I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story (2019) – What Makes You Beautiful

Released: 17th September
Seen: 28th September (Copy provided by TriCoast)

When I was going through school, the main boy bands that everyone talked about were N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys. It’s weird to think about now but back then you had to pick a side, there was a boy band war where everyone would clearly pick a side and stick to it. You would know instantly who was on what side of this totally real war that was totally important. I still have memories of hearing Backstreet Boys playing all the time, Backstreet’s Back was the first song of theirs I ever heard which constantly made me wonder where they had been before they came back (I was not a smart person, to the shock of nobody). It was a big thing but I was in the exact age range to understand what was going on, even if I wasn’t a part of it. Then I became an adult right around the time One Direction was getting big and had no idea what the deal was… if only there was some kind of documentary to spell out what the heck was going on. Oh wait, there is… now, anyway.

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The Lodge (2019) – Checking Out

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Some horror films are fast-paced thrill rides that don’t go more than 10 minutes without doing something to make the audience jump in their seats. Some horror films are slower, building tension gradually for a few hours until it explodes with a dramatic climax that is made exponentially scarier thanks to the hour of buildup. Then there are horror films that try to be slow, occasionally throw in a scare to remind the audience that there’s a film going and builds to a climax that answers nothing, justifies no one and makes the people watching sit with their jaws hanging open whispering “What the hell did I just sit through?”. This is that third kind of film.

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Porno (2019) – (CENSORED)

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Sometimes you hear a concept that just screams “This is going to be fun”. Concepts like “a killer tyre” or “a musical zombie movie” or “Ron Jeremy’s penis is sentient and wants to kill people” are pretty wild. As long as the people making the movie with those concept are willing to take it as far as they can then the movie’s going to be something fun. When I heard that the concept behind this movie was “Haunted porno film” I was on board right away because that sounds like it could be hilarious, a version of the film Demons but with a porno film? Sign me up, give me this insane silly horror comedy goodness… yeah, the key part of these films that works is when they actually take the concept to its logical extreme, sadly this one doesn’t do that.

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Romantic Comedy (2019) – *Heart Eyes*

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

One of the things I love watching online more than I probably should are video essays. If someone’s uploaded a 45 minute deep dive on why they did or didn’t like a movie, chances are I’m interested in seeing it. There’s a real art to it, trying to take film criticism and make something that’s about as long as your average episode of television and make it informative and entertaining. It’s a hard combination to make and only a few people really do it justice. I have this very odd feeling that this documentary is by someone who probably saw a bunch of those video essays and said “Well, I can do that… but longer and get it shown on the big screen”

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Greener Grass (2019) – It’s Not Easy

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Sometimes a film will ease you into its weirdness, it’ll start normal but be off the rails before the end of act two. Sometimes, a film just throws you into weirdness within 10 minutes and expects you to catch on. Then some movies start at “What the actual fuck is this?” and go from there. Greener Grass is the last kind of movie, a movie so profoundly strange that explaining it is a fool’s errand. I mean, I could try and describe the plot to you in some organized fashion like something resembling a professional but instead I feel like the best way to explain just how weird this film is would be for me to bullet point the top 5 weird things that happen in this film that, somehow, feel perfectly normal in context (context I won’t be providing because… well, you’ll see).

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Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible (2019) – A Fountain Of Ideas

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Of all the great modern artists, none of them has delighted me as much as Marcel Duchamp. Like most people, I heard about his work The Fountain and asked the very simple question “What kind of insane person puts a urinal in an art gallery?”. The more I learned about him and about why he decided to do that, I enjoyed him a lot more. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy an artist who basically started an entire art movement out of pure spite? Because that’s what The Fountain is, Marcel was upset about a previous work of his being rejected from an exhibition that claimed to have no judges and so when another artist collective held another exhibition with the exact same rules, Duchamp took a urinal and signed it and that was his artwork. That spiteful piece of art ended up creating an entire movement in the art world and changed the definition of what could be art in a way that’s still making an impact to this very day. I already liked Duchamp just for that… and then I saw his documentary.

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Use Me (2019) – Take My Money!

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Go see this movie. Find it, see it, thank me when you’re done. Normally I would try and give some elaborate bit of information here that would set things up or maybe even explore how I found the film but here? No, go see this movie wherever it is. Do you have to climb a mountain to see it? Get your Sherpa, start climbing. Do you need to walk on hot coals? Burn your feet, it’s worth it. Do you have to sell your firstborn? You can have another one, kids are cheap now so throw Timmy in the ticket booth and go see this film. I don’t want you to look up details or anything like that, just trust me… or keep reading this and then go see it, but go see this goddamn movie.

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Memory: The Origins Of Alien (2019) – In Space, No One Can Hear You Explain

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

One of the movies I have probably watched more than any other is Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. I love a good documentary about film, one that takes on a single movie or franchise and methodically explores its themes and concepts, behind the scenes stories and effectively disassembles the entire movie in front of me. Crystal Lake Memories is my favourite version of this idea as it methodically goes through every film in the original franchise, the TV series, the reboot and the team-up movie… it’s also six and a half hours long and I have watched it at least a half dozen times because I am eager to explore the details that go into making some of the schlocky horror films that were a major part of my fascination with the genre. So, what if someone took on a more intellectual horror film and gave it a similar treatment?

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Them That Follow (2019) – Snakes and Stones May Break My Bones

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

In 2014 a story circulated about a pastor in Kentucky, the leader of a church called the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name and he was giving his sermon when suddenly he died… oh, his sermon would involve carrying a large poisonous snake around and the reason he died was that the poisonous snake bit him on the hand and injected him with a large amount of venom. This is actually a thing that’s more widespread than you might think, one article I found suggested that over 125 churches use poisonous snakes as part of the service. Several pastors and churchgoers have died from snake bites in these services, to the point where local authorities have had to intervene just to try and keep them from harming the community. Basically, this stuff was almost destined to be used as the foundation for a religious thriller and they got a pretty good one.

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Tone-Deaf (2019) – Make Allegory Great Again

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

This year I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Sydney Underground Film Festival, not as press but purely for fun because I genuinely love a film festival that’s dedicated to the weirder side of cinema. This is the stuff that probably would never see a mainstream theatrical release unless we were having a particularly slow period of releases and cinemas got desperate. During this festival I saw 11 films over 3 days and so, between mainstream movie reviews, I’ll be dropping these for a while to share my views on films you might want to track down if you can find them… because dammit, I watched all of them, you’re damn right I’m getting the most that I possibly can out of the experience. Let’s start with the first film I saw at the festival, Tone-Deaf.

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