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last update 12.Oct.10
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Lesbian Psycho
aka: Make a Wish
dir Sharon Ferranti
scr-prd Lauren Johnson
with Moynan King, Hollace Starr, Melenie Freedom Flynn, Virginia Baeta, Amanda Spain, Lava Alapai, Eric Vichi, Neil Wilson, Bob Peterson, Susan Durham, Nora Stein
campfire girls release US 1.Oct.02,
UK 11.Oct.10 dvd
02/US 1h36
lesbian psycho Gleefully playing with every horror movie cliche imaginable, this slasher comedy will keep knowing viewers giggling from start to finish. Although it's far too clunky to crossover to mainstream audiences, the brazen tackiness is pretty funny.

For her birthday, Susan (King) invites six ex-girlfriends on a camping trip, and the tensions start before they leave. It's the usual group of divas, primadonnas, wiccans and militant vegans. Dawn (Starr) is still annoyed that Susan cheated on her; Linda (Flynn) now has a possessive hunky boyfriend (Vichi) who follows them into the wilderness; and so on. So when they start dying one by one, anyone could be the killer. And there's an armed private eye (Wilson) out there as well looking for an escaped killer, or something.

The character interaction is pretty hilarious, using stereotypes for comical effect as the dialog indulges in suggestive innuendo and catty sarcasm. The script essentially makes everyone a suspect until they're killed. And the cast plays it fairly straight, which makes the film feel funnier than it actually is. On the other hand, the filmmaking has a low-budget, cheap-and-cheerful style, which makes the acting look extremely wooden. And the blood looks like bright red paint.

But it's the continual stream of astute gags that makes this a guilty pleasure. Much of this is in throwaway dialog or in witty visual jokes. And then there's the relational carnage, as Susan tries to cement her friendship (and sometimes more) with her exes, most of whom cheated on her while they were together. But since everyone is a thin caricature, it's impossible to care about who dies. Or indeed about who's carrying out this massacre.

As director Ferranti strains for a level of intensity, the movie loses its grip on us. Each death is sudden and not very scary (some are downright laughable), which only makes us realise how little we have invested in the characters or situations. Instead, we just sit back and wait for the next girl to get it in the neck as the plot descends into full-on silliness. And at least there's some strong comedy to keep us distracted from the movie's not-so-swift pace.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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The Loved Ones
dir-scr Sean Byrne
prd Michael Boughen, Mark Lazarus
with Xavier Samuel, Victoria Thaine, Robin McLeavy, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson, John Brumpton, Suzi Dougherty, Fred Whitlock, Eden Porter
thaine and samuel release US Oct.09 afif,
UK 4.Oct.10 dvd,
Aus 4.Nov.10
09/Australia 1h24

the loved ones Aussie filmmaker Byrne merges teen romance and torture horror genres to unsettling effect with this pitch black comedy. And as a result, he finds a surprising level of drama within the violence.

Brent (Samuel) is struggling to cope with the death of his father, and his mother (Dougherty) is worried. But there's a bright spot on the horizon, as he's going to the school dance with the sexy Holly (Thaine), while his best pal Sac (Wilson) has somehow managed to land the hot, slutty Mia (McNamee) as his date. The problem is that school loner Lola (McLeavy) is in love with Brent and won't let him go without a fight. So with the help of her dad (Brumpton), she kidnaps Brent and holds a "dance" of her own.

The film has a darkly melodramatic tone from the start, which is echoed in the shaded production design. But even though the plot has what's essentially a kidnap-and-brutalise premise, the filmmakers don't indulge in the usual grungy atmospherics. Instead, they keep things realistic, continually crosscutting between the nastiness and the banal goings on back home. It's basically the convergence of those two creeks, Wolf and Dawson's, plus visual and thematic echoes of Carrie.

And the cast is very good, offering unexpected depth all the way through to bring just a bit of resonance to the film. Because we know what these people are thinking, what they do takes on additional meaning. And Samuel is especially good in a tricky role as a young guy wracked with guilt; he's suicidal but also a fierce survivor. And his tentative interaction with Thaine is extremely believable. Even more impressive is the freaky pathos McLeavy and Brumpton bring to their psychotic characters.

What all of this does is add a level of emotion to the carnage. This is something most horror filmmakers can't be bothered with, but Byrne quietly packs this movie with little things we can identify with. And as a result, we feel everything much more acutely, including the viciousness inflicted on Brent. So it's a little frustrating that the final act isn't more cathartic or consequential. But at least Byrne skilfully avoids both overstatement and sentimentality.

18 themes, language, grisly violence, sexuality
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Modesty Blaise
dir Joseph Losey
scr Evan Jones; prd Joseph Janni
with Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde, Harry Andrews, Michael Craig, Clive Revill, Alexander Knox, Rosella Falk, Scilla Gabel, Michael Chow, Joe Melia, Saro Urzi
stamp and vitti release UK May.66,
US 10.Aug.66
reissue UK 20.Sep.10 dvd
66/UK Fox 1h59
Modesty Blaise Dripping in camp decadence, this freeform spy spoof is often so absurd that it's almost impossible to follow it. Now on DVD for the first time, it's essential viewing for the costumes and sets alone, not to mention the hilarious performances.

Modesty Blaise (Vitti) is an ace spy lured out of retirement to take a case involving stolen diamonds. But arch villain Gabriel (Bogarde) is also after them, and Modesty will need help from her swashbuckling, womanising sidekick Willie (Stamp) and a fun-loving sheik (Revill) to get through this alive. She also has a bewildering supply of gadgets, costumes and hair-dos to keep everyone on his or her toes. Even Gabriel's ruthless Mrs Fothergill (Falk) isn't quite ready for her.

A pure product of its time, this film is so infused with the groovy 1960s that it makes Austin Powers look like a serious drama. Scenes unfurl with languid depravity, as everyone is so busy looking fabulous that they don't really care about the plot or action. And it's nonstop from start to finish, with gunfights, chase scenes, daring escapes and gritty brawls. All of this is played for laughs (Mrs Fothergill strangling a mime with her thighs!), but it's just as pacey as a Bond film.

Vitti seems to float through the film as if she's blissfully unaware of the chaos around her; it's a deliriously funny post-modern performance. The lean young Stamp is a bundle of muscles and charisma, sparking terrific chemistry with Vitti even in the ludicrous musical numbers. And Bogarde is simply fabulous as the catty bad guy who always has to have a bigger wine glass, and when staked out in the desert cries out for champagne rather than water.

There's nothing really going on in this film beyond the luridly coloured craziness, but perhaps that's what makes this movie so unforgettable. It harks back to a time when society was shedding its restraints at a blinding pace and people started expressing themselves more openly with outrageous hairstyles, sexy cars and body-revealing clothing. But best of all is the fact that there's never been another movie like this. And there probably never will be.

12 themes, violence, innuendo
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The Special Relationship
dir Richard Loncraine
scr Peter Morgan
prd Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield, Ann Wingate
with Michael Sheen, Dennis Quaid, Helen McCrory Hope Davis, Mark Bazeley, Adam Godley, Marc Rioufol, Chris Wilson, Max Cottage, Demetri Goritsas, Kerry Shale, Lara Pulver
sheen and quaid
release US 29.May.10 tv,
UK 20.Sep.10 dvd
10/UK BBC 1h28
The Queen (2006)
the special relationship Sheen and Morgan take on Tony Blair for a third time with this TV movie, which centres on Blair's interaction with Clinton. It's not as steely as The Deal or as ambitious as The Queen, but it's a fascinating look behind the scenes.

Even before he became Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Sheen) was seen as the future head of state, and was invited to meet Bill Clinton (Quaid). So in the months leading up to the May 1997 election, he was already part of the Special Relationship between Britain and America that has continued throughout the past century. And this goes even further, as soon Bill and Hillary (Davis) are laughing over dinner with Tony and Cherie (McCrory). But as they deal with situations in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, Clinton is engulfed in a sex scandal.

Morgan's smart and engaging script covers the eight years of Clinton's presidency, focusing back-room tense political discussions rather than character textures. This view of major events is especially intriguing in hindsight: Blair and Clinton clearly believed they were on the cusp of a global shift to kinder and gentler politics, which of course was derailed by Clinton's infidelity and the one-two punch of November 2000 and September 2001.

Sheen and McCrory are once again extraordinary as Tony and Cherie, adding layers that let us see beneath the surface. Quaid and Davis are clearly having a ball as the Clintons; their showier performances aren't as revealing but are thoroughly entertaining in the more private moments. The accuracy of these conversions isn't relevant, although the attention to the Clinton side of the story robs the film of being a revealing look at Blair's experience.

Loncraine directs efficiently, tracking the series of political events through TV news coverage (several key figures play themselves) and intriguingly candid phone conversations. Even though it's nicely shot and packed with riveting private moments, the plot lurches from crisis to negotiation without much grace. Still, it's fascinating to see memorable public scenes counterbalanced by bedroom discussions. But a finer focus would have made the film much more compelling. And then there's the problem that the story ends just when the Special Relationship got really interesting.

15 themes, language, innuendo
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