Author: Steven West

LAKE MUNGO ***** Australia 2008 Dir: Joel Anderson. 87 mins “I feel like something bad is going to happen to me. I feel like something bad has happened – it just hasn’t reached me yet”. The tragic teenage girl – seen only via stills and home video footage of her before and after death – at the heart of LAKE MUNGO is Alice. As superbly told with authentic performances and remarkable editing, via director Joel Anderson’s “mockumentary” format, Alice is 16 years old and missing, presumed drowned, following a family visit to a dam in the Victorian city of Ararat.…

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THE DEVILS (Devil’s Advocates) by Darren Arnold Opening with engaging personal flashbacks of author Darren Arnold’s mission to seek out Ken Russell’s hugely contentious THE DEVILS (1971) within censorial 1980s Britain, this analysis of one of the most notorious major studio films of all time covers a lot of territory in its 120 page framework. Arnold offers historical context –  pondering if the picture would ever have been made in either Heath’s or Thatcher’s Britain – while making the distinction between Russell’s still-controversial film and others from the same period (STRAW DOGS, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE etc) that have long been…

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SCARE ME *** USA 2020 Dir: Josh Ruben. 104 mins Here’s a cabin-confined, pandemic-released, novel take on the horror anthology format, performed with gusto. Mostly a two-hander, it has writer-actor-director Josh Ruben as writer-actor-director Fred, an ad agency worker in his late thirties holed up in a remote cabin in the snowy middle of nowhere. The film’s tone is set early on via a scene in which, beset by creepy sounds, he takes a glance down the stairs of the cabin basement, mutters “Nope” and closes the door. While alone, he jokily highlights potential parallels to Jack Torrance in THE…

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HOUSE OF USHER (DEVIL’S ADVOCATES) by Evert Jan Van Leeuwen Author Evert Jan Van Leeuwen brings a welcome personal touch to this informative celebration of the first of Roger Corman’s beloved Poe Cycle. The monograph opens with Van Leeuwen’s memories of discovering ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and the cinematic Poe films via the BBC’s Corman-Poe season of 1990, sparking a love of the Gothic and a fascination with the film’s place in the pantheon of Poe adaptations and Corman’s career. How many teenager viewers empathised with the angsty Roderick Usher at the same time as Van Leeuwen?…

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TWO HEADS CREEK **** UK / Australia 2019 Dir: Jesse O’Brien. 85 mins Here’s an inventively gory, genuinely funny horror comedy built on a foundation of broadly satirised Australian archetypes and Brexit-era British social conflict, with an emphasis on the racism inherent in both. Jordan Waller (who also wrote the screenplay) is a butcher of Polish origin facing both a sausage crisis and the relentless torments of xenophobic locals. Still living at the family home above the butcher shop, he reunites with his estranged twin sister (Kathryn Wilder) – the advertising face for a popular stool softener – and, after…

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