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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Serial Mom (1994) – Mommy Dearest

We live in a time where crime re-enactment shows are back and bigger than ever. With hit TV series like American Crime Story, films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile or even hit podcasts like Serial, we can’t get enough of stories about murderers and the crimes they committed. This obsession has been around for years but it really hit the big time in the 90s when the O.J. Simpson murder trial became must-see-TV and effectively took the True Crime genre into the stratosphere. Of course, whenever there’s a genre this popular it will inevitably get a few people parodying it. We’ve all seen a thousand various parodies of Making a Murderer, Netflix ended up just making an official parody of their own hit series with American Vandal. It’s an easy genre to make fun of but there was one movie that beat them all to the punch, possibly one of the earliest to parody this genre right before its big O.J. related explosion… the cult comedy Serial Mom

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Hate Crime (2019) – Let’s Talk About Heavy Topics… That’s Always Fun

Released: 24th September
Seen: 8th September (Advance copy provided by TriCoast)

In 2009, America extended its hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This extension was called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named for two victims of notable hate crimes of the 90s that lead to a decade long conversation surrounding hate crimes. This was a conversation that I kind of hoped we wouldn’t need to have anymore, but since there’s been a spike in hate crimes in America since 2017 (I wonder what major event happened that might have led to that?) we apparently need to continue the discussion. The movie Hate Crime wants to tackle a very specific portion of this discussion, one that I’m honestly stunned hasn’t been talked about in more films… just what effect does the aftermath of a hate crime have on the families left behind?

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The Banana Splits Movie (2019) – Five Nights At Fleegle’s

Released: 4th September
Seen: 6th September

One of the great things about the horror genre is its ability to take something innocent and, with minimal alterations, turn it into an icon of terror. Santa Claus was never a scary creation but put an axe in his hand and you have the poster for Silent Night, Deadly Night. No one used to associate hockey masks with horror until one unlucky day when a boy named Jason put one on before heading out to Camp Crystal Lake. That’s the power of horror; innocent images can be given malevolent meaning just by a change in context. So, if this idea works for well-known images like Santa or the hockey mask, the question is if it can work for a bunch of iconic animal costumes from a 60s variety show. The answer is yes, but only as a novelty.

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It: Chapter Two (2019) – Clowning Around

Released: 5th September
Seen: 4th September (Advance Screening)

In 2017, the film It came out in cinemas to wide praise. It was shocking, horrifying, a terrific adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most beloved novels. It was proof that this story could be done better than it had been with the 90s miniseries and it was one of the most terrifying films in recent memory. I loved that film so much that I put it at number five on my best-of list for 2017 and I sometimes wonder if maybe it should’ve been higher because it was just that great. The first film did one thing perfectly, it simply told the story of the main characters from when they were children and left the adult stuff for the sequel. It allowed the film to feel complete and gave it a fantastic tone, making it a story of childhood fears and the pain of adolescence. This movie had the impossible task of not only matching that terrifying tone but elevating it while also introducing the adult versions of the main cast. It had to carry on the story of the Losers’ Club and show us just how much more terrifying Pennywise the clown could be with the child safety taken off him… there’s a reason this sounds like an impossible task and it’s not one that this film managed to completely achieve, though it did do some pretty great things.

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To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) – Wig Snatched

Nowadays, we are living in one of the high points of drag entering the mainstream. Through sheer force of will, a little show called RuPaul’s Drag Race has slowly grown to the point where we are just months away from entering a period where we will have roughly 5 different variations of the Drag Race formula over a 12 month timeframe, along with more cult shows like Dragula being social media darlings. In movies, however, drag queens don’t tend to be a big feature. Sure, in the last few years they appeared in A Star Is Born and the indie circuit popped out a few surprises but in terms of mainstream films embracing drag queens as a major element of the narrative, we haven’t had that since the last 90s when a trilogy of films presented Drag Queens in all their glory. There was the iconic comedy of The Birdcage (with… oh god, the Genie and Timon, gosh darn I can’t remember their real names), before that, there was the Australian classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and before both of them, there was the underrated gem with the glorious name of To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

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Drunk Parents (2019) – Pass The Wine

Released: 12th June
Seen: 2nd September

Trigger Warning: there is talk about pedophillia and general child abuse in this review… because that stuff is in the movie, so there is both a warning for this review and the movie itself. Fun.

From an audience’s perspective, there is nothing quite as painful as an unfunny comedy. A bad horror movie can be amusing in its own special way, a bad drama is often just accidentally hilarious but a bad comedy is the essence of death. With a bad comedy, the jokes don’t work so there’s no reason to laugh and since that’s the main thing that these movies go for, there’s nothing of value left. A comedy can fail in many ways, a joke just not landing or being too tasteless to be funny or even just by being so poorly edited that any potential comedic timing is rendered moot… anyway, here’s a review of another bad comedy that had potential that got wasted.

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