2017 Monster Fest Recap
Hey, everyone! Welcome to my recap of Monster Fest 2017, which I rundown all the films that I saw the festival this year. For all you out there who don’t know what Monster Fest is, its an annual horror and genre themed Australian film festival that has been held in my adoptive home city of Melbourne since 2011. Every year many genre themed feature-length/short films from both here in Australia and all over the world are showcased at the festival over the course of four days in November (which was held between the 23rd to the 26th). What made this year’s Monster Fest very special for me was that this one actually marks the first time that I was able to officially attend the event in a proper capacity. Other than going to an all-night marathon screening of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series playing at the festival in 2015, I wasn’t able to go in other previous years due to it being schedule around the same time as my birthday and other big events in my life. However this year I decided to take the plunge and finally make the effort to go to the festival. Even I only saw only six films at overall at the fest (a couple that were also screening like BOAR, PYEWACKET and ANOTHER WOLF COP I didn’t get to see due to other prior commitments on that weekend), I still had a really great time nonetheless. So I thought I’d write-up a recap article and share my thoughts on all six films that I saw at this year’s Monster Fest. Without further ado, here’s mini-reviews of every film that I watched at the festival…
THE LAST HOPE
DIRECTOR: Leigh Ormsby
PLOT: As an unstoppable virus turns the living into cannibalistic monsters devastates the world, a mysterious girl arrives in Australia, the final, unaffected safe-haven. Her arrival collides with the uprising staged by migrant survivors kept in internment camps to ensure the country’s protection. As The High Risk Response Unit reaches the facility to restore law and order, chaos erupts as they realise that despite their efforts, the virus has arrived. Will Australia, the last hope for many, finally fall?
REVIEW: While there’s a lot of things to be said about the independently made Aussie zombie film THE LAST HOPE, the first one being that you have to admire that director/co-writer/lead star Leigh Ormsby and his cast/crew set out to make a film as ambitious as this was with the limited resources that they had. As we all know that it can be pretty hard these days to get a feature-length film off the ground but the fact that Ormbsy and his team were able to achieve that has definitely earned my respect in that regard. Sadly despite the passion that went into THE LAST HOPE, the end result just didn’t really work for me at all. The story was very muddled and underdeveloped, some of the acting was pretty sub-par, the shaky-cam style cinematography was incredibly annoying at times and it doesn’t really add anything that we haven’t seen done many times before in other recent zombie related film/TV projects. That being said though, the film does have its few positive points here and there: Leigh Ormsby was quite solid in the lead role, the gore and make up effects were all well done and the first act had some intense zombie action. Overall while I didn’t think THE LAST HOPE succeeded in what it set out to be, I still give the filmmakers credit for going out there and getting a film like this one made. Still I wish that the final product was much stronger and better executed though.
DIRECTOR: Rainer Sarnet
PLOT: In this tale of love and survival in 19th century Estonia, peasant girl Liina longs for village boy Hans, but Hans is inexplicably infatuated by the visiting German baroness that possesses all that he longs for. For Liina, winning Hans’ requited love proves incredibly complicated in this dark, harsh landscape where spirits, werewolves, plagues, and the devil himself converge, where thievery is rampant, and where souls are highly regarded, but come quite cheap.
REVIEW: I’m going to lie if you were going to ask me to describe what the plot to writer/director Rainer Sarnet’s B&W fantasy film NOVEMBER is about, I would honestly would not be able to tell you at all. Hell, even after reading what the film’s synopsis actually is, I was still very confused. However even though I was completely bewildered by this film on a story level, I still found it to be strangely compelling and hypnotic cinematic experience nonetheless. From the very first frame to the very last, NOVEMBER really had me transfixed by both it’s weirdness and originality. I love it when a film shows me things that I have never seen before, and this film is full of stuff like that (the animatronic creatures that featured in this film are some of the most unique creations I’ve ever seen). Plus it also helps that this is without a doubt one of the most visually stunning films that I have seen at the cinema this year. Every single shot through out this film is just absolutely gorgeous beyond belief. While it’s definitely not a perfect film by any means (it could have easily have been trimmed by at least 10 minutes), it’s still fascinating film that needs to be seen on the big screen. Also if you need another reason as to why you should check out NOVEMBER, Dieter Laser (of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE fame) gives one of his most subdued performances ever in this film. That’s saying something!
THE VIPER’S HEX
DIRECTOR: Addison Heath & Jasmine Jakupi
PLOT: Kiyo, a lonely hostess spends her days propositioning men on the cold streets of Tokyo and being beaten by her violent pimp. One day her luck seems to change when she meets a charming foreigner named Anchin and a romance blossoms but soon everything falls apart when she becomes pregnant. Upon hearing the news Anchin flees Tokyo. With nowhere left to go she turns to The Viper, a scorned spirit that has been with her since birth.
REVIEW: I have to admit when I sat down in the cinema to watch the Japanese set supernatural horror film THE VIPER’S HEX from Melbourne filmmakers Addison Heath & Jasmine Jakupi (who were behind the indie Aussie genre films MONDO YAKUZA and UNDER THE KALEIDOSCOPE), I wasn’t sure what to expect. I only knew a little of what the plot was about but after hearing the buzz it was getting, it definitely caught my interest and I was eager to check it out at the festival. Now having seen the film myself, it definitely lived up to its hype. While the story itself may not be entirely new, this was still a dark and intense horror film that completely hooks you in with its riveting story from beginning to end. Heath & Jakupi did a great job in how they crafted film together: their direction was strong, the score was great, the cinematography was atmospheric and the script even tackles some really thought-provoking themes that made the film feel very timely to what has been going on currently in our world today. Plus at the centre of it is the film’s lead star Saya Minami, who gave an absolutely terrific performance in the complex role of ‘Kiyo’. Her character really is the emotional anchor of the film and seeing her journey throughout it was really compelling. Overall THE VIPER’S HEX was surprisingly great film that’s up there as one of the big highlights from this year’s Monster Fest for sure.
DIRECTOR: Stefan Ruzowitzky
PLOT: Prostitutes are being brutally murdered by a fanatical serial killer. When she catches a glimpse of him going about his grisly work, a kick-boxing taxi driver, Özge, finds herself in the maniac’s crosshairs. Ignored by police and hampered by bureaucracy, Violetta transforms into an enraged vigilante, turning the tables on her psychotic stalker.
REVIEW: Out of the all the film’s that were screening at Monster Fest this year, the one I most looking forward to was the action horror/thriller COLD HELL. After hearing nothing great things about it from people who have seen at film festival over the pass few months, it was definitely on my radar to check out for sure. So what did I think of it? I safely say that not only did COLD HELL live up to my exceptions, it’s without doubt the absolute best film that I saw at Monster Fest. It was absolutely intense and hugely entertaining film that’s great mash-up of giallo, Hitchcockian thriller, immigrant family drama and hard edge BOURNE series style action. For some filmmakers a unique combination of different sub-genres like this one has would be tricky balance to get right but director Stefan Ruzowitzky (who previous made the slasher films ANATOMY 1 & 2 and the Oscar-winning THE COUNTERFEITERS) and screenwriter Martin Ambrosch was able to make it work extremely well. It’s a film that’s full of suspense, surprises, compelling themes and brilliant staged action set pieces. Plus it’s also backed by a terrific star-making performance from Violetta Schurawlow, who is just simply riveting in the lead role of ‘Özge’. Sure the film does have it’s flaws here and there (as good as the script is, it can get a little contrived at times) but they didn’t bother that much, they didn’t stop from being an absolute ride from start to finish.
DIRECTOR: Can Evrenol
PLOT: Still traumatised by the death of her father and sister at the hands of her demonically possessed mother 20 years ago, Holly is slowly losing her grip on reality. Things go from bad to worse when she is persuaded to attend an event hosted by a celebrity psychic, who turns out to be the leader of a cult.
REVIEW: While I know that a lot of horror fans were big fans of director Can Evrenol’s debut film BASKIN, I honestly wasn’t really the biggest fan of it. It’s not to say that it was a bad film or anything, it just didn’t strike the same chord with me as it did with others. However at the same time BASKIN did showcase that Evrenol was a talent to be watched and when I heard that his sophomore effort HOUSEWIFE (which also marks as his official English language film as well) was screening at Monster Fest, I immediately added it to my list of films to check out. After watching the film, I can safely say that found the HOUSEWIFE to be both a much more stronger and interesting film than BASKIN was overall. However if you think that Evrenol might have dialled down the craziness for his second film, think again. After slowly building first two acts, the film goes completely off the rails with its utterly insane third act. You can definitely while watching the film that the works of director Lucio Fulci and writer H.P. Lovecraft were major influences in how he crafted. While it definitely has it’s flaws (the acting can be a bit flat at times, the plot can be rather confusing at times etc.), I still found HOUSEWIFE to be a rather creepy and atmospheric mind-bender. If you fan of BASKIN, Lovecraft or Fulci, you’re definitely going to get something out of this film for sure.
DIRECTOR: Coralie Fargeat
PLOT: Jen arrives at a remote villa with her millionaire boyfriend, Richard, for a weekend of illicit romance. Things quickly go from hedonistic to devastating when her lover’s hunting buddies show up unannounced and what begins as a night of drunken revelry ends up in a horrifying pack rape. Left for dead in the villa’s desert surrounds, the three men underestimate not only Jen’s will to survive, but also her thirst for vengeance.
REVIEW: You know what’s funny? I expected to see a lot of ridiculous things in some of the films that I was seeing at Monster Fest but honestly did not expect that most would have come from the French rape-revenge/action thriller REVENGE. Seriously, no joke. This film was definitely without a doubt *the* most ridiculous and preposterous film that at the festival this year. I honestly thought that it was going to be a rather serious film based on its premise but once it moves pass the disturbing first act, it takes a complete left turn into the ridiculously and becomes even more crazier as it goes along. While I personally found to be a bit of mix bag due to how tonally jarring and silly it can be at times, I still found it quite enjoyable nonetheless. The performances are all solid, it has a great energetic pace and very stylish direction from first time filmmaker Coralie Fargeat. It’s very clear from to beginning to end that Fargeat has a complete love for action/exploitation cinema and you can definitely see that shine through in the way that she approached the film. While REVENGE definitely isn’t the most original film of its type that you’ll ever see, it’s still a decent and confident debut for Fargeat. I’m definitely very interested to see what she has in store next.