Stars: Bianca Bradey, Craig Alexander, Jessica Nicole Collins, Jessica Hinkson, Karissa Lane, Jane Barry, Rosie Keogh, Pauline Grace, David Macrae, Steve Hayden, Emily Wheaton, Lelda Kapsis and Tegan Higginbotham.
Writers: Daniel Berhofer, Bossi Baker, Jon Hill, Clare d’Este, Goran Spoljaric, Carmen Falk and Matthew Goodrich.
Directors: Enzo Tedeschi, Bossi Baker, Justin Harding, Rebecca Thomson, Evan Randall Green, Goran Spoljaric, Carmen Falk, Matthew Goodrich, Nicholas Colla and Daniel Paperis.
A Night of Horror Volume 1 will screen as the Opening Night feature at the 2015 A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival; ticket and session information can be found at the official event website.
The opening ‘Elm St’-ish chords foreshadow the nightmare landscape beckoning in A Night of Horror Volume 1, an Australian anthology pic brimming with an artful corpulent excess and supremely slick genre smarts. A unique initiative between co-producers Enzo Tedeschi (The Tunnel, 2011) and Dean Bertram, founder of the Sydney genre celebration from which the project takes its name, A Night of Horror Volume 1 deserves attention from international splatter fests that pride themselves on breaking new, fresh visions.
Tedeschi self-helms the compelling bridge-narrative that connects the short films. A disoriented Sam (Wyrmwood’s Bianca Bradey, sporting the modern kick-ass genre heroine ‘must have’ - a white singlet) awakens in a darkened, mannequin-populated warehouse (‘shadowy recesses’, literally and psychologically, is a recurring motif); as she wanders room to room, Sam finds key elements that materialise in the stories to follow.
Dwelling on what lurks in the dark is a key thematic device. The psychosis that inflicts a young woman in Evan Randall Green’s satisfying ‘Dark Origins’ haunts her from the shadows; Bossi Baker’s Hum, a nightmarish riff on the mysterious ‘suburban hum’ that is said to emit from modern cities, exists in a muted, darkened space both physically and psychologically; co-directors Nicholas Colla and Daniel Paperiss explore the ghostly legends of Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges in the ok ‘Flash’. The notion that ‘public transport is hell’ is explored in Goran Spoljaric’s ‘The Priest’, whose titular evil presence (memorably played by a chilling David Macrae) deserves to emerge as the Krueger-like star of the pic.
The film’s most enjoyably scary scenario is Justin Harding’s ‘Point of View’, which features a morgue attendant terrifyingly evading a freshly risen corpse who can only move when unseen (imagine playing the children’s game ‘What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?’ but with a zombie). The influence of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator looms large over the segment, one of several knowing references lifted from film and classic literature – an isolated rural family in the grips of grief face-off against a ‘Jack Torrance’-type father/axe-wielder in Matthew Goodrich’s atmospheric Scission; the influence of Grimm fairy tales infuses Carmen Falk’s darkly funny gross-out bit, Ravenous; and, Rebecca Thomson’s utterly revolting, slyly hilarious Botox body-horror skit I Am Undone (which credits ‘pube wranglers’ and ‘boobateers’ as key contributors) recalls elements of Brian Yuzna’s Society and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
It’s a tough ask, pulling off an anthology film. Not everyone is going to like everything, all but ensuring a mixed critical reaction; the blending of various visual styles and storytelling techniques will invariably seem jarring to most horror buffs. Even the best to emerge from the current compendium craze (the V/H/S and ABCs of Death series; Fool Japan The ABCs of Tetsudon) waiver in quality.
But Tedeschi, Bertram and their band of skilled, young filmmakers (all stepping up to ‘feature film’ contributor status for the first time) are clearly united in their aims and equally matched in talent. While the look and feel of each segment differs, the relentless drive and unyielding desire to make every bloody post a winner is self-evident; it is that dark spirit that binds and defines both A Night of Horror Volume 1 and the vast horror community, who should lap it up.
SCREEN-SPACE editor Simon Foster is the Head of Jury at the 2015 A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival.