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Wednesday
Sep122018

FIVE OF THE BEST AT SUFF 2018

For the casual festival goer, those that like to dartboard a couple of sessions on the off chance they’ll discover something new and fresh, the Sydney Underground Film Festival can be the moviegoing equivalent of a spike-pit booby-trap. You stumble unwarned into Ian Haig’s The Foaming Node (consider yourself warned) or Lucio A. Rojas’ Trauma (read our review here), nights will never be the same. So SCREEN-SPACE performs some crucial community service by casting an eye over five films landing at The Factory Theatre in the days ahead….

THE BILL MURRAY STORIES – LESSONS LEARNED FROM A MYTHICAL MAN (Dir: TOMMY AVALLONE / USA / 2018 / 70mins / Session details)
PLOT: You’ve probably heard the stories. The famously private Ghostbusters star is spotted doing dishes at a house party, serving drinks at a local bar, crashing karaoke clubs, commandeering taxis and photo-bombing wedding photos. After hearing them himself, director Tommy Avallone (pictured, above, with his star) wants a Bill Murray story of his own.
I’M WATCHING THIS BECAUSE…: Bill Murray is a God. Not the God, but… What starts as a fun, flouncy fan documentary soon becomes something…well, not quite profound, but certainly soul-enriching in the way that only looking at Bill Murray’s face can inspire. Avallone sets out to prove the validity of reported sightings of the great comic-actor at frat house parties, weddings, restaurants, garage-band jam sessions, and so on. Utilising clips from the star's films (including several from the little-seen The Razor's Edge), eyewitness accounts and fleeting glimpses of the man himself, Avallone learns some simple life lessons (evident all along to those looking hard from the very start of Murray’s career) which amount to four words: “It just doesn’t matter.” Which, actually, is quite profound.
RATING: ★
★
★
★

THE MISANDRISTS (Dir: BRUCE LA BRUCE / Canada / 2017 / 91mins / Session details)
PLOT: In an alternate reality, somewhere in Ger(wo)many, the Female Liberation Army prepares to overthrow the patriarchy with a new sort of lesbian porn that functions as propaganda for the female revolution. However, when one of the rebels takes in an injured man, hiding him in the basement of the feminist headquarters, their Army’s mission and very nature of womanhood is called into question.
I’M WATCHING THIS BECAUSE….: Anything by Canadian cage-rattler Bruce La Bruce is nothing like any other filmmaker does. The Misandrists walks dangerously close to ‘respectability’ at times – his aesthetic has cleaner lines, crisper framing, story structure that veers uncharacteristically towards (dare I say it) conventional. However, the agitator who rocked our world with the gay-horror-porn ‘classic’ LA Zombie (2010) is at his most slyly subversive and potently relevant with his latest. Stuffed with a barrage of ‘trigger-warning’ moments (gay porn, transgender surgery, Nazi imagery, sexualized religious iconography), The Misandrists is The Beguiled, directed by Bertolucci with a gun held to his head by Kathleen Hanna.
RATING: ★
★
★

SATAN’S SLAVES (Dir. JOKO ANWAR / Indonesia / 2017 / 107mins / Session details)
PLOT: Four children are left alone when their mother passes away from a mysterious illness. But soon, the orphans sense that their late mum may not have left at all; she has returned to take them back to the underworld.
I’M WATCHING THIS BECAUSE…: I like to be frightened. Joko Anwar’s remake of the 1982 Indo-horror blockbuster Pengabdi Setan (itself a local-flavour reworking of Don Cascarelli’s Phantasm), Satan’s Slaves is a supremely polished, legitimately creepy poltergeist/possession yarn that plays superbly in a packed theatre (we saw its successful screening at IFF Rotterdam earlier this year). Foregoing gore effects  in favour of foreboding dread, Anwar’s return to the horror genre (The Forbidden Door, 2009; Ritual, 2012) is a regional smash hit, opening to huge numbers in its homeland and bowing at #1 in markets such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore; it earned 13 nominations at the Indonesian Film Awards.
RATING: ★
★
★

CHRISTMAS BLOOD (JULEBLOD / Dir: REINERT KILL / Norway / 2017 / 104mins / Session details)
PLOT: Serial killer Nissen has a penchant for dressing as Santa, and has been haunting Norway each Christmas Eve for 13 years. He now has his eyes set on the northern countryside, just as a group of unwitting co-eds have chosen the spot for their seasonal getaway. Meanwhile, detectives Rasch and Hansen are more determined than ever to catch their bogeyman before he strikes again.
I’M WATCHING THIS BECAUSE…: I have committed my life to seeing EVERY slasher film ever made. That most favourite axe-murderer archetype – the unstoppable killing machine that strikes best on key calendar dates – gets a Nordic spin in the latest from Reinert Kiil (yep, that’s his name). Few frame a gory death with as much gruesome glee at Kiil, who already has two legitimate grindhouse cult faves to his name (F**k Norge, 2004; Whore, 2009). He slow-burns the first act of Christmas Blood, which may frustrate those on board just for the viscera, but when the blade-wielding St Nick finally gets going…well, all your Christmas killing wishes come true.
RATING: ★
★
★

BEHIND THE CURVE (Dir: DANIEL J. CLARK / USA / 2018 / 96mins / Session details)
PLOT: Flat Earthers is a term synonymous with conspiracy theorists and tin foil hat-wearing loons. In reality, this is a small but rapidly growing group that believes there is a centuries' long conspiracy to suppress the truth that the Earth is flat. Director Daniel J. Clark ventures into the midst of this community to investigate its astonishing rise, as well as the psychological foundations that keep its adherents going.
I’M WATCHING THIS BECAUSE…: Idiots should not be denied a voice just for being idiots. Clark’s study of the type of personality that commits to medieval thinking and its charismatic preaching is understated and respectful (perhaps overtly so). Much like his key subject, flat-earth poster-boy Mark Seargeant, Clark never really gets to the core of the subject (no pun intended), preferring instead to indulge in its own dance of delusion; Behind the Curve affords the movement just enough time to appear both likably real and utterly misguided. As a great philosopher once said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
RATING: ★
★
★

The SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL runs September 13 to 16. Session and ticket details can be found at the official website.

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