Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, revivals and shorts...
On this page: BOAR
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 26.Aug.18
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Chris Sun
prd Chris Sun, Christine Hulsby, Kris Maric
with John Jarratt, Simone Buchanan, Melissa Tkautz, Nathan Jones, Bill Moseley, Christie-Lee Britten, Hugh Sheridan, Griffin Walsh, Roger Ward, Ricci Guarnaccio, Ernie Dingo, Chris Haywood, Steve Bisley
buchanan with jones and britten release Aus 17.Jun.18,
UK Aug.18 frf
17/Australia Universal 1h36

fright fest

boar With that offhanded Australian sense of humour, this creature horror romp develops some terrific characters as its plot goes increasingly bonkers. Writer-director Chris Sun has a superb eye for earthy detail and refreshingly uses cheesy puppetry rather than bland digital effects to create the biggest boar anyone has ever seen. Which, along with genuine emotions, adds a superb 1970s monster movie vibe.

Debbie (Buchanan) is travelling deep into the Australian Outback to visit her hulking farmer brother Bernie (Jones), joined by her husband Bruce (Moseley), children Ella and Bart (Britten and Walso) and Ella's snarky boyfriend Robbie (Sheridan). But a huge boar is rampaging through the countryside, suddenly attacking anyone it sees. Local bar owner Ken (Jarratt) is on its trail, and when he goes missing his daughter Sasha (Tkautz) kicks into action. The question is whether any of these people will make it out alive.

The dialog bristles with rough humour, which keeps the audience engaged with characters who interact with witty, salty barbs. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is punctuated by thunderous growls in the distance to remind us that each attack is going to be grislier than the last one. The script teases the audience with the usual tropes like a guy looking for his lost dog in the night, a man telling a creepy vampire story, or a couple fooling around in a tent in the woods. But even if what happens is rather predictable, the film's lively style keeps it entertaining.

Cast members play up their characters' quirky senses of humour, building such strong interaction that it's genuinely distressing when the central figures begin to fall prey to this hideous, ravenous monster. Veteran actor Jarratt lends some nice gravity to his scenes. Jones' astonishing physicality and bristling charm are thoroughly loveable, like a human counterpoint to the mutant boar. He certainly keeps Debbie and family on their toes, while each of them has fun creating a distinct character with his or her own quirks.

For all the gleeful carnage and boars-eye viewpoints, the movie struggles to overcome the corny exaggeration of a predatory creature who seems more intent on murder than dinner. And the interpersonal drama isn't compelling enough to stitch the entire film together. But the witty filmmaking keeps us hooked, and there are continual touches that make the audience both smile and flinch back from the screen. It's good fun, and the sequel we now need is Boar in the City.

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The Cleaning Lady
dir Jon Knautz
scr-prd Alexis Kendra, Jon Knautz
with Alexis Kendra, Rachel Alig, Stelio Savante, Elizabeth Sandy, JoAnne McGrath, Mykayla Sohn, Keri Marrone, Robert Hugh Starr, Carla Wynn, Kim Marie Cooper, Logan Garretson, Zarif
kendra and savante release UK 24.Aug.18 frf
18/US 1h30

fright fest

The Cleaning Lady This unhinged horror movie takes its time building characters, which helps pull the audience in even with a steady stream of cliched grimy-nasty visual touches. There's an engaging story in here, which might have been even more gripping without the corny excesses. Big ideas add weight to the script, but director Jon Knautz is trying so hard to be ghastly that he loses the plot.

Attending a love addicts support group, Alice (Kendra) is trying to get the strength to leave her married boyfriend Michael (Savante), who can't deliver on his promises. To distract herself from contacting him, she befriends Shelly (Alig), a burn-scarred cleaner who works in her building. Meanwhile, Michael organises a dream trip to Italy to get Alice's attention, which she finds hard to resist. And Alice is too nice to notice that Shelly clearly has her own sinister agenda, linked to her grim childhood (Sohn in flashbacks) with a nutty mother (McGrath).

Knautz has a lot of fun with the genre, opening with a disgusting sequence before diving into what looks like a Fatal Attraction-style romantic drama with its lightly plinking piano score and hints of intensity. Then Shelly appears in her tatty clothes, timid voice and exaggerated makeup, popping up unexpectedly and lurking around Alice's flat with her mask-like face and probing eyes. Where she lives is over-the-top creepy, with extravagantly filthy production design (by actress-cowriter-producer Kendra). But her plan for Alice is even more unthinkable.

Performances are nicely understated, with Kendra particularly sympathetic as a woman trying to take control of her life and oblivious to this new threat. Her inability to pull away from Savante's likeable Michael is easy to understand, as is how bad she feels about it. Opposite her, Alig is a bit too otherworldly to take seriously, gazing blankly and speaking hesitantly. It's the kind of performance that constantly hints at something much more horrific to come. So while the payoff brings a nice jump, it's not really a surprise.

There are elements of a strong thriller in here, even if Knautz and Kendra can't resist ramping things up beyond reason. Shifts in perspective are somewhat disorienting, from Alice to Shelly to Michael's suspicious wife Helen (Sandy). But at least the female angle adds a kick to the horror stereotypes the filmmakers are juggling, even if there's ultimately no thematic point. Still, genre fans will love the torturous climax, especially since there are still 20 more minutes of violent mayhem to come.

15 themes, language, violence

back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Matthew Holness
prd Wayne Marc Godfrey, James Harris, Robert Jones, Mark Lane
with Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Andy Blithe, Ryan Enever, Charlie Eales, Joe Gallucci, Rohan Gotobed, Raphel Famotibe, Simon Bubb, Katie Lightfoot, Elliot Booty, Abraham Graham
harris release UK 26.Oct.18
18/UK BFI 1h25

fright fest

Possum For his feature directing debut, Matthew Holness has crafted something that's so resolutely artistic that it leaves the audience rather cold. It looks simply amazing and features committed performances from a fine cast. But there's very little definition to the characters or situations, which leaves the film feeling like it wants to be a horror freak-out. It's definitely creepy, and often very yucky, but it's far too pretentious to be scary.

Former puppeteer Philip (Harris) has returned to his grimy, fire-damaged childhood home in Norfolk, feeling menaced by his ventriloquist dummy, a head on gigantic spider legs that he calls Possum. He shares the house with his abrasive stepfather Maurice (Armstrong), who also has a rather hideous dummy and delights in tormenting Philip. Overwhelmed by all of this, Philip decides he needs to destroy Possum, but that's proving a lot more difficult than it should be. Whether left in the marshes or the forest, Possum always seems to find his way back to Philip.

Woven through this are two vague subplots. All that's on Philip's staticky television are updates about the case of a missing teen (Eales), and the police suspect someone who matches Philip's description. And as Maurice taunts Philip, elements of his childhood begin to emerge, including bullying, abuse and serious trauma. Neither of these things quite comes into focus, since the film remains a somewhat fantastical emotional journey, with highly stylised people and settings.

Harris brings so many quirks to Philip that he seems like a shell of a human being. And clearly that's the point. This is a man so scarred by his life that every moment is a struggle. His breakdown is very moving, even if there's very little resonance due to the lack of detail. Armstrong is also terrific, portraying Maurice as a growling terror who delights in causing discomfort and pouring salt in old wounds.

This is the kind of movie that high-minded cinema lovers adore, simply because it's so offbeat and original. And Holness proves to be adept at creating a striking visual atmosphere with a series of eye-catching sequences. But there's a point where all of this surface needs to connect with the audience, and the lack of even the most basic story information leaves this as a movie you look at but struggle to engage with. It's definitely full of emotion, but even that is never clear enough to linger. So the film is admirable, but not very memorable.

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Leigh Whannell
prd Jason Blum, Kylie Du Fresne, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones
with Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson, Simon Maiden, Melanie Vallejo, Benedict Hardie, Linda Cropper, Kai Bradley, Clayton Jacobson, Christopher Kirby, Richard Cawthorne, Richard Anastasios
release US 1.Jun.18,
Aus 14.Jun.18, UK 31.Aug.18
18/Australia Blumhouse 1h40

fright fest

Upgrade Set at a recognisable point in the not-so-distant future when computers have taken over every aspect of life, Leigh Whannell's slick thriller fires up the audience's imagination. Yet while it looks seriously cool, this movie is much more standard than it wants to admit. There are nods to technological, political and moral themes, but it's actually little more than whizzy revenge horror.

With computers running everything, old-school Grey (Marshall-Green) is struggling to come to terms with his drastically changed life after an attack kills his wife (Vallejo) and leaves him paralysed. His mother (Cropper) tries to help, and pursues his assailants with Detective Cortez (Gabriel). But the criminals are somehow eluding capture. Then Grey's last customer, young tech genius Eran (Gilbertson), offers him a computer-based cure secretly developed in his extravagantly high-tech home. Now there's a system called Stem (voiced by Maiden) operating Grey's body under his control. Mostly.

The film looks great, with a strongly visual sensibility that combines striking technological wizardry with gross-out nastiness. The fights and action sequences are particularly flashy, packed with inventive touches. The interplay between Grey and Stem is enjoyably tetchy, offering twists and turns to the story as they investigate Grey's attack and track down the perpetrators. Stem continually points out details and gives advice that only Grey can hear. And when Stem is in control of Grey's body, things can get seriously freaky and often very grisly.

Marshall-Green brings a skilful physicality to the role that makes the way he's controlled feel eerily mechanical. This allows him to maintain Grey's likeable humanity and emotional resonance even when he does something seriously vile. Gilbertson is effective as the weedy genius, while Hardie gets the thankless villainous cyborg role as the relentlessly nasty Fisk. Thankfully, Gabriel and Cropper add a welcome female touch, including some tenacious compassion. And Vallejo is strong enough in the opening scenes and flashbacks to underpin Grey's quest.

There are hints of a much more interesting movie lurking here and there, as the script occasionally touches on both Grey's grief and his moral paradox, as well as some Black Mirror-style commentary on runaway tech. And the interplay between digital and analog is very clever. But Whannell is far more interested in playing with the genre than exploring something deeper. So even though the film is ultimately rather predictable and pointless, these underlying ideas make it entertaining and darkly intriguing. And the final scenes makes it hauntingly provocative.

15 themes, language, violence

back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall