Britain’s biggest and best festival of horror, cult and genre cinema, Film4 FrightFest returns later this month to Empire Cinemas (Leicester Square, London) for five days and nights of blood and thunder. Australian cinema’s contribution to the latest FrightFest instalment may not be numerically significant, but its outback blend of ‘something old, something new, something bloody, and something blue’ still packs a mean punch!
100 BLOODY ACRES
The ‘new’ comes in the form of the UK premiere of breakout horror comedy, 100 Bloody Acres. Having already caused a stir in North America (88% on Rotten Tomatoes!) and fresh off its Australian run (albeit one hampered by a delayed release, lacklustre promotion and online piracy), the debut feature from writer/director brethren Cameron and Colin Cairnes sees a pair of ‘small business operators’ in outback South Australia producing the sort of organic fertilizer that Sweeney Todd would happily sprinkle on his rose garden. When the ‘roadkill’ begins to dry up, however, the brothers must diversify into even ‘fresher’ ingredients for their ‘new blend’, leading the film into a hilarious melange of Wolf Creek hysterics and slapstick gore.
Fans of innovative film marketing might also want to check out the film’s social media campaign, particularly the mock viral marketing for Morgan’s Organic, which has its own presence on Facebook and Twitter, runs hilarious television commercials and maintains an awful company website.
WAKE IN FRIGHT
If 100 Bloody Acres doesn’t really sound like your bag of manure, you might prefer Australia’s ‘old’ contribution to this year’s FrightFest. Wake in Fright (1971) is a bonefide classic of the dark side of Australian cinema, helping to spark both the respectable film renaissance of the 1970s and the less salubrious Ozploitation cycle of the ’70s and ’80s. Based on Kenneth Cook’s notorious novel and directed by Canadian Ted Kotcheff (a full decade before he helped Sly Stallone bring John Rambo to the screen in First Blood), it traces the Dantean downfall of John Grant, a respectable British schoolteacher consigned to teach in Australia’s marauding outback. En route to Sydney for his holidays, Grant stops off in an outback mining hellhole named Bundanyabba, only to be perpetually waylaid by a toxic culture of drinking, gambling, fighting and shooting.
A masculine nightmare of epic proportions, this visceral, brutal classic is also beautifully shot by Brian West, and features a whole raft of outstanding performances, not least a completely unhinged turn from Donald Pleasence as a maniacal self-medicating bush doctor. Brought back from the brink with the discovery of original negatives in 2004 and a full, glorious restoration by Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive the film returned to Australian screens, followed by a major US re-release last year via Drafthouse Films.
SECOND CHANCE TO CATCH BOTH FILMS
Sadly for Oz cinema fans, the two films are screening more or less concurrently on the same night, so if you really wanted to see both (or, heck, if you’re among that majority of British folk who don’t actually live in London), fear not! People a little further afield can catch a preview of 100 Bloody Acres on August 28 as part of the Chichester International Film Festival, and the rest of you schmucks will have to wait until it hits cinemas nationwide on October 11. Likewise, the FrightFest outing of Wake In Fright comes hot on the heels of news that the UK’s premier boutique label Eureka will be giving the film a limited theatrical run followed by its full, glorious Masters of Cinema blu-ray treatment in 2014.
SMALL SCREEN FRIGHTFEST
But wait, there’s more! If you just can’t wait to get your fix of Australian thrills and chills, it’s also worth keeping a lazy eye on Film4’s small-screen FrightFest season, which kicked off last night with a Splice/Re-Animator/Scanners triple bill. Australia gets its first look-in tonight (August 14) at 10:45pm with Andrew Traucki’s deep-sea survival chiller The Reef (2010), followed by two more 2010 features, Josh Reed’s anthropological bush shocker Primal (19/08 at 2:15am) and Patrick Hughes’ western thriller Red Hill (22/08 at 11:05pm).
Details of other Australian films screening around the UK (or coming to DVD/Blu-ray) can be found on our Aussie Film Calendar. Film4 FrightFest runs August 22 – 26 at Empire Cinemas – Leicester Square, London and the FrightFest TV season runs every night from August 13 – 26 on the Film4 channel (Virgin 428 / Sky 315 / Freeview 15).