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Entries in Monster Fest (2)

Tuesday
Mar132018

LIVING SPACE: THE STEVEN SPIEL INTERVIEW

What begins as a cheeky nod to slasher film tropes ascends to all-out supernatural terror in Living Space, the accomplished feature debut of Melbourne-based writer/director Steven Spiel. A double-helix narrative that turns back on and into itself with increasingly skilful dexterity, Living Space reps a rare Australian foray into the horror of Nazi imagery set against a stylistically European landscape; the authentic aesthetic helped the film find favour at the recent European Film Market in Berlin, the first stop on a global sales roll-out that includes the all-important Marche du Film in Cannes in May. SCREEN-SPACE spoke with Spiel ahead of his film’s World Premiere, held in Sydney over the weekend as part of the Monster Fest ‘Travelling Sideshow’ program…

SCREEN-SPACE: Before the narrative amps up into some truly nightmarish moments, you have a lot of fun with the target audience’s appreciation of familiar horror set-ups…  

SPIEL: Brad (Leigh Scully) and Ashley (Georgia Chara) play a young American couple travelling through the heartland of Germany when their car breaks down in the middle of the countryside, forcing them to find protection in an abandoned property nearby. But, once inside, they find it is the home of a dead Nazi and his deceased family. So they go through a far amount of torment from that point on. It goes deeper and we use a great deal more psychological elements to flesh out the story, but that’s a basic outline.

SCREEN-SPACE: As the chilling ‘Officer’, actor Andy McPhee brings to life a truly memorable screen villain. What inspired the creation of such evil personified?

SPIEL: When I set out to write the film, I thought hard about whom the antagonist should be. I am really quite fearful of military iconography, that sort of grand authority figures, and the most frightening of all those types are the German SS officers of World War 2. So I threw all the familiar aspects of that imagery into the mix and the villain and the narrative grew from there. We use war footage in the film, because I wanted to acknowledge that we understood and were deeply respectful of the horrors of that period. But this is not any type of political statement at all; we just set out to make a solidly entertaining horror film. (Pictured, right; Andy McPhee, as Officer, with Georgia Chara in Living Space).

SCREEN-SPACE: Is horror a passion of yours, or was there one-eye on the genre’s international sales potential when you were deciding on your debut feature?

SPIEL: Well, it’s both actually. I’ve always been very passionate about horror. It’s a genre I have always enjoyed watching and I think when anyone sets out to make a film they should strive to make a movie that they would also like to watch. The characters, the arc have to be something that I would find intriguing. It is as crucial to the writing of the story as it is to the watching of the finished film.

SCREEN-SPACE: I’m assuming the indie-horror budget didn’t stretch to shooting in Germany…

SPIEL: We shot in Geelong, in Victoria, over a 12-day period. We got the whole cast and crew accommodated in Geelong, somehow. All the aerial footage, the countryside, everything that you see in the film is regional Victoria doubling as Germany. I worked very closely with our cinematographer, Branco Grabovic, and the post-production colouring team, both researching the look and feel of the German landscape and applying that knowledge to the final colour grading on the film. Being an independent film, we couldn’t get everyone over to Germany, which would’ve been ideal (laughs) but I think we executed it pretty well. (Pictured, left; cinematographer Branco Grabovic, left, with his director)

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve stated that you don’t really want Living Space labelled ‘Nazi-exploitation’, despite your clever use of the iconography. What are the genre films and filmmakers that have influenced the story and mood of Living Space?

SPIEL: One that immediately springs to mind is Christopher Smith’s Triangle, with Melissa George. It’s a fascinating film that is both structurally complex and very entertaining. I’d also say Scorsese’s Shutter Island. These are films that explore the darker corners of psychology, unfold as engrossing mysteries, and end with a twist of some kind. All of my short films have that twist in the end, some sort of development that catches audiences off guard, and they have all informed what I’ve done in Living Space.

LIVING SPACE will screen in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Geelong as part of the 2018 Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow. For venues, dates and session times, check the official Monster Fest 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.