Elite Entertainment, the folks who brought you the definitive DVD releases of George A. Romero's classic Night Of The Living Dead and Stuart Gordon's wonderfully twisted Re-Animator, unleash on an unsuspecting public a collection of four terrible terrors from the land down under. The Aussie Horror Collection Volume Two packages up four films that apparently weren't good enough to make it into the rather respectable The Aussie Horror Collection Volume One. Here's the lowdown…
This is an odd one – four hundred years ago, a group of whale fisherman land ashore the sandy beaches of Australia and lay waste to a few aboriginal types. Skip to the present day, well 1988 at least, an Australian archeologist named Professor Bernard Thornton (Arthur Dignam) out on an expedition opens up a tomb and unleashes the spirits of the now long dead fisherman who quickly possess her body.
When a few of the artifacts from the tomb find their way into a local museum, distant relatives of the aboriginal people killed at the beginning of the movie try and steal them. It's here that an unnamed girl who doesn't talk much becomes possessed by the somehow tainted spirit of the Dreamtime. She winds up in a hospital where she winds up under the care of a sexy lady doctor named Dr. Cathy Thornton (Penny Cook) who turns out to be related to the archeologist who set all this nonsense into motion in the first place.
The possessed archeologist runs around causing mayhem and making life tough for his foxy lady doctor, and in the end, none of it really makes much sense. This movie is baffling and confusing and utterly terrible in every sense of the word. While very little of it makes any sort of sense at all, it is a fun watch if you go in knowing what to expect. You head might hurt from trying to figure it all out but there are enough semi-retarded kill scenes and goofy nonsensical dialogue to provide plenty of unintentional laughs at all the wrong moments.
This is hardly a good movie – it's about as far removed from that as you can get – but it would go really well with a six pack, wait, no, make that a twelve pack of your favorite cheap beer and a big bag of Rold Gold Cheddar Cheese Tiny Twist Pretzels. Oddly enough, this one was bank rolled by famed Australian producer Anthony I. Ginnane who financed such classic works of Ozploitation as Fantasm, Patrick and Escape 2000.
Voyage Into Fear:
Madaline Carr (Kate Raison) lives a reasonably ideal life. She's got a sweet husband named Martin (Martin Sacks) who treats her well and lives in a nice, fancy house. Unfortunately for Madaline, she's plagued by horrible nightmares that seem to stem from a traumatic event from her past – the death of her brother, Thomas. Madaline feels responsible for his death and she believes that she could have done more to prevent it – now she's paying the price as Thomas' ghost will not let her rest.
After dealing with these horrible dreams for so long, she begins to have trouble distinguishing her dreams from reality and Madaline starts to bend a little bit under the pressure that hits her day to day life. Her husband figures that the only way she'll be able to overcome these pressures is to confront the cause head on. With that in mind, they head back to the childhood home where Madaline saw her brother die in the car wreck that took his life.
Things don't go so smooth though, and Madaline becomes convinced that Thomas has returned from the grave to exact his unholy revenge upon his sister. Soon Martin goes missing and the only one Madaline can turn to for help is a strange man she remembers from her younger days, an old hunter named Harris (Martin Vaughan of Picnic At Hanging Rock) who claims he doesn't know where Martin is, but may know a lot more than he is letting on.
A vast improvement over the first film in the set, Voyage Into Fear (also known as Encounters) isn't a half bad exercise in suspense. It does take a little while to get going but the finale is unexpected and handled well and the movie does a nice job of building the tension up over time. Performances are nothing to write home about but neither are the terrible and Kate Raison does an admirable job of playing her part with just the right mix of confusion and determination. While it isn't a classic by any stretch of the word, it's a decent, subtle suspense/horror/ghost story that plays well and is worth a look.
On an interesting side note, the film's director, Murray Fahey, had a bit part in Brian Trenchard-Smith's corny Dead End Drive-In playing the role of Mickey.
The second film in the set produced by Anthony I. Ginnane was directed by noted British actor David Hemmings of Brian DePalma's Blow Up and Dario Argento's Deep Red fame. Hemmings based the film on the book of the same name by famed horror novelist James Herbert.
Robert Powell (of Asylum and The Asphyx) plays Keller, a pilot aboard a 747 jetliner that finds itself the victim of a hidden bomb. The plane crashes and bursts into flames, but Keller walks out of the searing wreckage unharmed. The rescue team are as surprised as he is to find Keller alive and unharmed, and no one seems to be able to explain how he made it out of there alive, let alone without any serious damage done to his body.
An investigation is launched into the explosion and the team of researchers conclude that it is physically impossible for Keller to have survived given the magnitude of the explosion and the intense heat generated by the fuel on board the jetliner. From here on out the film follows a path eerily similar to M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, but telling you any more than that would be spoiling half the fun.
While Hemmings doesn't exactly wow anyone with his directorial skills in this film he is at least competent behind the camera and is able to move the story along at a proper pace so as to keep things interesting. Robert Powell is great in the lead, his unusual looks adding a sense of mystery to the film before his character even finds himself in the situation he does. He's quite good in the lead, and supporting roles from Joseph Cotton (in what would prove to be his swan song performance) as a priest and Jenny Agutter of Logan's Run don't hurt things a bit either.
A decent mix of suspense and mystery with a touch of the supernatural thrown in to mix it up a bit, The Survivor is a solid film that should probably get more recognition than it has found so far among the pantheons of cult movie infamy.
Released on video in the United States under the misleading title of The Night After Halloween to cash in on the success of John Carpenter's world famous slasher film, Snapshot is a marginally interesting horror film with one or two unique plot twists.
Directed by Simon Wincer (who not only directed a few episodes of The Prisoner but also handled directorial duties on the amazing crap fest that is Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles – yes I've seen it, it was playing on the plane I took from Seattle to Toronto once), the film follows a gorgeous young hair stylist named Angela (Sigrid Thornton of The Man From Snowy River) who gets talked into trying out a modeling gig by her friend and follow pin up girl, Madaline (Chantal Contouri).
She, with some hesitation, agrees to pose nude for her first shoot, and the pictures are soon all over the promoting a new woman's perfume. With her new found fame though come a couple of problems, not the least of which is some creepy guy in an ice cream truck following her around town who has some ties to her past. Her naive and trusting personality allow her to wind up in more than one odd situation, and soon finds herself involved in a murder.
This one takes a while to get going but proves to be a reasonably interesting, if average, slasher film of sorts. While more of a thriller than an out and out horror film, Snapshot does a good job with the suspense in its last third and if you can get through the first part of the film, which is pretty dry, you'll probably wind up enjoying it, even if you don't find a strong urge to watch it a second time. The performances are all pretty standard and while there is some nice cinematography, so is most of the direction. Snapshot isn't bad, it just isn't all the involving.
The Dreaming and Voyage Into Fear are presented fullframe 1.33.1, Snapshot is presented 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, and The Survivor is presented 2.35.1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Overall, video quality is fine on each of the four movies. Colors are pretty strong, the print damage that is evident is only minor and never proves to be problematic or distracting, and while there is some slight edge enhancement there are no problems with compression artifacts.
These films do appear to be of the low budget variety and so there are some inadequacies with the source material in regards to some of the lighting and what not, but there really isn't a whole lot to complain about – these aren't reference quality but they look good enough.
All four films are presented in English language Dolby Digital Mono tracks, The Survivor features an alternate French language Mono track, and Voyage Into Fear features an alternate Spanish language Mono track. Seeing as these are more recent films I was surprised to find all four were mono, but they are indeed. Dialogue is pretty crisp though and the mix overall only contains one or two moments in any of the four movies where words get a little lost in the shuffle against the dialogue or background music. There aren't any hiss or distortion problems and while sometimes the films do sound a little bit flat, they're consistently audible and don't suffer from any serious issues.
All four of these films are barebones and contain no extra features to speak of save for the requisite chapter selection option available off of the main menu screen.
The Aussie Horror Collection Volume 2 contains a pair of decent films, a mediocre film, and an unintentionally hilarious stinker. While they look and sound just fine, there aren't any extra features and with that in mind, contrasted against the quality of the movies themselves, I can't justly recommend this as a purchase. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.