Monster Fest, Australia’s premier festival for all things cult, horror and awesome, returns for its sixth year November 24-27, 2016 at the Lido Cinemas in Melbourne, and if you just so happen to be in the neighbourhood you should swing by. In fact, with the line-up of films, guests and features in store, you should go out of your way to make it there if you have to.
This year’s festival is based around the theme of ‘ritual’ and the event will be directed by Kier-La Janisse. If there’s one book you owe it to yourself to read this year it’s Satanic Panic: Pop Culture in the 1980’s, a collection which she edited with contributions from a host of experts on the subject.
“Monster Fest has come a long way since its inception in 2011,” says Festival Director Kier-La Janisse. “Originally conceived as a platform for showcasing Monster Pictures’ own titles, it has since evolved into its own beast, and continues to grow each year into the kind of diverse and inclusive genre festival that we see as key to fueling support for genre film production and exhibition in this country. It’s a place for us to come together with both independent filmmakers and our colleagues in the distribution landscape to share the most exciting, challenging and acclaimed genre titles emerging each year – ranging from horror and sci-fi to documentary, animation, crime and even westerns. We wanted to create an event that could be the Australian equivalent of major genre fests like Fantasia, Sitges and Fantastic Fest – and I think we’ve made huge strides in that direction.”
Joining Janisse, however, is a bunch of equally impressive folks who know their shit when it comes to this wonderful world of weird cinema and culture we love to immerse ourselves in. These include festival co-founder and head of Monster Pictures acquisitions Neil Foley; LA punk legend, author and longtime programmer for the American Cinematheque Chris D.; renowned genre film scholar and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Rape Revenge Films: A Critical History); pulp crime writer and expert Andrew Nette (Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture from the 1950s to the 1980s); film scholar and archivist Dean Brandum (Technicolor Yawn), filmmaker and curator Hussein Khoder (ex-Melbourne Underground Film Festival); media researcher Catherine Seccombe (ABC); and the lovably shambolic ‘Trasharama’ programmer, Dick Dale.
Kicking off the festival feature films is the controversial Raw, the cannibal film that caused audience members to faint when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. But if you prefer your food less human and more greasy, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the gala closes with The Greasy Strangler. You won’t see a more outrageous film this year, but the chance to see it with an audience is an experience you’ll never forget. In-between is a lot of other movies I hate I can’t be there to see, most notably Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.
The guest line-up is spearheaded by the legendary Aussie director Ted Kotcheff, the director of what is arguably the the 1971 outback classic Wake In Fright. This was followed by a series of other beloved gems, including: First Blood (1982), Weekend At Bernie’s (1989) and Split Image (1982), the latter of which is part of a special all-night Cult of Monster marathon. All of these films will be screened at the festival, and if you pass up an opportunity to see First Blood on the big screen you’re missing out on ultimate happiness.
Also in attendance will be Sky Elobar and Michael St. Michaels – aka Big Brayden and Big Ronnie in The Greasy Strangler – and you don’t want to miss those guys. Trust me on this one; I recently interviewed both of them and they’re brilliant dudes – and hilarious. Who’d have thunk it; the two main stars of the most depraved film of 2016 are really sweethearts.
The Frequencies section, which focuses on genre narratives made about television and film, will be headlined by the World Premiere launch of the new Headpress book, Are You In the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999, edited by American television scholar Amanda Reyes (who is also appearing at the festival to discuss it). She’ll be joined by the book’s wonderfully talented contributors Lee Gambin, John Harrison and stunt woman Marneen Fields. This will be followed by a screening of Buzz Kulik’s 1974 unseen gem, Bad Ronald, co-presented by Melbourne film society Cinemaniacs.
The section will also include the Australian Premiere of Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates, which is already being slated as one of the best genre films to come along in years. It stars Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye) and Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) as two brothers who find that their father’s disappearance may be connected to a sinister VHS board game. The premiere is presented by Umbrella Entertainment and will be accompanied by a Nightmare VHS Board Game Party in association with Toronto’s Black Museum.
This year’s Monster Symposium series includes presentations from an array of talented folks: Jodi McAlister’s Dierdre Hall is the Devil about occultism on daytime soaps; Andrew Nette on the forgotten Australian horror anthology show The Evil Touch; Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on Stephen Volk’s nationwide hysteria-inducing British faux-documentary Ghostwatch; Kier-La Janisse on Nigel Kneale’s prescient 1968 teleplay The Year of the Sex Olympics; and Andrew Nette and Dean Brandum on the classic crime show Homicide, which precedes with a special screening of the 1964 episode “Witch Hunt”.
There will also be a panel with director Geoffrey Wright and producer Daniel Scharf about the making of Aussie cult sensation Romper Stomper, a panel on the Golden Age of Ozploitation featuring producer Antony I. Ginnane (Patrick, Turkey Shoot) and cinematographer Vincent Monton (Road Games, Long Week).
Additionally, there will also be a case study panel on ‘The Westbury Faery’, panels on festival strategy, the opportunities and obstacles facing women working in genre entertainment, and more surprises to be added.
MONSTER FEST 2016 Feature Films:
ALWAYS SHINE – Australian Premiere
Director: Sophia Takal | USA 2016
When two competitive actresses go on a vacation to a cabin in the woods to try to rekindle their damaged friendship, tensions rise and facades crumble, causing an inevitable violent confrontation.
ANTIBIRTH – Victorian Premiere
Director: Danny Perez | Canada/USA 2016
Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny star in this psychedelic Sundance midnighter about a hard-partying gal who finds herself pregnant with a rapidly growing and increasingly hostile presence after a drug-fueled blackout.
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE – Australian Premiere
Director: André Øvredal | USA 2016
Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch star as father-son coroners who find themselves enveloped by dark forces when they are called upon to do an urgent forensic analysis of a mysterious corpse. One of the most terrifying films of the year and winner of the Best Horror Feature Award at this year’s Fantastic Fest. (Tickets for this show on sale now at www.lidocinemas.com.au)
THE BANDIT – Australian Premiere
Director: Jesse Moss | USA 2016
Jesse Moss’ (The Overnighters) latest acclaimed documentary about the legendary friendship between Burt Reynolds and stuntman-turned director Hal Needham and the making of their unlikely box-office smash Smokey and the Bandit.
DEAREST SISTER – Australian Premiere
Director: Mattie Do | Laos 2016
Leaving Australian audiences haunted with her 2013 feature debut Chanthaly, Lao filmmaker Mattie Do returns with another penetrating supernatural tale about families, illness and fracturing identities.
DEAD HANDS DIG DEEP – Victorian Premiere
Director: Jai Love | Australia 2016
19-year old Sydney filmmaker Jai Love’s debut feature is the heartfelt and often grim documentary portrait of the reclusive Edwin Borsheim – notorious onstage mutilator, former backyard wrestler and frontman for extreme metal band Kettle Cadaver.
FREE FIRE – Australian Premiere
Director: Ben Wheatley | USA 2016
In his most accessible, action-packed film to date, British visionary Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) places us in the center of a shootout of absurd proportions when an international arms deal goes horribly wrong in a 1978 Boston warehouse. Starring Cillian Murphy, Brie Larsen, Sharlto Copley and Noah Taylor. (Tickets for this show on sale now at www.lidocinemas.com.au)
ON THE SILVER GLOBE – New Digital Restoration
Director: Andrzej Żuławski | Poland 1988
An inexhaustibly inventive and absorbing film maudit that quite literally creates a new cinematic world, Andrzej Żuławski’s sci-fi epic On the Silver Globe is perhaps the grandest expression of his visionary artistry. This rarely screened film returns in a gorgeous new digital restoration that was approved by Żuławski – best known to Monster fans as the director of Possession – only days before passing away earlier this year.
SLASH – Australian Premiere
Director: Clay Liford | USA 2016
In Clay Liford’s painfully poignant Cosplay comedy, an introverted high school freshman lies about his age to post his erotic gay fan fiction in an exclusive online forum. But he finds himself at the centre of an emotional shootout when he is invited to a live-read at a nearby Comicon. Featuring an inappropriate Eddie Munster joke.
MONDO YAKUZA – World Premiere
Director: Addison Heath | Australia 2016
Presented in black and white with a grindhouse glaze, this latest from prolific Australian filmmaker Addison Heath comes on like Chopper mixed with a Seijun Suzuki crime film of the 60s. This screening also doubles as the book launch party for Aussie genre scribe Michael Helms’ Fatal Visions Book 2.
BEYOND THE GATES – Australian Premiere
Director: Jackson Stewart | USA 2016
After their father goes missing, two brothers (Graham Skipper of Almost Human and Chase Williamson of John Dies At the End) meet at his video store to liquidate his assets. When they discover a VCR board game and the last video their father viewed, they find that it may actually open a door to a more sinister world. Co-starring genre fave Barbara Crampton.
EYE OF THE DEVIL – 50th Anniversary Screening
Director: J. Lee Thompson | UK 1966
The inspiration for this year’s Monster Fest trailer (which you can see HERE), this proto-Wicker Man folk horror film stars David Niven as the heir to a mysterious vineyard and Deborah Kerr as his endangered spouse, who is being increasingly terrorized by local priest Donald Pleasence and creepy siblings David Hemmings and Sharon Tate (the latter in her film debut).
THE GREASY STRANGLER – Victorian Premiere
Director: Jim Hosking | UK/USA 2016
Monster Fest’s Official 2016 Closing Film is this Sundance WTF sensation in which a bizarre father-son duo compete for the affections of a seductive woman they meet on their Disco Walking Tour, while an oily maniac prowls the streets wringing necks. (Tickets for this show now on sale at www.lidocinemas.com.au)
MADE FOR TV MAYHEM – World Premiere
The world premiere book launch of Are You In the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 with a clip-and-tell panel featuring the book’s editor and authors, and a screening of Buzz Kulik’s 1974 tele-fright, Bad Ronald. Co-presented with Cinemaniacs Film Society.
RAW – Australian Premiere
Director: Julia Ducournau | France 2016
Monster Fest 2016’s official Opening Film is the controversial, stomach-churning tale of a young vegetarian who discovers a dark appetite after she is forced to participate in a carnivorous hazing ritual. (tickets for this show now on sale at www.lidocinemas.com.au)
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: THE TRUE STORY OF THE PROCESS CHURCH OF THE FINAL JUDGEMENT – Australian Premiere
Director: Neil Edwards | UK 2015
UK Director Neil Edwards will join us in person for his mind-melting doc about the esoteric and oft-misunderstood Process Church, which rose to prominence in the 1960s as a dark counterpart to the era’s new wave of spiritual experimentation.
A DARK SONG
Director: Liam Gavin | Ireland 2016 | 100 mins | Australian Premiere
Driven by an all-consuming desire to make contact with her murdered child, Sophia hires an occultist named Solomon (Steve Oram) to conduct a black magic ritual that would grant her wish. As they delve deeper into the tedious, trying ritual, Sophia and Solomon find their bond of trust and sense of sanity pushed to the very limit as a sinister presence makes itself known.
Director: Rohit Mittal | India 2016 | 97 mins | Australian Premiere
This Man Bites Dog take on a Mumbai Taxi Driver follows a documentary crew as they shadow an auto-rickshaw driver named Narayan. The slice of life angle soon skews into dodgy voyeuristic complicity as the film crew documents the unraveling of a man’s humanity, culminating in a chilling, bloody climax.
DOG EAT DOG
Paul Schrader | USA 2016 | 93 mins | Australian Premiere
Based on a 1995 novel by acclaimed crime writer and ex-con Edward Bunker, the latest from the writer of Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder and director of Mishima, Hardcore, Cat People and so many other now-canonized films, is a pitch black, uncompromisingly brutal and at times highly theatrical crime thriller about three ex-cons (Nicholas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook) who team up for that fateful ‘one last job’ only to have everything go horribly – and hilariously – awry.
GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED
Director: René Cardona Jr. | Mexico 1979 | 90mins
When over 900 Americans were made to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool Aid in the middle of the steamy Guyana jungle, exploitation filmmakers couldn’t wait to cash-in on the tragedy, and Mexican filmmaker René Cardona Jr (TINTORERA: TIGER SHARK) was the first on the scene. Hypnotically sleazy and enjoyably lurid as only Cardona Jr. could make them. Co-presented by the Morbido Film Festival.
THE HOLLOW POINT
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego | USA 2016 | 97 mins | Australian Premiere
Patrick Wilson stars as Wallace, the new sheriff of a small town in Gonzalo López-Gallego’s full blooded take on the western genre. Building on the best of B-movie westerns and not skimping out on the gore, Gallego crafts a tale of one man investigating the aftermath of a drug cartel deal gone wrong – cleverly filling all the roles with terrific actors including Ian McShane, John Leguziamo, Jim Belushi and more.
Dain Said | Malaysia 2016 | 102 minutes | Australian Premiere
In this Malaysian ritual thriller and TIFF Midnight Madness selection, a forensics photographer is lured into a world of shamans and mystic creatures while helping his detective friend investigate a series of macabre murders.
THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL
Matthew Holmes | Australia 2016 | 134 mins | Victorian Premiere
In this epic period western based on the true story of one of Australia’s most famous outlaws, Ben Hall is drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend John Gilbert. Reforming the gang, they soon become the most wanted men in Australian history.
MAXIE DIABLO AND THE FUNKY FUNKY SEX MURDERS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY BY MYSTERY RADIO THEATRE
From the makers of Man Bites God and the Theatre of the World podcast, Mystery Radio Theatre is a comedy/murder mystery performed in the style of old-timey radio theatre. There will be sound effects. There will be silly voices. There will be live ad-reads. There will be a special musical guest. And there will be blood.
MY FATHER DIE
Sean Brosnan | USA 2016 | 102 minutes | Australian Premiere
The debut feature from Sean Brosnan (son of Pierce) about the vengeful path of a man left mute since childhood following a family tragedy straddles the border of nihilistic revenge tale and brutalist Southern Gothic redemption with a poetic, even romantic sensibility, recalling at times sleeper hits Winter’s Bone and Cold In July.
Bartosz M. Kowalski | Poland 2016 | 81 mins | Australian Premiere
Certain to be the most controversial film of the festival, acclaimed documentary director Bartosz Kowalski issues his first narrative feature, the stark tale of two pre-teen budding sociopaths and what they do on the last day of school. A devastating film in the vein of Nothing Bad Can Happen and The Tribe.
Alice Lowe | UK 2016 | 88 mins. | Australian Premiere
This brilliant first feature from actress/director/writer Alice Lowe (Sightseers, Garth Meranghi’s Dark Place) channels Lowe’s comedy background to create a completely unique horror comedy about a woman who is seven months pregnant and full of homicidal fury.
PSYCHONAUTS, THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN
Director: Alberto Vázquez, Pedro Rivero | Spain 2015 | 80 mins | Victorian Premiere
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Psychonauts is a gorgeous, haunting animated allegory that follows rebellious teen Dinky and the silent, drug-addicted outcast Birdboy as they attempt to escape life as they know it from an island ravaged by an industrial accident.
Chris Peckover | Australia/USA 2016 | 85 mins | Australian Premiere
On a quiet suburban street tucked within a ‘safe neighborhood’, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from strangers breaking into the house, only to discover that this is far from a normal home invasion. A great new yuletide terror film from the director of Undocumented (2010).
THE WINDMILL MASSACRE
Nick Jongerius | Netherlands 2016 | 85 mins | Australian Premiere
Windmills, they’re those things you see in storybooks surrounded by daffodils right? Think again! The Windmill Massacre is a freakishly ferocious slasher reboot about unsuspecting tourists who awaken a mysterious evil in the Dutch countryside after their tour bus breaks down, stranding them at an abandoned barn beside a sinister windmill where a miller used to grind the bones of locals.
WE WALK ALONE
Adapting its name from a line in Shirley Jackson’s seminal book The Haunting of Hill House, We Walk Alone is Monster Fest’s program of vanguard, hybrid-genre short films.
Amanda Kramer | USA 2016 | 11:00 | Australian Premiere
Teen politics is fertile territory for darkness to blossom. In this perverse psychodrama, Gina Piersanti and Lucia Santina Ribisi are stuck in a power play that echoes The Duke of Burgundy and Dogtooth, while still its own beast. Both simple and complex, Bark is a foreboding delight. (Alexandra Heller-Nicholas)
Dianne Bellino | USA 2016 | 15:02 | Australian Premiere
A timid wolf tries to connect with a hard partying group of outgoing bunnies and finds her body overwhelmed with an unbearable itch that threatens to consume her. An unsettling and personal work, told via startling use of clay animation. (Mitch Davis)
Fabian Velasco & Milos Mitrovic | Canada 2016 | 10:00 | Australian Premiere
Introverted Arnold is pop star Austin Kelsey’s biggest fan and would do anything to be just like him, even if it means undergoing cut-rate cosmetic surgery in preparation for a local karaoke night. Hilarious, absurd and tragic, this blackly comic gem holds up a funhouse mirror to our obsession with youth and celebrity. (Catherine Seccombe)
Emilia Pedrazzoli |Argentina 2016 | 8:50 | Australian Premiere
Continuing to mark Argentina as one of the most vibrant contemporary genre-producing hotspots in the world, The Firstborns is a fairytale woodland adventure that cracks open to reveal an ominous neon wonderland inside. Stand By Me meets Beyond the Black Rainbow, this scifi/horror hybrid is wholly unique. (Alexandra Heller-Nicholas)
Kiefer Findlow | Australia (VIC) 2015 | 14:00 | World Premiere
A haunting and surreal journey into loss, grief and insomnia. Moving, hypnotic and awash with psychedelic color and imagery; this uniquely Australian trip worms its way into your brain and blooms there like an unfurling psychotropic flower. (Catherine Seccombe)
MOUNTAIN OF KNIVES
Nelson Yeo | Singapore 2015 | 10:00 | Australian Premiere
Guilt, punishment and memory collide as teenage Xiaowu is interrogated about the murder of a fellow student. Evoking Chinese traditions concerning the afterlife penalties for those who commit such crimes, this frames Xiaowu’s past, present and future in this beautiful, terrifying horror short. (Alexandra Heller-Nicholas)
Tomas Heidar Johannesson | Iceland 2016 | 6:00 | Australian Premiere
In Icelandic folklore, Grýla is the mother of Christmas, but you can forget about fluffy cardigans, eggnog and gingerbread; a standover man and his hostage encounter something far less domesticated in this darkly comic morality tale. (Catherine Seccombe)
Francisco Denis | Venezuela 2016 | 10:28 | Australian Premiere
A goat follows a toothy chef back to his restaurant and experiences his hospitality. (Hussein Khoder)
DAWN OF THE DEAF
Rob Savage | UK 2016 | 11:52 | Australian Premiere
If you think you’ve seen – or heard – every angle on the zombie subgenre, think again. When a mysterious sound fills the globe turning those who hear it into the flesh-eating undead, a group of deaf people suddenly find themselves in charge of human survival. Smart and profound, with just the right amount of silly. (Alexandra Heller-Nicholas)
SUFFER NOT A WITCH
Gabriel Ingersoll | USA 2016 | 5:00 | Australian Premiere
A woman fleeing superstition and persecution runs through the woods pursued by an angry mob intent on her destruction. Contrasting earthly brutality with the neon sublime; this hand drawn animation is a mesmerising flight into the dark forest of the soul. (Catherine Seccombe)
Alice Waddington | Spain 2015 | 11:22 | Australian Premiere
Garnering accolades at festivals around the globe, this exquisite film marks Alice Waddington as an emerging talent like no other. Shot in exquisite black and white, Disco Inferno is a baroque, feminist love letter to Georges Franju’s JUDEX and NUITS ROUGE with a demonic twist. (Alexandra Heller-Nicholas)
Adelaide’s #1 purveyor of trash, filth and utter sickness, the one and only Dick Dale is back with his notorious selection of onscreen abominations.
O CHRISTMAS TREE
Greg Kovacs | Canada 2016 | 13:52 | Australian Premiere
Carolers out to spread Christmas cheer get more than they bargained for at Mabel’s house.
Spencer Estabrooks | Canada 2015 | 8:00 | Melbourne Premiere
TREMORS meets JAWS. Acreationist vs Pathoeotologist. Faith, facts and fins.
Chris McInroy | USA 2016 | 4:46 | Victorian Premiere
A metalhead gets passed down a Satanic guitar that riffs to shreds.
BAD BAD BUNNY
Jamison Stalworth | USA 2016 | 4:07 | Australian Premiere
When a good egg goes rotten, no one will live to tell this cottony tale.
ACTION MAN BATTLEFIELD CASUALTIES
Price James | UK 2015 | 2:55 | Melbourne Premiere
A Veterans for Peace UK film challenging the British Army’s policy of recruiting 16 year olds into the most dangerous Army jobs.
MAUL MY CHILDREN
Paul McAlarney | USA 2016 | 4:27 | Australian Premiere
A soap opera where a horny teenager eager for a blowjob from his step sister watches his family friends and his girlfriend fall apart right before his eyes…literally.
Frank Daft | Australia 2016 | 5:27 | World Premiere
A psychosexual drug-induced deathtrip.
Clint Cure | Australia 2016 | 12:00 | World Premiere
When a robotic fun park goes haywire, a class of teenagers must outwit an android Ned Kelly to survive.
WHEN SUSURRUS STIRS
Anthony Cousins | USA 2016 | 9:46 | Australian Premiere
A man finds purpose in his meaningless life when he becomes host to an ancient creature named Susurrus.
Chrzu Lindstrom | Finland 2016 | 6:35 | Australian Premiere
A day in the life of a cocaine-peddling cross dresser.
Jill Gevargizian | USA 2016 | 14:58 | Australian Premiere
Claire is a lonely hairstylist with an unnerving desire to escape her disappointing reality. When her final client of the evening arrives with the request to look perfect, Claire has plans of her own.
Stu Simpson | Australia 2016 | 10:00 | World Premiere
A washed up Kung Fu master takes on super natural forces in Vietnam.
Brian Lonano | USA 2016 | 5.45 | Victorian Premiere
A recently released criminal is looking for a good time. He can forget his sins but he can never forget… Gwilliam.
Vanessa Gudgeon | Australia 2016 | 1:00 | World Premiere
A young woman in peril soon discovers that in the midst of unspeakable horrors, nothing flashes before your eyes.
That’s a stacked line-up and even if you can’t make you should add these films to your watch list. If you can make it, well you’re extremely fortunate and I envy you. For more information, head on over to the Monster Fest website.