27 July 2018

The biggest screen event in the southern hemisphere, the MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (MIFF), returns on August 2nd for one hell of an exciting program! There’s a little bit of something for every demented genre fan here: artsy zombies, giallo splatter and a bonkers Cage are all here to savour!

MIFF’s stated goal is to bring you the story of the world  through curated and unforgettable screen experiences, and by bringing international genre hits like PIERCING (from the director of 2016’s brilliantly demented THE EYES OF MY MOTHER), pure Nicolas Cage adrenaline MANDY and the delightfully morbid thriller THOROUGHBREDS, you can bet they achieved this!

To help Cultists get their film fix, we’ve highlighted all the genre gems that deserve your dollar:

Irish filmmaker David Freyne takes thematic inspiration from the long tradition of zombie movie social commentary, and applies it to a simple yet inspired premise: what if the undead were cured and reintegrated into society, but forced to live with the guilt of their horrific actions? That’s the dilemma facing Senan, a reformed flesh eater who moves in with his sister-in-law Abbie, in the wake of a viral epidemic and cure that has saved 75 per cent of the Irish population. Freyne riffs on the more realist elements of the genre to craft an allegory for social readjustment that touches on the Troubles of his country, delivering a movie that’s both dramatically unnerving and authentically scary.
Screening Saturday 4th August 6:30PM & Tuesday 7th August 9:30PM
From Greece to America, Hungary to India, Field Guide to Evil comes from the demented minds of the people behind DEATHGASM (MIFF 2015) and ABCs OF DEATH. Audiences can count on a most unexpected journey filled with scares, gore and humour in this collection of short films that tackle all things mystical and mysterious. Whether it’s an underworld goblin in Greece or a childhood djinn in Turkey, this uniquely international anthology offers a genre expedition unlike any other. Featuring contributions from internationally renowned filmmakers – including Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (GOODNIGHT MOMMY, MIFF 2015), Peter Strickland (THE DUKE OF BURUNDY, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO), Agnieszka Smoczynska (THE LURE), Katrin Gebbe (NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN), Can Evrenol (BASKIN) and Ashim Ahluwalia (MISS LOVELY) – there are many weird and wonderful worlds here for audiences to experience.
Screening Friday 10th August 11:45PM & Wednesday 15th August 9:15PM
Ana is a white, wealthy, privileged and pregnant. Clara is black, broke and applying to be Ana’s live-in baby-nanny. She gets the job and soon these two women from opposite sides of the social divide have become more than just employer and employee. But as Ana’s pregnancy progresses, it becomes clear that something is not quite right. Where, or what, is the baby’s father? Why is Ana sleepwalking every full moon? And what is going on with her eyes? Winning a Special Jury Mention at Locarno and the FIPRESCI Prize at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, Good Manners is a magical realist social commentary from filmmakers Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, who’ve drawn on Angela Carter, Jacques Tourneur and Disney for inspiration. Using an audacious twist on monster mythology to critique issues of class, race, sexuality and motherhood, the film’s stylised atmosphere and odd bursts of humour and gore recall Julia Ducournau’s RAW or Tomas Alfredson’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN while maintaining a groundedness in love and compassion.
Screening Sunday 5th August 9:00PM & Friday 17th August 9:00PM
Set amid the hinterland of the Austrian Alps, where the Black Plague has taken hold and the countryside is rife with rumour of witchcraft, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE plays with storytelling conventions and audience expectations. Told across four parts, it’s a confronting glimpse into the mind of single mothers in a time of disease and isolation. Featuring deeply ominous music and intense visuals, this is a film that will leave you shaken. Director Lukas Feigelfeld began his studies in photography before transferring to film, and the results of that collision are displayed in this stunningly photographed feature. Recalling at times the works of David Lynch, Lars von Trier and Andrei Tarkovsky, as well as an obvious comparison with THE WITCH (MIFF 2015), HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE is a frightfully accomplished debut feature that lovers of slow-burn horror will relish.
Screening Saturday 4th August 11:15PM & Friday 17th August 9:00PM
When Red Miller (Cage) met Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) he instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, so did Jeremiah (Linus Roache). And when this telekinetic bikie messiah lets loose his dedicated followers to kidnap Mandy, Red is spurred into frenzied action as he seeks retribution – using his best lumberjack skills – against the Children of the New Dawn. In a midnight movie experience like no other, this blood-splattered hit of the Sundance and Cannes film festivals blends romance with chainsaws as it lets Nicolas Cage be his most Nicolas Cage. Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW) throws everything plus the kitchen sink into this maniacal, bloody thriller. A psychedelic visual bender with a deliberately disorienting score from Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (one of his last before his untimely death in February), MANDY is a frenetic explosion of genre’s greatest hits that swings from crazed horror to devilish comedy, while providing a perfect platform for Cage to indulge his wildest excesses.
Screening Friday 3rd August 9:00PM & Friday 10th August 9:30PM (Cage-A-Thon) &  Friday 17th August 9:00PM
When lovelorn musician Sam drinks way too much at his ex-girlfriend’s party, he’s locked in a back room to sleep it off. The next day he wakes to find that a zombie plague has overrun Paris and he is, as far as he knows, the only survivor. Trapped in the apartment, Sam has little choice but to gather rations, arm himself against the apocalyptic hordes, and maybe compose a few songs to pass the time. As Sam, the excellent Anders Danielsen Lie (OSLO AUGUST 31st) carries this debut feature from Dominique Rocher, which adapts bestselling French author Martin Page’s novel into a unique reflection on loneliness and social isolation. With Denis Levant (HOLY MOTORS) memorably showing up as one of the undead, and Golshifteh Farahani (PATERSON) also appearing, THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD is an avant-garde undead chamber piece for those who crave a little more meat on their high-concept genre films.
Screening Friday 3rd August 11:30PM & Sunday 12th August 9:00PM
Comedy doesn’t get much darker than Piercing, a wildly inventive and confronting feature that tackles subjects like abuse, sex and violence with a kinky S&M twist. PIERCING begins with Reed wielding an icepick over the cradle of his newborn child, but he soon realises the best way to exorcise his demons involves a plan for dismemberment and so books a sleazy hotel room and a call-girl named Jackie. Adapted from the novel by Ryū Murukami (who also wrote the beautifully twisted novel that Takashi Miike’s AUDITION was based on), PIERCING is a suitably macabre exploration of male and female relationships. With a variety of stylistic tricks up his sleeve including split screens and a soundtrack of pop songs, PIERCING is a bold new work for director Nicolas Pesce. A physically and emotionally violent clash of two souls where the blood flows in unexpected ways.
Screening Friday 3rd August 11:45Pm & Saturday 4th August 9:00PM
Estrella is 11 years old when her mother disappears, a victim of the ruthless Huascas cartel. Left to fend for herself, she finds companionship and a fragile sense of security with a gang of similarly orphaned boys. But Estrella’s new reality is complicated not just by the dangers of life on the streets in a city ruled by violent sicarios – she also has her mother’s ghost whispering in her ear. Acclaimed Mexican author, screenwriter and director Issa López’s TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID tackles the monstrous reality of life in the crossfire from a child’s-eye view, subtly weaving magical realist elements of the supernatural into a script that gives voice to a forgotten generation. Winning awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress among others at LA’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival (in addition to López’s Fantastic Fest gong), it’s a work of exquisite beauty and quiet terror, a haunting fable that seamlessly melds timeless fantasy with timely reality.
Screening Saturday 11th August 9:00PM & Saturday 18th August 6:30PM
In the glorious Polish summer, Mula is preparing for her daughter’s First Communion. But the arrival of Mula’s long-lost sister Kaja sends the entire family into a tailspin. Has Kaja returned to claim Mula’s daughter as her own? Or does she hide an even more sinister motive? As strange supernatural events sweep the community, Mula becomes increasingly suspicious about Kaja’s true nature. The first feature from writer/director Jagoda Szelc has seen her hailed as the next Yorgos Lanthimos. Her debut genre-bending thriller earned the Best Screenplay and Best Debut Director awards at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia. It’s a bold arrival for Szelc with a film that, we’re enigmatically warned, is “based on future events”.
Screening Friday 3rd August 9:00PM & Thursday 9th August 9:00PM
For aspiring actress Bianca, the offer of a starring role in an experimental new play is too good an offer to refuse. As part of their preparation, she and her fellow actors must stay awake within a disused hospital. These are the sinister beginnings of the latest innovative film by Argentinian director Gustavo Hernández, a film full of twists and turns within its labyrinthine plot. Slickly produced and with evocative dream and hallucination sequences, YOU SHALL NOT SLEEP offers a new spin on old genre tropes. With its spectacularly creepy performances amid the psychological chaos, YOU SHALL NOT SLEEP may prove a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who see it.
Screening Friday 10th August 11:30PM & Saturday 18th August 9:00PM
Amanda is a certified school pariah, the girl who everyone knows murdered her own horse. She’s an unlikely match for preppy overachiever Lily, but the childhood besties reconnect when the unnervingly straight-shooting Amanda confesses her sociopathy. Lily is thrilled by the way her friend cuts through the bullshit of their upper-crust society and when Amanda suggests an audacious plan to murder Lily’s appalling stepfather, it suddenly seems like the most natural thing in the world. Olivia Cooke (ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL) and Anya Taylor-Joy (THE WITCH) are phenomenal as the two girls, and Anton Yelchin proves once again what a talent was lost with his death. Writer/director Cory Finley – adapting his own stage play – displays a remarkable craft for a first-timer, his structural precision and theatricality recalling the best of Hal Hartley or Whit Stillman.
Screening Saturday 4th August 9:15PM & Tuesday 14th August 9:15PM
Twenty young dancers rehearse in an empty hall. Beneath strobing lights and pounding music, their bodies contort and writhe into hypnotic, unearthly shapes. Then it’s over and the party proper begins, a humming declaration of youth and beauty and charged eroticism. But this is Gaspar Noé (LOVE) we’re talking about, and soon one fateful decision will send them spiralling into a frantic hellscape where they’ll discover the true savagery hiding behind their façades. Noé is no stranger to cinematic overload and in CLIMAX he turns in his most viscerally affecting work yet. A runaway train of a film told in long Steadicam shots, extraordinary choreography and a pulsing soundtrack from the likes of Daft Punk and Aphex Twin, this is Noé doing what he does best: taking us deep into the forbidden and unspoken reaches of our own humanity.
Screening Saturday 4th August 9:30PM & Saturday 11th August 9:30PM & Saturday 18th August 9:30PM
In the shadow of the Andes, something sinister is happening. As mutilated and decapitated women’s bodies begin appearing with increasing frequency, the task of investigating these gruesome murders falls to rural police officer Cruz; suspicion, meanwhile, lands on David – who claims a psychic link to the killer – but Cruz is not convinced. Something just doesn’t add up. The sophomore feature of Alejandro Fadel (THE WILD ONES), MURDER ME, MONSTER is a sober, slow-burning work of chilling atmosphere and, when it arrives, gut-punching horror. Setting the film in his picturesque hometown province of Mendoza, Fadel finds surreal echoes of Lynchian logic and a black streak of subtle humour in his twisted tale of fear, repression and the dispossessed male psyche.
Screening Monday 6th August 9:00PM & Saturday 11th August 11:45PM
Joe does a job no one else will: a war vet and ex-FBI agent turned hitman, his new line of work includes rescuing children from paedophile rings. The confronting task takes a considerable psychological toll but that’s just one of his worries after he’s hired to save a senator’s daughter. When the situation goes south, the duo is soon caught in an unrelenting conspiracy of corruption, violence and abuse. Adapting the novella by Bored to Death’s Jonathan Ames and winning Cannes’ best screenplay prize last year for her efforts, Ramsay’s (MORVEN CALLAR, RATCATCHER) long-awaited fourth feature takes a hammer to the revenge genre, approaching its brutally resonant tale with astonishing economy – and with a pitch-perfect Jonny Greenwood score to match.
Screening Friday 3rd August 9:00PM & Sunday 5th August 9:00PM
For three years, Paddo has led the charge at the Copperheads Motorcycle Club while gang president Knuck serves time. He’s on the cusp of taking the crew in a new direction, but his just-released leader isn’t keen on change. Then Paddo’s brother begins stirring up trouble with a rival club head, jeopardising everyone’s future. Making his feature debut with a blistering underworld tale, director Stephen McCallum serves up a gritty exploration of brotherhood and betrayal that takes its cues from Shakespeare. Scripted by and co-starring Matt Nable, it’s as vibrant as it is violent, offering a powerhouse showcase of local talent complete with a film-stealing turn by rising star Lee.
Screening Monday 13th August 6:30PM & Tuesday 14th August 4:00PM & Wednesday 15th 9:15PM
Inspired by the great genre craftsmen of yore, Xin Yukun (THE COFFIN IN THE MOUNTAIN) sets his second film against the unforgiving backdrop of a corrupt mining town in the country’s mountainous north, where a mute drifter (Zhang Baomin, THE MASTER) has returned to search for his missing son. Xin mixes exhilarating action with subversive commentary, boosted by a delicious performance from A TOUCH OF SIN’s Jiang Wu as a bewigged, crossbow-wielding town boss who enjoys hording the local resources and threatening his enemies with a meat slicer. Bloody, noirish and energised by a thumping soundtrack, it’s one that genre fans won’t want to pass up.
Screening Sunday 12th August 6:30PM & Friday 17th August 9:15PM
Psychedelic imagery, thrilling suspense and sexual tension dance together on a razor’s edge in this sumptuously designed film. AMER is the story of a woman, Ana, played by three actresses across three stages of her life, whose rebellious curiosity leads to her being haunted by an ominous figure in black. Eschewing almost all dialogue, Cattet and Forzani instead choose to let their deliriously atmospheric homage play out across immaculately crafted visual compositions. Awash in over-saturated greens, blues and reds, with no shortage of close-ups of blades on flesh, AMER takes the very essence of giallo and transforms it into something altogether new and exciting, winning several international awards including Sitges’ New Visions Award.
Screening Saturday August 4th 9:00PM
Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani followed up AMER with an even more dazzling genre homage, incorporating stylistic elements from ’60s and ’70s pulp masters like Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Mario Bava to create a visually and sonically immersive psychological thriller. In a stunning, labyrinthine Art Nouveau apartment block, a businessman returns home to his find his wife has vanished and his door is locked from the inside. What follows defies conventional summary; suffice to say that our protagonist is plunged into a mysterious web of murder, hallucination and paranoia, shot with lurid colour and set to the sounds of Ennio Morricone, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Riz Ortolani.
Screening Sunday 5th August 6:30PM
In this frenetic homage to cinema’s seedier retro fringes, a band of thieves make off with a truckload of stolen gold and find themselves in an all-out firefight at the home of a bohemian artist who lives among ruins. Genre connoisseurs Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani eschew their previous giallo love-ins for a potent mix of widescreen Spaghetti Western, pulpy, double-crossing Euro crime thrillers and even a touch of psychedelia for its extra, off-the-wall moments. The result is an exhilarating assault on the senses, lensed in glorious 16mm, starring Elina Lowensöhn (THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, MIFF 2015; AMATEUR) and with plenty of Ennio Morricone cues for maximum throwback effect.
Screening Friday 3rd August 6:30PM & Thursday 16th August 9:00PM
In Yann Gonzalez’s deliriously campy, late-‘70s-set slasher, French icon Vanessa Paradis plays a 40-something porn film producer who’s heartbroken after separating from her girlfriend, and whose cast members are being systematically murdered in grisly, albeit archly cinematically breathtaking fashion. Giallo period piece turned seductive whodunit, Gonzalez’s film riffs on the garish, sleazy stylings of everything from Argento and Fulci to De Palma and cult classic LIQUID SKY, with French electronic outfit M83 dropping retro beats and Paradis turning in a great performance that navigates the movie’s themes of desire and sexual repression.
Screening Saturday 11th August 11:30PM & Wednesday 15th August 9:00PM
When police Vice-Commissioner Belli survives a brutal bombing, he seeks out retired gangster Cafiero to locate the people responsible. Cafiero discovers there’s a new gang of criminals in town, and decides to take them out himself before the police can get to them. Corrupt cops, noble criminals and double-crosses are the order of the day in this savage thriller. Inspired by real events as well as the films BULLIT and THE FRENCH CONNECTION, Enzo G Castellari’s stylish HIGH CRIME was a massive box office hit on its first release. It boasts an impressive cast including James Whitmore (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) and THE FRENCH CONNECTION’s Fernando Rey in addition to Nero, and features a standout soundtrack courtesy of cult cinema composers Guido & Maurizio de Angelis.
Screening Thursday 16th August 9:15PM
After a run of highly successful Spaghetti Westerns, including 1966’s THE BIG GUNDOWN with Lee Van Cleef, genre expert Sergio Sollima tackled the colourfully violent criminal underworld in this 1973 poliziotteschi, which imported hard-drinking British thespian Olivier Reed to the action of the Italian streets. Reed plays a cop turned Roman prison warden whose wife is kidnapped, and who is forced to release a petty thief as part of the ransom demand. The hunt for the kidnappers results in a twisty, action-packed potboiler that spirals across the continent, as the distinction between ruthless warden and escaped criminal blurs and Sollima lands some ferociously pointed commentary on crime and punishment. REVOLVER also features arguably one of Ennio Morricone’s greatest scores, which would be later repurposed in Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.
Screening Saturday 18th August 9:15PM
When small-time mobster Ugo is released from prison, he knows his troubles are only just beginning. He keeps telling people he wants to go straight, but everyone from his old boss to his insane best friend and suspicious girlfriend is convinced he’s hiding the $300 000 he stole somewhere in Milan. And you better believe they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make him ‘fess up. Considered by many to be the perfect distillation of filmmaker Fernando di Leo’s grimy, thrilling oeuvre, MILAN CALIBER 9 is a pulp extravaganza of outrageous caricatures, plentiful sex and good old-fashioned gangster violence. Expect big hair, big guns and at least a few moments when you have to say “What the hell just happened?”
Screening Saturday 11th August 9:00PM
For more information or to check out MIFF’s entire program head here!