Australia has put out at least a dozen or so indie horror films over the past two decades, all of which were painfully underfunded though all done in a very serious and dark tone which is surprisingly creepy. I’m not talking about the cheesy crap like “Razorback” or “Houseboat Horror”, rather things like the Aboriginal-oriented “Kadaicha” (aka. “Stones of Death”) which truly freaked me as a kid, to the more thriller-oriented flicks like the haunting “Picnic at Hanging Rock” or the Rachel Ward kidnapping drama “Fortress” (not the Christopher Lambert one, this one was MUCH better).
Now comes the country’s first foray into the mainstream slasher/comedy genre and the result is an almost schizophrenic affair with times of brilliantly entertaining fun, while at others horribly cringe-inducing. Like most American slasher films, this is a self-aware, self-referential style of horror movie aiming to be full of laughs and jumps and about half of it is on level with the better examples of the genre. However there’s some other moments, especially towards the end which sadly drag it back into the already overcrowded pile of average efforts.
The cast is uniformly superb with Molly Ringwald giving off her best performance in ages as the bitchy US actress, while Jessica Napier also does a star-making role as the film’s director struggling under the pressure at times. The rest of the cast unfortunately inhabit very one-dimensional characters which get little development and so struggle to do the best with what they have – most of them succeed.
The two stands out from the group are the female assistant Hester (Sarah Kants) whose sub-plot about her affection for the director is brought up and sadly left out to dry, and the brooding cinematographer Damien (Sam Lewis) who hardly says a word but is one of the lucky actors to have piercing eyes which give a compelling performance of their own. Kylie Minogue’s cameo is five minutes of screentime at best and is sadly forgettable, far from anything like Drew Barrymore’s “Scream” opening. With the final print of the film at only 82 minutes in length, a good 10-15 minutes extra of character development would really have helped. Some of the dialogue could also have used a bit of tweaking.
Now we come to the killer itself, a masked figure who goes around wielding a pair of garden shears. Scary? No, then again have any of the masked killers in any recent slasher films been particularly scary? Nah. What is good though is the deaths which are very frequent, quite interesting and original, and most of all fun. The gore is heavy, but thankfully just restrained to gushing or bleeding wounds. In the few cases involving loose organs the filmmakers don’t focus on them for just gore’s sake, and one instance where they do is hilarious (ie. a decapitated head rolls its eyes). There’s even a great “Star Wars” lightsabre-style gag in there as well, and its all these horror/humour moments combined with some well-lit scenery which really show off how skilful the crew on the movie was. They’ve made a $2 million production look like a $10-15 million one.
Where the film mainly falls down though is toward the end when an attempt to bring in a ‘supernatural’ element to the movie really ruins the last half-hour and makes what was an up-till-that-point quite entertaining movie kind of painful to watch – much like the way the ‘Newborn’ creature wrecked the ending and dragged down the rest of “Alien Resurrection”. Who in the hell came up with this ‘supernatural’ tone? In my view it has pretty much screwed the entire film up. What could’ve been the best comedy/horror flick outside of the “Scream” series is now just a good effort. Compared with all the other slasher films of late, it’s better than crap like “I Still Know…” but not up to “Scream” or even “Halloween: H20” standards. Its a movie certainly headed in the right direction but sadly falls short of the target. Fans of the genre will have a ball, beyond that all I can say if they do make a sequel then next time drop the ghost stuff fellas.