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Little Monsters

Australian, Comedy, Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

It seems like only last week we were reviewing a zombie comedy, and in fact it was. Apparently, you can’t keep a good subgenre down, and this week we’ve got the Aussie take, Little Monsters by criminally underrated director Abe Forsythe (Down Under).

Little Monsters, at its core, is about what might happen if a zombie outbreak occurred during a kindergarten excursion to a tourist farm, Pleasant Valley in this case. Miss Audrey Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) must keep her charges safe and distracted as all around people lose their minds and limbs. Unfortunately, for her (and the audience, to a degree), Miss Caroline isn’t the main character of the movie, that honour goes to Dave (Alexander England), who is an absolute deadshit, frankly. Dave is selfish, stupid, manipulative and only very sporadically funny, which makes him a curious choice for the romantic lead, particularly opposite Lupita who is absolutely radiant. And while Dave’s story is ostensibly a redemption arc, there are quite a few moments where you’ll be rooting for the zombies to gnaw his face off.

Happily, Lupita Nyong’o absolutely shines as Miss Caroline, imbuing the potentially shallow role with depth and pathos, making her journey an absolutely thrilling one. More surprising, the kids are actually pretty good too, with Felix (Diesel La Torraca) offering a star turn as Dave’s allergic-to-everything nephew. The story finds momentum along the way as well, with the third act surprisingly affecting after a somewhat listless middle section.

Little Monsters is a great premise bolstered by a wonderful performance from Lupita Nyong’o, somewhat stymied by a singularly unpleasant lead character, but loaded up with charm, humour and tolerable children.

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Ready or Not

Comedy, Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Marrying into a rich and powerful family must be a bizarre experience. You’d have to jump through so many hoops just to prove you weren’t cementing the union for financial reasons, and entering the world of a modern dynasty would likely cause severe culture shock. Ready or Not, from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, takes that premise a few steps further, asking, what if the wealthy clan’s eccentricity stretched to murder?

Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien) and joining the filthy rich Le Domas family, who made their fortune flogging board games. The family ranges from acerbic and drunk with Daniel (Adam Brody), to superficially pleasant with Alex’s mum, Becky (Andie MacDowell) to downright terrifying, with hatchet-faced aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). However, things don’t become truly dark until midnight after the wedding when tradition dictates the family plays a game. Grace has to pick a card and play whatever it says. If it says chess, they play chess. If it says checkers, they play checkers. And if it says Hide and Seek? Well, Grace will be the sacrifice in a deadly game that must see her dead before dawn.

Ready or Not‘s best qualities can be summarised in two words: Samara Weaving. Her take on Grace is at turns spunky, funny, likeable and vulnerable, with a wry knowing quality that continues her ascendance to Scream Queen status. Combined with a brisk, if occasionally unambitious, script, the action plays out as a black comedy for most of the runtime, although it gets darker and weirder for the better in the back end. Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell both offer wonderful support roles, and the rest of the cast are solid too, and while it falls short of brilliance, the story engages throughout the duration.

There’s a subtext of the rich using the poor that underpins Ready or Not, and although it’s not explored as much as one might hope, it’s great to see mainstream horror embracing allegory over jumpscares. While echoing certain beats of 2011’s You’re Next, Ready or Not is fresh enough to offer a pacey, black horror comedy with a thing or two on its mind and a spectacular lead actress. While falling short of being an unmissable classic, it’s absolutely a game worth playing.

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Trailer: Two Heads Creek

New Australian horror comedy taps into Australia's colonial past, and Britain and Australia's current divisive woes, all with a spiky OTT humour, bloodthirst and body parts.
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Daniel Isn’t Real

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Imaginary friends and horror movies go together like beer and pizza, wine and cheese or pingers and threesomes, they’re just a great match. You can trace an arc through genre history, from The Exorcist (1973) to The Shining (1980) to more modern gear like The Conjuring (2013) and The Babadook (2014), and more examples that we simply don’t have the time and space to get into. Something about the notion of a child having a relationship with someone or something only they can see is inherently fascinating, and more than a little creepy. Daniel Isn’t Real, from the wonderfully named director Adam Egypt Mortimer, brings a fresh take to the idea, and delivers an effective, thrilling horror movie to boot.

Daniel Isn’t Real focuses on Luke (Miles Robbins), a pleasant but troubled young man, who is finding the stress of college and helping care for his mentally ill mum, Claire (Mary Stuart Masterton) is all a bit too much. Just when he reaches what appears to be his breaking point, his childhood imaginary friend, Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) steps back into the picture, all grown up and ready to help Luke be all that he can be. But after a honeymoon period where Daniel helps Luke with relationships and standing up for himself, his suggestions become demands, and he begins to get possessive and violent.

The film succeeds on two levels. Firstly, the script is a cracker, digging into a rich vein exploring mental illness, masculine identity and the idea of artistic inspiration as a kind of madness. Secondly, the performances from everyone, but particularly Robbins and Schwarzenegger (and yes, that’s Arnie’s kid), are very good indeed. Luke’s dorky twitchiness pairs beautifully with Daniel’s almost sensual arrogance, making their relationship the black beating heart of the flick. Mary Stuart Masterton also brings the goods as Luke’s mum, portraying a character who is fascinatingly bowed but unbroken by the demons of her mind. Ironically, the dissection of real world themes is so deftly handled, it’s almost a pity when the horror arrives in earnest, although that too is skillfully executed, if occasionally a tad familiar.

Daniel Isn’t Real is a low budget horror flick with a lot on its mind. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always utterly compelling, it’s a reminder that genre films don’t need to be empty-headed regurgitations and that supernatural themes can resonate with more grounded concepts. If that sounds like your jam, check it out and bring some friends, both real and imaginary.

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Festival, Film Festival, Horror, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

The Soska Sisters, comprising Canadian identical twins Jen and Sylvia, have been notably absent from genre filmmaking for a little while. Certainly, they directed the slasher sequel See No Evil 2 in 2014, but their last original work was body modification-infused, Katherine Isabelle starrer, American Mary in 2012. It’s fitting that their return is a remake of a work by another bonkers Canadian, David Cronenberg and his 1977 body horror Rabid.

To be blunt, Rabid is far from Cronenberg’s best work, making it perfect for the remake treatment and the Soskas rise to the challenge, bringing their comic book-esque sensibility to the proceedings to mostly positive results.

Rabid tells the tale of Rose (Laura Vandervoort), a timid woman who has issues about her appearance and seems unable to break into the world of fashion design. After Rose gets into a terrible accident, she is hideously disfigured, and pretty much thinks her life is over until Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton) offers to give her a radical treatment, on the house.

Post operation Rose looks and feels fantastic, imbued with a fresh face, new found confidence… and a new hunger that seems impossible to sate. From there Rabid kicks off in splattery style, featuring a bunch of engaging gore and body horror moments that will likely have all but the most hardy audience members squirming.

It should be noted the Soska Sisters are not trying to ape Cronenberg’s style at all. Whereas Dave’s vision was icy and slowburn and full of slow building menace, the Soskas’ take is more like an adult comic book. All the characters are broad and just this side of camp, with muscular hunks, heavily accented fashion designers, bitchy models and scientists that feel one stiff drink away from cackling at the heavens, roaring, “it’s aliiiiiiive!” Cronenberg’s stubby armpit stinger has been replaced with a lengthy, whipping pit-tentacle and the overall story is generally bigger and goofier, although in a mostly entertaining way.

Ultimately, Rabid is a solid, engaging horror remake with an unapologetically over-the-top tone that slips frequently from the visceral to the farcical and back again. If you can forgive the occasional ropey moments where the Soskas bite off just a little more than they can chew, and you like your movies with a bit of body horror, you’ll likely find yourself foaming at the mouth over Rabid.