vs-country' approach?  

SCOTT: The fact that The Swagman is a 19th century symbol makes it harder for audiences to draw parallels between him and country people today. A character such as [Wolf Creek’s ]Mick Taylor looks and sounds like people you can find in any small town. What is unavoidable is the idea that the bush is full of monsters, but then so too is the human mind. What is so great about The Swagman is that he is deeply ingrained in the national psyche. Demonising The Swagman makes it more difficult for people to use him as a lazy stereotype to refer to the bush or country people or nationalism or any of the purposes for which he is invoked. I wanted to disrupt the familiar symbols and structures people use to think about these things, to challenge their perceptions. (Pictured, above; Scott directing actress Dafna Kronental)

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Pria' is an unconventional female horror lead; from the first scene, she's a strong, determined, intelligent woman that clearly won't be a victim easily. Tell us about creating her and what Dafna Kronental brings to the role?  

SCOTT: I spoke to a lot of women in science to develop a character formed by the wealth of her experience, providing her with particular strengths and weaknesses. I was cautioned a number of times to maintain her likability in a way that doesn’t happen for male characters. I needed a very knowledgeable person at the heart of the story that wasn’t fearful of the bush. Dafna brought her own strength and intelligence to ‘Pria’ and worked hard to define the character’s vulnerability, because her failings and vulnerability are just as important to the narrative arc as her strength. And Dafna showed great physical aptitude, performing as she did day after day in the waders, the reeds and the cloying mud. Just traversing that landscape was no mean feat, let alone performing too. (Pictured, above; Kronental, as Pria)

SCREEN-SPACE: The opportunity exists for your villain to spawn a new horror franchise; were you conscious of the 'origins' factor in your narrative? 

SCOTT: We actually joked about it a bit as we were making the film, about what The Swagman’s next “adventure” might be but there was no grand plan in terms of a franchise. Telling this story well was my primary concern.

Read our review of The MARSHES here.

THE MARSHES will have its World Premiere at A Night of Horror Film Festival. Ticket and session details are available at the event's official website)

Friday
Nov172017

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST 2017

The nation’s slickest and sickest celebration of visceral cinema kicks off on November 23, when the 7th annual Monster Fest launches its 4-day 2017 line-up at Melbourne's iconic Lido Cinema. Feature film programmers Grant Hardie and Neil Foley know that the loyal patrons who have helped establish the festival’s reputation as Australia’s premiere genre film event expect to be challenged; this year, offerings include a killer pig, a demonic unicorn, a haunted 80’s arcade game and a newborn harbinger of the Apocalypse.

The Opening Night audience can expect to be rattled by Chris Sun’s Boar (pictured, below), a blood-soaked reworking of the ‘killer feral pig’ myth made famous by Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 cult hit, Razorback. Starring a who’s-who of Aussie genre greats (John Jarratt, Chris Haywood, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Ernie Dingo) alongside US horror icon Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; House of 1000 Corpses), the Queensland-based director’s fourth feature so impressed Universal Pictures local office that they picked up the project for an Australian theatrical season. Sun, producers Kris Maric and Christine Hulsby and key cast will front a post-screening Q&A.

True to its commitment to nurture Australian talent, Monster Fest 2017 will feature the World Premiere screening of five local films. Leigh Ormsby’s The Last Hope depicts a civilisation ravaged by a virus outbreak that mutates carriers into cannibalistic monsters; Tarnation, the latest tongue-in-cheek splatterfest from Murderdrome director Daniel Armstrong; Lost Gully Road, a moody haunted house story from Donna Mcrae; Travis Bain’s home invasion thriller, Landfall; and, from the directorial duo of Addison Heath and Jasmine Jakupi, the revenge-themed carnage of The Viper’s Hex.

Drawing from the organiser’s global festival and marketplace profile, six international productions will have their Australian premieres at The Lido. They are Can Evrenol’s brutal apocalyptic thriller Housewife, the Turkish filmmaker’s highly anticipated second feature after his 2015 shocker, Baskin; the German/Austrian co-production Cold Hell, from Stefan Ruzowitzky; Lowell Dean’s absurdist horror-comedy sequel, Another Wolfcop; Canadian Adam McDonald’s woodlands-set black magic thriller, Pyewacket; and, Purgatory Road, a rare foray into the international indie sector for local underground filmmaking hero, Mark Savage. Other countries represented at the event include Estonia (Rainer Sarnet’s November); Spain (Haritz Zubillaga’s The Glass Coffin); and, The USA (Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break).

Closing Night honours go to French director Coralie Fargeat’s brutal rape-retribution drama Revenge (pictured, top), a remarkable debut work that Variety called, “an exceptionally potent and sure-handed first feature… primed to rouse the self-selected few with the stomachs to handle it.” Last year, Monster Fest launched into the Australian marketplace the last great French horror film from a woman director, Julia Ducornau’s Raw. The teen-cannibal hit took the 2016 festival’s top competitive honour before endearing itself to a huge local fan base.

Shaping as arguably the highlight of Monster Fest 2017 will be the screening of King Cohen, director Steve Mitchell’s heartfelt tribute to guerrilla filmmaking great Larry Cohen (pictured, above right). Following the 11.00pm session, five of the legendary auteur’s works will screen in a midnight-to-dawn marathon. Monster Fest is keeping the titles in the all-night session a closely guarded secret, but fans are crossing fingers that ‘Cohen classics’ such as Black Caesar, Q The Winged Serpent and the rarely-seen God Told Me To feature in this exclusive festival event.

MONSTER FEST runs November 23-27 in Melbourne, with other states to follow. Full ticket and session details can be found at the event website.

Tuesday
Aug162016

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN: THE VANESSA MOLTZEN INTERVIEW

Traditionally, the western and horror films of legend are male dominated. But the real fan knows that the lifeblood of these genres are women characters; from icons like Annie Oakley and Ellen Ripley to the classic ‘final girl’ archetype who outwits the psycho-slasher, the ladies have been the strong, soulful yin to the dark yang of the bad guy. So when the genres collide and the dusty, outback western meets the apocalyptic zombie epic, the lead actress was going to have to be something special. Meet Vanessa Moltzen, star of Bullets for The Dead

A VCA graduate with key roles in genre pics I am Evangeline (2015) and Tracy (2016) to her credit, Moltzen commands the screen as Annie Blake in debutant director Michael Du-Shane’s splattery mash-up of hard-bitten frontier adventure and gut-gnawing undead shocker. Audiences get their first look at the statuesque Annie as she robs a bank and slays some innocents, a big-screen entrance as good as any in recent memory.

“We see her at the beginning of the film as a cold-blooded killer, (but) she needed to have some redeeming qualities,” says the actress, who left behind her Sydney base for an extensive location shoot in the Queensland wilderness. “It was apparent that Annie had a depth that was complex, and a pain from family history that was a struggle to overcome. I found her through research and improvisation."

Working from the broad outline provided in the script by Du-Shane and co-writer Joshua C. Birch (based upon their 2011 short, 26 Bullets Dead), the actress wove a backstory that helped reveal Annie’s psyche and shape the performance. ”I didn't want to make her some cardboard cut-out,” says Moltzen. “She had strong reasons for her reckless ways, was brought up in a less than ideal environment that shaped (her) behaviour.” The actress also saw in Annie a yearning for blood ties and the bond they create. “She lost her family so she created a new one in her gang of outlaws (played by Renaud Jardin, Troy MacKinder and Karl Blake). She is fiercely loyal and protective of them.”

One unique aspect of Annie’s character is her sexual guile, an allure that generates a palpable physical chemistry with tough-guy bounty hunter Dalton (Christopher Sommers; picture, below, with Moltzen), who is taking the gang in for the price on their heads. “It’s a front at first, used to intimidate and challenge Dalton to see if he can handle her,” says Moltzen, who spends most of the film in her period undergarments. “But underneath, she desperately longs for someone who can see beyond her tough exterior. Back then, a woman her age would have been expected to be demure and married with a child. She is none of those things so she owns what she has. It’s most likely that she is a virgin.”

Du-Shane’s film is rich in western iconography and imagery, with Moltzen’s Annie Blake recalling such great cinematic frontierswomen as Barbara Stanwyck in Anthony Mann’s The Furies (1950) or Raquel Welch’s title character in Burt Kennedy’s Hannie Caulder (1971). “I watched a lot of westerns,” she admits, citing Kelly Reichhardt’s Meek's Cutoff and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven as key influences. “The relationship to the harsh landscape and the expectations of the woman’s role in society was interesting to explore,” she says, also noting the bush shoot was not always an easy one. “I had a scorpion at my feet one day,” she laughs, “(but) I love being out on location. The smell, the grit, the texture of the landscape, the muggy air, the hot sun, it's all is part of the story.”

As for the bloodbath that comes with starring in a zombie flick, Moltzen admits to ending the shoot a little rattled. “I watched a bunch of zombie films beforehand as research, and I know there are some cracker scenes in our film that zombies fans will love,” she says, enthusiastically, “but on set it can be quite shocking to see all that blood and guts. I don’t need to do another scary film for a while.”

Screen-Space managing editor Simon Foster will co-host a Bullets for The Dead Cast & Crew Q&A, courtesy of the distributor Monster Pictures, on Thursday, August 18. Full details and ticket information at the venue website here.

Bullets For The Dead - Trailer from Monster Pictures on Vimeo.

 

Monday
Mar302015

SHORT CUTS: HORROR HEAVIES PACT ON ANTHOLOGY PROJECT

They are two of Australia’s genre giants. With the 9th edition of his iconic screamfest due later this year, Dr Dean Bertram is the founder and programming director of A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival (ANOH/FP); producer Enzo Tedeschi, CEO of the recently-launched Deadhouse Films, reinvigorated found-footage horror with the global 2011 hit, The Tunnel. Now, the long time friends are pairing on a feature film initiative that will ensure the worlds best horror short films are seen by a bigger audience than ever before…

Set to be unveiled at the 2015 event will be a feature-length anthology film, comprised of the finalists from a new category in which all submissions must, in some way, reflect the theme of ‘blood.’ “That isn't that much of a stretch in a horror film, of course,” Bertram (pictured, above) concedes. “We don't expect the films to necessarily be about blood, just for blood to appear or to be referenced somewhere.”

The idea emerged as the 2014 festival drew to a close. “Enzo pitched me the idea and I thought it was just fantastic,” says Bertram, talking to SCREEN-SPACE from the US. “There's a renaissance in horror anthology filmmaking taking place at the moment: think The ABCs of Death and VHS series, for example.” The concept was particularly appropriate given Bertram’s dedication to fledgling talent. “To open the doors to include emerging filmmakers in the project fits A Night of Horror's mandate perfectly,” he says. 

“I'm personally a fan of anthologies,” says Tedeschi (pictured, right), during a break from a sound mix session in Sydney’s north, “and I thought it could be a valuable way of helping filmmakers leverage their short into something more 'valuable', for lack of a better word. “ Tedeschi was also aware that many fine short films never find the audience they deserve and hopes the project helps to redress the imbalance. “With the (high) quality of films screening at the festival each year, it seemed like a natural approach to pitch the idea to Dean for A Night of Horror. When I was getting started with making short films, a guaranteed festival berth and a feature film credit would have been a big incentive for me to contribute to a project like this.”

The pair are being cagey about the structure that their as-yet-untitled co-production will adopt. When asked for insight into the narrative device that will bind the collection of shorts, Tedeschi says, “We're keeping that under wraps for now,” although he does concede that they may be influenced by the submissions. Bertram acknowledges that, “Enzo has come up with a fantastic wrap-around device to connect the films, but we're keeping it secret at the moment.“

Both men are energetic multi-hyphenates, each with several projects in various stages of development. Tedeschi is in the final stages of post-production on his highly-anticipated sci-fi series, Airlock; Bertram is in pre-production as producer on Virgin Forest, the latest feature from festival alumni Kerry Prior (The Revenant, 2009; pictured, left, with Bertram and ANOH/FP co-director, Lisa Mitchell). Their shared vision stems from a mutual admiration for each other’s talent and career achievements to date.

“The reason I was so enthused to collaborate had as much to do with Enzo's fantastic pitch as having the chance to produce something with him,” says Bertram. “He always has his finger dead-on the pulse of the genre zeitgeist and its audience. And he understands alternative and unique models of production and distribution better than anyone in the country.” The emergence of Deadhouse Films, which will take distribution rights on the project, was also crucial to Bertram’s involvement. “(It has) really filled a massive hole in the Australian industry for a boutique genre production and distribution company. I can see it bringing a sea-change to independent genre film distribution,” he says.

For Tedeschi, his experiences as an audience member at A Night of Horror for much of the past decade was evidence enough. “I've always found the festival program a wonderful mix of established filmmakers and fresh takes on the genre. Dean goes out of his way to find the gems, and we should be able to attract some of this for the anthology as a result. I'm very much looking forward to going over the submissions with him. It's going to be a blast!”

Further information on how to submit your short film can be found here.