Fantastic Fest 2012 Preview: Australia & NZ Attack Austin

Simon de Bruyn, Contributing Writer
There are many reasons to be fired up about Fantastic Fest this year, and my biggest reason is the awesome selection of Australian (and New Zealand) genre films playing the festival - after yet another year of these countries churning out some absolute classics. 

I'll be 9000 miles away in Melbourne during the festival, too far even for a Clive Cussler-type nautical tractor to drive there across the ocean floor, but the next best thing I can do is give you some insight into these gems as you organize your schedules. 

Aussie features

HAIL (2012)
Regional Premiere
Director - Amiel Courtin-Wilson, 104 mins
Real life ex-con Daniel P. Jones stars in this haunting and unflinchingly realistic film crafted from over 500 pages of his own memories and experiences.

Amiel Courtin-Wilson is one part creative genius, one part human cyclone, and this all comes forth in his filmmaking, which until now has spanned documentaries - including one on Aboriginal elder, actor, burglar, and (former) heroin addict Jack Charles; and another based on his epic 10-year odyssey filming musician Ben Lee. Following the short film Cicada Amiel made based on the first bloody memory of real life ex-con Daniel P. Jones (which played in Cannes in 2009) the two have reunited for Hail - an experimental crime drama that's one half true life and one half fiction. It's left to the audience to decide which. Early word on this raw brutal film is stellar, and there's apparently a horse scene to rival Tarsem.

DANGER 5 (2012)
World Premiere
Director - Dario Russo, 150 mins
It's World War II and there's nothing Hitler won't do to take over the world! Dinosaur men! Love potions! Giant robots! And all that stands in his way are the intrepid forces of the Danger 5!

Dario Russo and David Ashby's Danger 5 is absolute genius, and mixes a strange live-action cocktail of The Thunderbirds, Team America, and just about every B-movie made in the 1960s. For for some reason I'm also reminded of the Peter Sellers' forgotten gem Soft Beds, Hard Battles, probably because in that farce Sellers plays Hitler - and Danger 5 is a show about a team of drinking, smoking and bongo-playing secret agents who travel around the world trying to kill Hitler. Yes, it's World War II in 1965. We're huge fans of this show at Twitch and I applaud Fantastic Fest for doing the right thing and screening the entire series back-to-back in all its glory. 

WAKE IN FRIGHT (1971)
Repertory screening
Director - Ted Kotcheff, 114mins
A Palme D'Or nominee based on the 1961 book of the same name by Kenneth Cook and directed by FIRST BLOOD's Ted Kotcheff, WAKE IN FRIGHT is an uncompromisingly brutal look at what happens when men are left alone together in the outback with guns and a lot of beer. This is going to be a mind-blower on the big screen. Get ready.

Wake in Fright may be 40 years old, but you ain't seen nothin' like this mate! Fantastic Fest is screening a fully-restored sparkling new print of the Australian outback-noir classic that shocked audiences at Cannes in 1971 who'd previously thought of Australia as a quaint little colonial outpost filled with interesting animals and gentrified English folk. Instead they got a blood-knuckled, beer-soaked ride into hell where your demons come cloaked in workman's shirts, covered in dust and offering to buy you beers, take you shooting, and generally fuck up your life with their extreme ideas of hospitality. Nick Cave, whose contributions to cinema include writing the brutal western The Proposition and acting in the utterly chilling Ghosts of the Civil Dead, calls this "the best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence". Not to be missed.

ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY (2012)
US Premiere
Director - Eron Sheean, 101min
Plagued by the memory of the infant son he could not save, geneticist Geoff Burton plunges into a web of intrigue, jealousy and lies in this icily precise thriller.

Eron Sheean's German-Australian directorial debut is having a dream genre festival run and this continues with its much-anticipated US premiere at Fantastic Fest. Errors of the Human Body is a fascinating film, ostensibly sci-fi, but really pure science - like the best of Breaking Bad you really believe that everything they propose could really happen, with real scientific basis. And then of course it gets haunting, and unnerving, until things really spiral out of control, perhaps towards madness. There's a pervasive creepiness and growing dread over the whole film, helped along by one of the creepiest bald guy performances since Dark City. Plus there's a scene that I guarantee will change the way you look at milk for weeks afterwards.

CRAVE (2012)
U.S. Premiere
Director - Charles de Lauzirika, 113min
CRAVE follows a mentally unstable crime scene photographer on his descent into violence and madness. CRAVE won the New Flesh Award for Best First Feature at the 2012 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival.

I've included this as a shout-out, as while it's not officially Australian, Crave boasts two Australian actors playing the American male and female leads - which must have been a surreal blast during filming. Comedy actor Josh Lawson is clearly angling for a Eric Bana-esque transformation with his role as an unhinged serial killer, while Emma Lung is sticking closer to what she does well - romantic love interest #1. I'm really keen to see this one as the trailer looks great - complete with Ron Pearlman chewing up the scenery. 

Aussie shorts

AT THE FORMAL (2012)
Austin Premiere
Director: Andrew Kavanagh, Australia, 8 minutes
Modern and ancient rituals collide in this macabre depiction of a high school formal.

At The Formal is utterly incredible and like Sean Byrne's Advantage, Ariel Kleiman's Deeper Than Yesterday and Spencer Susser's I Love Sarah Jane, will no doubt prove to be a fantastic calling card to put director Andrew Kavanagh firmly on the map.

THE TEA PARTY (2012)
North American Premiere
Director: Cameron McCulloch, Australia, 12 minutes
Princess has waited a long time to finally meet her Prince Charming, the only thing standing in their way is her foul mouthed pets and the lack of a Afternoon Tea condiment.

A princess, her prince charming and stuffed animals who swear black and blue. What the fuck else do you need to know? 

New Zealand features

Not to be outdone, our Les Cousins Dangereux from across the moat in New Zealand also have a couple of films playing in Fantastic Fest, and just to make sure we'd notice them they've squashed 26 films into one epic bloody movie. Behold The ABCs of Death - curated by NZ producer/cultural ambassador Ant Timpson. All the bloody way from A to NZ. 

THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012)
US Premiere with multiple directors in person
Director - Various, 110 min
Twenty-six directors. Twenty-six ways to die. Co-produced by Drafthouse Films, and finally ready to be unleashed--see what happens when you give more than two dozen of the most brilliant filmmakers from around the world free reign to indulge their creative impulses and black humor. From A to Z, it's got something for every genre fan and is like nothing you've ever seen before.

New Zealand shorts

Not to rest on their laurels, the Kiwis have also made sure they have yet another short film elsewhere in the festival. And this one comes with overloaded expectations, being a New Zealand zombie film, which already makes it reminiscent of the Kiwi granddaddy Braindead.

BRAINS? (2012)
North American Premiere
Director: Giles McNeill, New Zealand, 7 minutes
Four sociable Zombies enjoy a meal of delicious brains, but are confronted by terrifying, yet tasty-smelling humanity, which will change their un-dead existence forever.
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