Archive for Australian Horror

The Babadook (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Helmed as the scariest film of 2014, The Babadook was certainly worth a look to see if its hype is to be believed. Director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin has made no secret of his praise for Jennifer Kent’s feature debut claiming that it will ‘scare the hell out of you’, which is certainly no understatement. Australian Horror Cinema is currently in a really strong place with a range of eclectic films that celebrate different angles of the genre, this year Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and The Babadook have proven to be genre defying films of a high standard.

With a female director at the reigns The Babadook has received a great deal of attention, demonstrating how women can make frightening films just as well as men. There’s Friedkin, Kubrick, Carpenter and now Kent. The film has come as a breakthrough point in terms of a female horror filmmaker gaining deserved recognition for creating a genuinely scary horror film. Its completely refreshing that The Babadook has achieved a wider cinematic release, its a very brave film in many ways and while it may lead you to believe its a simplistic haunting film its far more than just that. On the surface seeing The Babadook in the cinema might mislead audiences into thinking their getting another Insidious or Annabelle. But The Babadook defies expectation in a hard-hitting way, it takes it time to develop the characters, keeps the audience invested throughout and takes an intelligent approach to the ‘supernatural’ sub-genre. Even its title is unique, setting it apart from everything else within the genre.

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Centering on a widowed single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) struggling to bring up her agitated six year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), The Babadook essentially is a two hander depicting a family dealing with the turmoil of grief. In an outstanding performance Essie Davis portrays Amelia as a woman who’s had her whole life ripped apart following her husband’s death in a horrific accident which took place on the night Samuel was born. She’s distant from those around her and fails to discipline a mischievous Samuel who on the outset appears to be quite a disturbed child, playing with dangerous weapons as well as an unhealthy obsession with death. The relationship between mother and son is grimly realistic viewing and highly compelling. While reading a bed time story one night Amelia allows Samuel to choose a book and so they begin to read an obscurely drawn and cryptic story named ‘Mister Babadook’.  As Amelia reads to Samuel the book becomes gradually more sinister as the pages turn. Both mother and son are certainly unsettled, cleverly emphasizing that parents can be afraid of things just as much as children. As the film unfolds and Amelia and Samuel’s obsession deepens, it leaves us to wonder who is this mysterious Babadook? and what does he want? and where did this horrible, horrible book come from?

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Jennifer Kent’s characters are written authentically. Amelia is portrayed as a broken woman, there’s nothing glamorous about her in hows she’s constructed. She’s clearly vulnerable, beaten down by life and just feels very real. Noah Wiseman for a young actor plays Samuel powerfully, the notion of him being this troubled young boy comes across believably. A strong dynamic is created between the two leads.

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The purpose of this review is not to reveal too much as its a film that needs to be viewed completely blind in order to experience its full impact. There are several spoilers online as fans and film reviewers alike are developing their own theories regarding the film’s true meaning and interpretations of the ending. It unexpectedly gets under the skin and is incredibly powerful in terms of its story, portrayals and direction. For me, its not the idea of The Babadook itself that gets under my skin and has kept me awake late at night thinking about it, its actually the gut-wrenching emotional impact the film delivers and its bleakness in terms of its tone. Dealing with hard-hitting subjects such as mental illness and grief is magnificently depicted and is the true horror of the piece. There’s also some beautiful homages to the imagery from the silent film era that compliments its creepy mood. Packed with high octane creepy moments and a disturbing concept at play, The Babadook wholeheartedly deserves every ounce of adoration its received and will continue to receive. It will frighten you in a unique and different way.

Sincerely tremendous, believe the hype, The Babadook is a must-see film of 2014!

Available in selected theatres and On Demandthebabadook.com

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2014: Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla may not be your conventional title for a horror film but with that said its one of the most unique and daring genre films that has come out in recent years that has the power to stay with you long after viewing it.

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This character-centred piece tells the tragic story of a lonely, ice-cream van driver named Warren (Glenn Maynard). Following daily abuse from a local thug and an the accidental death of his pet cat (a rather traumatic scene for any cat lover!), routine-structured Warren’s only comfort is in a cheesy, Australian soap opera titled Round the Block and its main actress Katie George (Kyrie Capri) which borders on obsessive. Warren records endless VHS tapes of the show and religiously collects magazine clippings of the charismatic actress.

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Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla quickly gets under the skin, as a viewer it’s a voyeuristic experience in terms of observing Warren’s mundane daily life and getting an insight into his personal fantasies. These sequences are well-crafted, depicting Warren as a cool and collected individual, an illusion of how Warren would like to see himself, a Clint Eastwood type figure from his Western/Dirty Harry days. Glenn Maynard delivers an electrifying performance as the fragile, socially-awkward protagonist, he plays fantasy Warren as almost unrecognisable, demonstrating his range as an actor and his power to single-handedly carry the film, keeping us invested in him until the bitter end. He is a difficult character not to root for, as an audience we garner empathy for him as he struggles through a series of unpleasant situations and we hope that the poor guy catches a break. The majority of horrible things happen to him in broad daylight, emphasizing how exposed the character is and again taking away the conventionality of the horror genre that sets everything at night. Several intimate moments occur throughout the film as Warren directly addresses the audience with a series of video diaries, adding to the voyeurism the film displays.

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The supporting cast also deliver fantastic performances that compliment Maynard as Warren,  Kyrie Capri is the sweet, down-t0-earth soap actress but shows diversity in her performance. Aston Elliot is disturbing and confrontational as the antagonistic thug Rocko, a classic bully type.

Stuart Simpson’s direction keeps the audience on edge throughout, unsure of what path the film will take next which keeps it amazingly gripping.Warren is a man on the edge and we wait to see what will finally tip him over.  In our Ghostface Girls Podcast, we discussed how on the surface the film appeared reminiscent of the 2011 festival favourite, Some Guy Who Kills People; besides sharing a similar visual aesthetic and an undermined protagonist, Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla is a whole different tub of ice cream! In fact, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is considerably more bleak, particularly due to the fact we are watching an upsetting situation unfold on screen of a vulnerable man’s descent into psychopathic tendencies. Addison Heath’s script is powerful and moving but incredibly dark. Heath’s ability to create such a dynamic character that carries the film and never loses focus must be applauded.

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Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla blurs the lines between fantasy and reality with clever techniques that it manages to deceive the audience at times into knowing what’s real and what is located  in Warren’s imagination. The concept of things never really being what they seem is a credit to Simpson’s directing and Heath’s writing.

One of the stand-out film’s of this year’s festival, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla holds such an emotional impact that its one unforgettable movie. Without having seen any other of Stuart Simpson’s work, this film is a hell of an introduction.

For a whole different kind of flavour of horror, buy Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla on Blu-Ray and DVD from November 10th.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.