What we’re watching this week

The end of the world as we know it and chickens having sex…

It Comes at Night

We’ve had It Follows, now the equally pants-wetting It Comes at Night. In September we’re getting another horror flick just titled It and maybe that one will tell us exactly what “it” is. So far, we don’t know. Edward Shults’ confident, spare and mean low budget genre movie certainly doesn’t tell us, though it does proves he knows his stuff – he’s a master in the mechanics of scaring us silly as well as generating a foreboding atmosphere of dread. In a house deep in a dark forest, survivalist Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejojo) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) have set up a mini-fortress while outside a highly infectious plague has all but wiped out civilization, leaving only diseased marauders with whom any contact means a grisly, agonizing death. Paul does reluctantly let another apparently healthy young family into their sanctuary, and that’s where “it” (suspicion, repressed sexual desire, paranoia) takes up residency also. Now (this being only 30 minutes in), we know what’s coming… Certain post-apocalypse practicalities (fuel, ammunition, power for batteries) remain a mystery, and maybe that’s a minor quibble, but genre pieces, even horror flicks big on metaphor still require a certain amount of exposition. So its especially frustrating, after all the admittedly quite brilliant set-up, not to have the mechanics of the inevitable breach explained. The climax is powerful enough, and the final scene devastating – make no mistake, this is an impressive movie. But how did “it” happen? MA15+ on now at Dendy Newtown and Palace Norton St ★★★1/2

 Chicken People

Chicken may be just a meal to most of us, something we (perhaps guiltily) consume while trying not to think about the previous lives of the animals we’re eating. To a select group of others though – self-described “hatch-a-holics” raising the perfect bird is an all-consuming passion. Chicken People, which screened at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, is a doco that takes a fascinating and humorous look at the highly competitive world of champion show chicken breeding. Director Nicole Lucas Haimes could have set them up for satiric ridicule, like the dog breeders of Best in Show, but instead takes a warm-hearted and ultimately way more insightful approach. We follows several breeders over the course of a year, all a bit quirky, all highly entertaining and all absolutely determined that this year, one of their beloved birds will win Best in Show at the Ohio National Poultry Show. It helps that none of them take themselves too seriously, but then again, how could you – while washing and blow-drying the bird’s feathers or letting them sit on the living room sofa complete with chicken diapers? Everyone, especially struggling singer Brian Carmaker (above) who is also following his show-biz dreams, and homemaker Shari McCollough a recovering alcoholic, are incredibly generous about letting us into their obsessive lives. Its rated PG though it does contain fowl language and one graphic and explicit scene of chicken sex. But blink and you’ll miss it – those roosters don’t muck around with foreplay! On now and recommended at Dendy Newtown ★★★★

Reviews – Russell Edwards