The marketing hype is right, this blood curdling chiller is indeed “the scariest movie you’ll ever see.” But does that mean you should? Honestly, three days after seeing it I’m still in recovery (my therapist is hopeful; I reckon the scars will last forever). And I really don’t know how many cinema-buffs, even those well versed in the tricks of the haunted/doomed-family horror genre will be able to handle this incredibly tough blend of bleak psychological drama and impeccable staged (and acted) shocker. Most incredible of all – this is Ari Aster’s first film. Mate, for all our sakes, please don’t make another!
Stepping back a bit, it does provide a salient reminder – one many health professionals have been pointing out. If you’re from a family with a history of mental instability, maybe lay off the weed? That’s a lesson the withdrawn Peter (Alex Wolff), teenage son of reclusive miniature artist Annie (Toni Collette) and grimly quiet psychiatrist father (Gabriel Byrne) hasn’t taken on board… He’s distant from his parents, in fact everyone in this affluent Pacific North West (where cannabis is legal, btw) home seems to keep as far apart as possible. Though he does have his high school smoking buddies (listed in the credits as Stoner #1 and Stoner #2) and his gawkily odd little sister (Millie Shapiro), who likes to eat chocolate and cut off the heads of dead birds. In the opening scenes this strange family is burying their recently deceased grandmother, who we soon learn was quite a malignant piece of work. Unfortunately, her legacy doesn’t stay in the ground and pretty soon there’s an horrifically violent accidental death in the family. Then the real horror starts, but its nothing at all like the conventional “haunting” the creepily slow and enthralling lead-up suggests. What happens next is more like a case of extreme emotional terrorism worthy of Michael Haneke on acid.
The gory final act does leave one family member still standing, though that person seems destined to have a few issues, to say the least! The climax is as horrifyingly sinister as it is narratively satisfying – and only spoilt by a voice “explaining” what it all means. Not necessary, the title alone tells us all we need to know. Though perhaps, if you’ve spent your teens and young adult years sucking on bongs – you do need to be told… MA15+ from June 7. Inner west cinemas include Palace Norton St, Palace Central, Broadway, Burwood, and Dendy Newtown ★★★★1/2
Tea with the Dames
It would be a great shame if this charming doco, which was originally commissioned by the BBC but is getting a limited cinema release, was only seen by those of a similar age to the four women featured. That is a risk – there’s a constant stream of arthouse movies aimed at the sort of people who have time to laze away their weekdays in arthouse cinemas sipping prosecco and eating cake (sure beats playing golf), and Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill) film could easily find itself pigeon-holed. But this fascinating eavesdrop on the spiky and an intelligent conversations of four venerable British actresses, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Eileen Atkins (all Dames, Knights of the Realm, whatever…) really should be seen be everyone, and especially anyone in the acting profession. Film buffs will be particularly rapt.
Their candid reminiscences on their careers and the craft of acting, mixed with clips and rare footage, include tactics to deal with stage fear and (valuably) – the egos of male stars and directors. And husbands – Plowright was married to Laurence Olivier, 22 years her senior at the time. Thankfully there are no #MeToo revelations, though some of those memories are pretty ribald and just a bit bitchy. The wittiest lines are about dealing with age itself, something the director initially has trouble extracting. ”Might Dame Judi say something about ageing?” he politely asks. “Fuck off, Roger,” is the un-ladylike reply, before going on to relay a hilarious incident she’s still seething from when she was bitten on the bum by a hornet on set of one of the Bond movies. The sting from the young paramedic was far worse. “And what’s our name?” he asked. And do we have a carer?” And that – to 007’s boss?
It’s a surprisingly fun and breezy movie – one that could only be made in Britain. Across the Atlantic actresses like Jane Fonda (80), Candice Bergen and Dianne Keaton still find themselves making films about “hooking a man” complete with viagra jokes and tag lines like “These old girls are still hot!” (I’m only half joking – see the trailer for Book Club). At least British dames are spared that indignity. These girls have class. M from June 7. Inner west cinemas include Palace Norton St, Palace Central, Burwood and Dendy Newtown. ★★★★
There might have been a movie in the story of Kodachrome closing down their last remaining processing facility in Kansas and hundreds of photographers rushing there for film developing before it did. Netflix did buy this one for streaming in the US* – ironical for something that proudly celebrates all things analogue and was shot on real film. The original story was a widely shared 2010 New York Times magazine article, but who would have thought of adding a fictional road-trip to it? And why? The bog-standard three-hander story director Mark Raso and writer Jonathan Tropper grafted on to this slender premise is diverting enough – Kodachrome certainly isn’t a bad movie, and its excellent three lead actors do give it a spiky indie charm… But if only it didn’t signal its every move before we’ve even got into the car and started driving?
First we meet Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a divorced washed-up record label exec, then beautiful young Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen). Ding! These two will end up in the sack. She’s a nurse and personal assistant for Ben (Ed Harris), Matt’s obnoxious dad – a “brilliant” veteran photo-journalist who has terminal cancer. Ding! This man will die. She wants Matt to drive his father to said Kodak facility to process Ben’s last brilliant rolls of celluloid, but he won’t – because Ben was an absent and negligent jerk of a dad who he hates. Ding! Guess what’s on those rolls! Ding! He will, so that they can squabble and then reconcile just before a teary climax calculated for maximum pathos. And so it goes. The real surprise is the notion that any freelance magazine photographer could be rich enough to be able to afford a private full-time nurse like Elizabeth Olsen. Even in the days before digital disrupters like Netflix put an end to anyone in the creative arts making any money, nah, I don’t think so. M from June 7. Inner west cinemas include Dendy Newtown, Burwood, Palace Norton St and Palace Central. ★★★
* NB Not available on Netflix in Australia
Also opening this week
Ocean’s 8 (unpreviewed)
Reviews – Russell Edwards