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Entries in Sydney Film Festival (1)



SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2018: “You’re invited to gambol on the wild and weird side,” spruiks Richard Kuiper, who returns in 2018 as guest programmer of the Sydney Film Festival’s lean and mean Freak Me Out strand of horror pics. The seven films are eclectic collection of the cinematic unpleasant – slashers, spirits and self-mutilators; robots, werewolves and log cabins. Says Kuipers, “See you in the grindhouse…”

THE RANGER (Dir: Jenn Wexler | 2018 | USA | 80 mins)
What the Program says: “Chloë Levine gives a dynamite lead performance as Chelsea, a clever cookie who leads her snotty pals to a supposedly safe haven. But this leafy locale holds dark memories for Chelsea and is home to a demented public official who really doesn’t like littering or young non-conformists.”
What the Critics say: “…strong performances from our leading lady and central psycho — not to mention several kick-ass punk tunes — and you’ve got a post-modern splatter flick that most horror fans should appreciate.” – Scott Weinberg, Crooked Marquee
Festival Cred: SXSW endorsed; also playing strong with both genre and arthouse crowds (Indy Fest XV, Indianapolis; Cinedelphia Film Festival, Philadelphia; Overlook Film Festival, New Orleans; The Newport Beach Film Festival). Bound for Montreal’s Fantasia event in August.
Key Player: Levine, a cult favourite in the making after smart genre parts in The OA and Cannes 2016 entry The Transfiguration. 

GHOST STORIES (Dirs: Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman | 2017 | UK | 96 mins
What the Program says: “Philip Goodman is a professional debunker of all things paranormal. (When he) receives a package from an academic he once idolized, he is propelled into a series of investigations that force him to confront everything he doesn’t believe in. And it gets worse, much worse."
What the Critics say: “In adapting their Olivier-nominated supernatural stage play for the screen, writing/directing duo Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have lost none of the impact of their darkly effective vision.” – Nikki Baughan, Screen Daily
Festival Cred: Premiered to receptive hometown audiences at the London Film Festival; proved its Brit heritage could travel after strong showing in Busan.
Key Player: The reputation and enormous following of the blockbuster live theatre experience.

WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (Dir: Colin Minihan | 2018 | Canada | 98 mins)
What the Program says: “The latest film by multitalented genre maven Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters, 2011) takes familiar horror-thriller ingredients and forges them into a story that upends convention and expectation. There’s the happy couple skipping off for a romantic weekend in the wilderness. Then there’s the old family cabin with its history and secrets. And of course the neighbours across the lake seem to know…something.”
What the Critics say: “A thriller with a truly clever turn…Just don’t spoil it for anyone.” – Brian Tallerico,
Festival Cred: SXSW premiere; Toronto LGBT fest. Picked up for US distribution by genre savvy IFC Midnight.
Key Player: Minihan’s moxie. Takes a lot to not only attempt, but nail the Act 3 twist.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL (Dirs: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes, Can Evrenol, Ashim Ahluwalia | 2018 | USA, Poland, Hungary, India, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Turkey, Greece | 117 mins )
What the Program says: When the producers of Field Guide… went searching for directors to adapt scary folk tales specific to their own countries, they struck pure gold. Ranging in tone from Franz and Fiala’s exquisite Austrian mood piece to Evrenol’s Turkish evil spirit shocker and Strickland’s hilarious Hungarian pantomime, Field Guide… truly has something spooky and stylish for everyone.
What the Critics say: “The segments vary as much in degrees of successful realization as they do in content and stylistic approaches, though each segment benefits from excellent visuals throughout.” - Jacqui Griffin, Film Inquiry
Festival Cred: After SXSW World Premiere, it’s played Seattle and Neuchâtel Fantastic Film Fest; bound for Fantasia.
Key Player: New Zealand producer Ant Timpson (a Freak Me Out alumni after Deathgasm and Turbo Kid), who corralled repertory mecca Alamo Drafthouse as a backer. 

UPGRADE (Dir: Leigh Whannell | 2018 | Australia | 100 mins)
What the Program says: “Logan Marshall-Green (The Invitation, SFF 2015) is Grey, an old-school mechanic in a near-future where Artificial Intelligence does almost everything. After low-life scumbags murder his wife (Melanie Vallejo) and leave him paralysed, Grey is implanted with STEM, a miracle-performing microchip. Soon, he’s transformed into a super-warrior bent on revenge.
What the Critics say: “Upgrade is a pure adrenaline shot of sci-fi body horror thrills.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central
Festival Cred: Winner of Midniters Audience Award at SXSW.
Key Player: Whannell’s crowd-pleasing credentials (the blockbuster Saw and Insidious franchises) 

PIERCING (Dir: Nicolas Pesce | 2017 | USA | 82 mins)
What the Program says: “Reed is a seemingly ordinary husband and father. Except for his uncontrollable urge to kill. On a ‘business trip’, Reed checks into a hotel and calls an escort service. His plan to murder sex worker Jackie turns out to be anything but straightforward. Pesce’s lusciously filmed adaptation of RyĆ« Murakami’s 1994 novel delves into the darkest domains of human nature.”
What the Critics say: “A psycho-sexual horror show which lifts the lid on the twisted urges of two very troubled characters. It's great, if grisly, fun.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International
Festival Cred: Rattled the IFFR crowds in Rotterdam in February
Key Player: Fearless lead actress Mia Wasikowska, and Pesce, hoping to capitalise on the critical love for his 2016 debut, The Eyes of My Mother. 

GOOD MANNERS (Dirs: Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas | 2017 | Brazil, France | 135 mins)
What the Program says: “Clara (Isabél Zuaa) is poor, black and unemployed. Against the odds, she lands a live-in nanny job in the posh São Paulo apartment of Ana (Marjorie Estiano), a pregnant white woman whose rich family have disowned her. As Ana’s delivery date approaches the women become lovers. But Ana has begun to act very strangely when the moon is full...”
What the Critics say: “An ambitious work not only in scope but design, influenced by Jacques Tourneur’s psychological horror noirs.” – Jay Weissberg, Variety
Festival Cred: Among the most lauded films at SFF 2018. In addition to Locarno’s Special Jury honour, it has trophies from Austin Fantastic Fest, Rio De Janeiro, Sitges, Torino LGBT Fest, Oslo, Biarritz and Buenos Aires.
Key Player: DOP Rui Poças and production designer Fernando Zuccolotto, who combine with other below-the-line talent to conjure a mesmerizing ambience.