Local Aussie Movies

Last Monday night we were given free tickets to attend an advance screening of The Loved Ones, the first feature film by Australian short film director, Sean Byrne. This horror genre film was touted by EFX Magazine as “Pretty in Pink Meets Wolf Creek”; as such, it didn’t sound like my usual fare. However, I was keen to attend this screening at Event Cinemas Indooroopilly, as director Sean Byrne and star Robin McLeavy were in attendance for a Q&A session following the screening of the film.

While driving his father along a deserted country road one day, Brent (Xavier Samuel) swerves to avoid a zombie-like naked youth standing in the middle of the road. His father dies in the accident. Six months later, Brent is healing his emotional wounds, with the help of girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine), when his odd classmate Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks him to the school dance. When Brent refuses, explaining that he’s going with Holly, Lola plans an intricate revenge …

As mentioned, this is a genre film and one that according to Sean Byrne counts Carrie among its main influences. The performances are wonderful; the cast are talented and fearless. But this is not a film for the sqeamish! As Sean Byrne explained in the fascinating Q&A session, he aimed to push the audience to the brink, admitting he wanted the audience to be on the verge of walking out at one point! And he succeeding in pushing the envelope; many scenes are of sufficient gruesomeness to be difficult to watch. Yet the film is enjoyable in its cathartic, demented, genre-soaked violence.

The production values were above expectation. The cinematography, soundtrack and setting enhance the menacing mood, while the script exhibits both touching emotional depth and an edgy humor. The Loved Ones manages to give us something original while still satisfying the genre conventions. This is definitely no B-grade effort, but an effective and enjoyable contribution to the genre from a promising young director and cast.

I rate The Loved Ones ✭✭✭✰

At the screening of The Loved Ones we received a ‘showbag’ in which we found a DVD of another recent Australian film, the psychological drama Last Train To Freo. This extremely intense film tells the real time story of five people in a carriage on the last train from Midland to Fremantle, in Perth, Western Australia, on a night when the guards are on strike.

“The Tall Thug” (Steve Le Marquand) and mate Trev (Tom Budge) board the empty carriage in Midland. The two ex-cons seem to be looking for trouble and when an attractive young law student, Lisa (Gigi Edgley), boards the train the two men begin to compete to both charm and intimidate the unusually brave lone female traveller, who is apparently unaware of the guards’ strike. As Lisa tries to fend off the unwelcome attentions of the two ‘thugs’ during the trip, two further passengers, an older woman and a man, also board the train. The relief when these two passengers board soon evaporates as further tensions, as well as odd and unexpected alliances, emerge.

The script, expanded from a successful stage play by Reg Cribb, is excellent and thought provoking, as film scripts that begin as stage plays tend to be (Six Degrees of Separation being an exemplary case in point). For me, the sharp, well-written dialogue, combined with excellent performances from all five actors, made for a compelling film. Marquand and Edgley are wonderful. As a former Perth local who caught the Fremantle train on many occasions, the film also had a familiar appeal.

Unfortunately the lack of action proved too much for my husband and he did not buy into the tension as I did. This is one of those films that does not have universal appeal. In spite of it going above and beyond in performances and script, it does not maximize the full potential of the medium of film. For this reason, those such as myself who love dialogue and plot driven drama will enjoy this immensely, while those who are looking for action and screen-specific effects may find this dull and disappointing.

As much as I enjoyed this, I have to admit that I could have been watching a filmed stage play. Perhaps this is also true of the aforementioned Six Degrees of Separation. How serious a fault is this in a film I wonder?

I rate Last Train To Freo ✭✭✭✭. However, given his description, I think my husband would give it ✭.

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