The Revelation Film Festival has returned to Perth this mid-winter with a dazzling assortment of independent celluloid, coming to our screens from all corners of the globe. From art documentaries to dude bro horror non-sequels to intensely erotic feminist Wiccan oddities, popcorn-sellers and film fans are all set to live it up ’til July 17, when it all comes to a close. Here, Pelican reviews just a small handful of program titles.
DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III — Dir. Tomm Jacobsen, Jon Salmon & Michael RousseletIn its idiot plot, even dumber side-plots, dialogue (“Bop the dude bros on the nose and turn them back into bags of oranges”), special effects (the ripping apart of a torso reminiscent of Blu-tack being stretched), and complete-saturation chauvinism, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is appalling. It is terrible. If you choose to watch this low-quality visuals body horror – and note that there are no prequels – you’ll be opting into scenes like that of a token Asian character’s intestines being unspooled as they are flushed down the toilet by ‘Motherface’ – a matriarchal hoe version of the Texas Chainsaw serial killer archetype.
It is also brilliant. Please. Watch this.
About that plot: Brock Chirino has been murdered. Horribly. To solve the mystery and avenge his brother’s death, Brock’s dork twin Brent infiltrates East Chico University’s most popular fraternity, the Delta Bis. After he helps the gang pull their third mass-fatality prank (the entire population of Parchtown drowned the first time; this year they manage to crash a plane into an orphanage) they are rapped on the knuckles by East Chico with a suspension. Using a girlfriend’s camper van, the sweaty dick-swagging tribe (with shirts all lusciously that little bit too short) head to the same Parchtown to spend the weekend in the copybook horror cabin in the woods.
Expertly gratuitous in its absurd, deranged in its logic (a conspiracy theorist’s delirium), and careering into hugely entertaining ultra-violence as it goes on, Dude Bro Party Massacre III rams a schlock satire first up every kind of 80s slasher trope you’ve peeled your eyes on. Watch for the disturbing ‘short messages’ that shred up the plotline too. And for Patton Oswalt’s guest appearance! Madness. All my money: this’ll be cult.
4/5 – Kate Prendergast
NUTS! — Dir. Penny Lane A “celebration of old weird America”, Nuts! is an amusing documentary that seamlessly blends both fact and fiction, pointedly subverting our expectations of the documentary as an authoritative rendering of truth.
Penny Lane’s latest film tells the bizarre story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, a Depression-era entrepreneur notorious for inventing a miracle cure for impotency. With a tried and true method of taking the testicular glands of a goat and transplanting them into the scrotum of a man, the film chronicles Brinkley’s subsequent battles with the ‘quack-shaming’ pharmaceutical industry, portraying him as an ingenious louse with a cartoonish resourcefulness to rival that of Bugs Bunny.
Also chronicling the doctor’s accidental inventions of the infomercial, the sound-car and junk mail, Nuts! may sound like just another quirky-yet-meaningless doco found on SBS or Netflix — the kinda thing you watch for 15 minutes and then find something better to do. A ‘so what’ factor of aimlessness does pervade the first half of the film and, at its worst, it can feel like an amateur mockumentary made by high schoolers.
Immediately apparent is its collage-like visual aesthetic, with the story primarily told through dramatic scenes of 2D animation which frequently change in style and quality. The effect can be disorientating, but it maintains a spontaneous and kinetic feel throughout. The most memorable parts, however, come from the reels of archival footage taken by Brinkley — unintentionally hilarious ‘fireside chats’ and vanity films that paint J.R. Brinkley’s personality cult as something in between Walt Disney and Donald Drumpf.
While the initial faff and whimsy may lose people at the start, I urge you to watch it at the cinema and until the end. The halfway mark reveals an unexpected twist in the narrative that effortlessly turns the documentary back in on itself. As long as you don’t spoil it beforehand, Nuts! is an engaging and clever film that will really take you for a ride.
4/5 – Ben Yaxley
SUBURRA — Dir. Stefano Sollima
I am going to use a food metaphor to describe this movie. I know half of you are probably rolling your eyes so hard right now that they might just fall out of your head, but bear with me a sec. If The Sopranos was a crusty bread roll with mortadella and provolone, then Suburra would be some deconstructed spaghetti bullshit made from artisanal tipo-00 flour and the farts of lingerie models.
For an Italian film about organised crime and corruption in contemporary Rome, Suburra is surprisingly boring. It is style over substance, but not in a purposefully over-the-top Spring Breakers kind of way. Well-framed shots and a bland EDM soundtrack make it seem like a very long music video or maybe an ad for a nice hotel. It’s predictable, and while the ascendancy of different ethnicities in Italian organised crime is very interesting, the interwoven strands of the story ultimately kill the potential of story arcs before they can properly develop.
Suburra has been picked up as a Netflix original series, and is in production now. Hopefully the shorter format of Netflix episodes allows greater scope for characters who could be much more than selfish two-dimensional ass-hats.
2.5/5 – Yvonne Buresch
AAAAAAAAH! — dir. Steve OramA documentary-esque critique of modern suburbia and primitive male behaviour is the premise of Steve Oram’s Aaaaaaaah!. This film strips humanity down to its very basics in a humorously satirical fashion, though at times it can be hard to distinguish whether it sits more in the realm of comedy or horror.
The humour itself is simple; showing humans at their most primordial, it leaves the audience internally cringing. Interestingly enough, the horror aspect also causes a few ‘aaaaaaaah!’s of a different kind. Simplistic as this conceit is, the performances offered by the cast are anything but. With their dialogue solely reliant on grunts, they expertly convey the unique predicaments of their characters. Most notable is Julian Barrett’s performance as the defeated and solemn patriarch. Only glimpses of Barrett are revealed until the film’s gruesome end, but they are enough to leave the audience hoping to see him regain his rightful place in the household.
Being a demented cross between a nature documentary and Planet of the Apes, this film is definitely not for everyone. It has the potential to be spiralled into a cult classic by arthouse lovers echoing the question posed by Oram: “What does it mean to be human?” But not much more.
3/5 – Emily Wallis
A NIGHT OF HORROR VOLUME 1— dir. VariousA Night of Horror Volume 1 is yet another instalment in the growing list of horror anthology films of recent years, but one that demonstrates large potential with its collection of shorts.
Going into the film with the description of it being a “low budget horror”, I was pleasantly surprised by how well each film was put together. Particular mentions should be given to the music and sound effects used throughout, which were appropriately mixed, lending an unnerving tone.
Plot-wise, the main storyline works merely to allow each short film to come and go seamlessly, and in this regard it’s serviceable. Within the range, there came some interesting plots and some to forget. Thankfully, each film doesn’t aim to ‘jump scare’ you like most horrors nowadays, but rather cultivate a creepy and intimidating feel. I particularly liked the segments ‘Dark Origins’, ‘Hum’ and ‘I Am Undone’, which I think are the highlights. If you enjoy seeing the beginnings of future horror movie directors I’d thoroughly recommend this. Just don’t expect to be completely terrified.
3/5 – Josip Knezevic
MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES — Dir. Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, delves into an extensive timeline of the inseparable art and life of American artist Robert Mapplethorpe. The introductory and concluding note of the film strongly drives a radicalised impression of the artist in light of 1980’s homophobia, and the political uproar surrounding his homoerotic works. The opening foreshadows the intensity of his aesthetic pursuits for unique and perhaps neo avant-garde photographs of the gay S&M underground.
Through scattered interviews with Mapplethorpe’s multiple ex-lovers, close circles of friends (most of whom were frequently used as models as well), and curators, the film provides a personal and analytical perspective on the rich archive of the artist’s low brow and high end art — assembled fetish sculptures, collages of porn magazines, and the iconic X,Y,Z photography series consisting of elegant flowers and nude portraits.
The nostalgic nature of these interviews about “ruined cupid” Mapplethorpe, alongside montages of public outrage in reaction to his ‘Perfect Moment’ exhibition, hypes up the artist cliché, unapologetically thrusted at the viewer throughout the full 108 minutes of the film. Romanticised as an allusive, devious and charming male artist, I don’t think deceased narcissist Mapplethorpe needs any more ego-stroking. Glossed over stories involving his poor morality and ruthless desire for fame do faintly linger amongst the repetitive praise for his work. Despite this imbalance, this documentary speaks informatively of Mapplethorpe and the lives that shaped his poignant images.
4/5 – Gabby Loo
THE LOVE WITCH — Dir. Anna Biller
As both historically persecuted group and modern western fantasy, the witch is a figure swept up in and recuperated by feminist thought. As The Love Witch toys with to the ninth, kitsch degree, she embodies (literally) a ‘dangerous’ female sexuality, which in coy and terrifyingly volatile ways has the power to violently upend the world of men, along with all their arrogant conceits of control. Ha!
This very odd, wonderfully-stylised, intellectualised melodrama by director Anna Biller is set in a time where phones, pagan rituals and Victorian tearooms co-exist, and it is the almost excessively beautiful Elaine (Samantha Robinson) who stabs patriarchy through the heart. Surviving in a world where witches are an open yet mistrusted sect, Elaine arrives in a small American town with her long black wig, lipstick, potions and bottles (one of which she later fills with a used tampon and her own urine to place on an over-sexed libertine’s grave). She is alone, having just broken off with her emotionally-abusive ex-husband, Jerry. A sweet, chipmunk-cheeked version of Naomi Watts welcomes her. A very deliberate foil, Trish (Laura Waddell) gets Elaine set up in an attic adorned with colourful Wiccan décor. Here, she paints pretty bad, almost child-like medieval-style porn and thinks about love.
It is what she wants more than anything else. Engorged by her own narcissism, she expresses this freely, ravishingly. With ‘sex magic’ (cue flashing eyes close-up), she does all she can to eke it from the men around her. Yet from the rugged woodsman loner to the loving married man, their lust reduces them where it empowers her. They become weak, effeminate, needy, as they sob over her garters and perfectly-orbed breasts.
For all its clever playing of tropes and themes, which grapple with very modern debates over the female body and the male gaze, the dialogue is never circuitous: there are some fabulous lines. For instance, the troubled Elaine’s “Men are so easy to please so long as we give them what they want!”. Or later, entering rarely into the mind of Griff (Gian Keys), “The perfect woman exists only in a man’s mind. When she tries to love you more, give you more – you end up suffocating. Drowning in estrogen. The most awful feeling!”
It’s a strange, sumptuous, disorientating two-hour journey. In its soap opera staginess, its garish lighting, its adoration of exquisite camp, its fetishisation of certain objects, its obsession with food and sex and bodies and death (there’s a nice transition between the thud of a shovel into grave-dirt and the plunge of a spoon into mud cake), I found myself at times wondering: is this where Sabrina and Mario Bava meet?
I have yet to quite accept that this film was made in 2016. It feels like a very progressive film made at least twenty years ago. See it.
4/5 – Rosetta Bailey
Check out the full Revelation Perth International Film Festival program offers here.