One of the best films to screen at last year’s Monster Fest was Australian director Mark Bakaitis’ film Cult Girls. Starring one of Australia’s most underrated actresses Saara Lamberg (Innuendo) alongside a cast that includes Jane Badler (V) and Dean Kirkwright (Charlie’s Farm). As an added bonus for heavy metal fans the film also features a very special performance from Swedish death metal band Tribulation.
“Originally we were looking to do a documentary about this Australian cult called the family,” says Bakaitis when we sit down to talk to him about the film’s home entertainment release. “We started to do some research into that and we realised that it was going to be pretty heavy doing interviews with victims and survivors and I don’t think we had the temperament to approach that subject really. So with the research I started to think that perhaps we could do something more fictional.”
Something more fictional is exactly what Bakaitis and his team did and the result was something phenomenal. A film that looks at home in an artistic cinema but contains the suspense normally reserved for a Hollywood blockbuster.
“We then had the opportunity to travel to Europe and go to Lithuania,” says Bakaitis as we begin to chat about how the film further developed after it was decided to go with the fictional angle. “We spent a few days in Germany and i was really inspired by the folk horror films of the late 1960s and the 1970s. I was inspired by films like Blood On Satan’s Claw and those classic folk horror films. I managed to weave that in some of the Lithuanian mythology that had been in my blood and came up in the film.. and we threw a little bit of black metal in there as well.”
You can listen to the full interview in our audio interview above.
Cult Girls is available on DVD now through Umbrella Entertainment.
Summary: Two women face off as a deadly game called The Hunt goes completly off track.
Australian Cinema Release Date: TBA
Thailand Cinema Release Date: 12th August 2020
Australian VOD Release Date: 9th April 2020
Director: Craig Zobel
Screenwriter: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Hannah Alline (Flight Attendant/Not Stewardess/Kelly), Usmine Ally (Crisis Mike), Alexander Babara (Bojan), Walter Babington (Bandana Man), Ike Barinholtz (Staten Island), Christopher Berry (Target), Reed Birney (Pop), Macon Blair (Fauxnvoy), Steve Coulter (The Doctor), Sylvia Grace Crim (Dead Sexy), Wayne Duvall (Don), Ariel Eliaz (Dino), Betty Gilpin (Crystal), Glenn Howerton (Richard), Jason Kirkpatrick (Rannnndeeee), Jim Klock (Captain O’Hara), J.C. MacKenzie (Paul), Amy Madigan (Ma), Steve Mokate (Sgt. Dale), Kate Nowlin (Big Red), Vince Pisani (Peter), Emma Roberts (Yoga Pants), Sturgill Simpson (Vanilla Nice), Charlie Slaughter (Young Crystal), Ethan Suplee ((Shut The F**k Up) Gary), Hilary Swank (Athena), Dean J. West (Martin), Teri Wyble (Liberty), Tadasay Young (Nicole)
Running Time: 90 mins
Classification: MA15+ (Australia), 18 (Thailand)
OUR THE HUNT MONSTER REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Dave Griffiths’ The Hunt Review:
In a year where people have learnt to embrace films in ways that they haven’t previously the one genre that seems to have topped all others has been the horror genre. While The Wretched topped the US Box Office just before the lockdown Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man found itself scoring five star reviews from some of the world’s top film journalists.
While those two results seemed to surprise fans of the genre the film they were eagerly anticipating was director Craig Zobel’s (Compliance) The Hunt. The excitement around the release was hardly surprising – Zobel’s post-apocalyptic thriller Z For Zachariah is one of the most under-rated films of the last decade while The Hunt was the latest film to come out of Blumhouse stable, a production company who rarely produce a dud.
The film itself is basically an adult version of The Hunger Games with some extra quirk thrown in for good measure. The opening scenes of The Hunt pretty much The Hunger Games but do quickly establish that characters like Crystal (Betty Gilpin – Stuber) are involved in a deadly game that has been set up by the mysterious Athena (Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby) But what exactly is the game that Crystal has found herself in? And why the hell has Athena set something up some vicious and cruel?
Those are the questions that the audience are asked to explore, but to be honest the road to getting those answers is un-original and at times plain boring. While the screenwriting team of Nick Cuse (Watchmen) and Damon Lindelof (Lost) try to give the film its own originality with some quirky Kevin Smith style black humour it does nothing to lift any interest in the film’s plot at all.
While the idea of losing characters on mass and at a whim throughout the early stages of the film may have made the script look like a horror film with a difference it just doesn’t work on the screen. Introducing characters and then having them killed or disappearing straight away makes it nearly impossible for the audience to get a vested interest in the film. It is also does nothing but waste the talents of quality performers like Emma Roberts (We’re The Millers).
While the film does gain a little bit of traction when it becomes a battle between Crystal and Athena even that comes to a crashing end with a lacklustre finale that any decent horror fan will have seen close a film a million times previously. To be honest that little battle royale comes a little bit too late for the interest of the audience as well. The film’s inability to engage its audience early on really does mean that you never really care for Crystal the way you should and again there are a lot of scenes throughout the film that are just too similar to other recent films like Peppermint.
The only winner out of this film is the star Betty Gilpin. While everyone falls around her her performance as Crystal is enough to at times back you forget the clichés that is holding the film back. She brilliantly delivers whatever is thrown at her – action, gore and black comedy. Her scenes with Hillary Swank are at times the only things making the film watchable and for that Gilpin deserves a lot of credit.
The Hunt never really lives up to the hype that came before it. Fans of genuine horror will give it a wide berth after just one viewing while it’s quirkiness and gore is probably enough to put off the casual cinema goer. If you’re looking for a decent gorey, catch-me-if-you-can horror then bypass The Hunt and try to find a way to watch Tony D’Aquino’s The Furies instead.
The Hunt is rated 18. It is available on a number of streaming services and will open in select Thai cinemas on August 12th.
When it comes to genre filmmaking Australian filmmakers have always punched well out of their weight division. The result has been a number of Australian made genre films doing well overseas while names like George Miller, James Wan and Leigh Whannell have become household names for fans of the genre art-form.
Now director Andrew Traucki is about to take that huge step with his latest film Black Water: Abyss now showing in cinemas in Phuket. The award-winning filmmaker has perfected his craft over the years with brilliant horror thrillers such as The Reef and The Jungle while his latest film is a sequel to the film that started it all for him – 2007’s Black Water.
Traucki laughs as he talks to The Phuket News about what made him want to do a follow-up to his lauded crocodile horror thirteen years later. “Well someone had to write it,” he says laughing loudly. “It is an interesting question though because my journey has never been one of instant success. Every one of these films has been a struggle to make because of the financing side of things. So, for me it was a mixture of not really knowing if I wanted to make another film because I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the ‘crocodile guy’ so I went on and did other things… but it does seem like people prefer my animal movies.”
And animals certainly do play an important part of Traucki’s films… or perhaps we should say creatures. Black Water: Abyss like its predecessor sees a group of cave explorers, led by Jennifer (Jessica McNamee – The Meg) and Eric (Luke Mitchell – Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.), trapped underground in a cave system with rising waters and a killer crocodile who wants to defend his territory.
It was that mixture of the cave and the crocodile that made Traucki want to be involved after he read the initial screenplay. “That was one of the greatest appeals of the script,” he explains. “Not only do I get to play with a crocodile, which is a top apex predator which makes it pretty scary, it is also all set in the dark while the original was all set in the day. So yeah, there is nothing quite like the darkness to make the film scary. That and them trapped in a cave with rising water and that felt like a pretty scary scenario.”
Of course though filming in and around water can be an absolute nightmare for a film crew and again Traucki laughs when we point out that it seems to be something that he has done in a few of his films now. “It is hellish, I don’t know why I keep doing it,” he says again laughing loudly. “I must have been a bad person in a past lifetime and now karma is catching up with me… that must be the reason why I keep coming back to water.”
“Look, I love water. I live by the beach and I surf all the time,” he admits. “I think that it is a great texture and an element to a film but it is difficult to film with. Gear gets destroyed and all kinds of mishaps can happen, people can get really cold and they catch hypothermia. It can be really slow going because you have to go through this stuff every day. So yeah, it is not an easy thing to work with but it just so happens that sharks and crocodiles live in the stuff so we have had to make these things with that added element of water.”
As the interview goes on it soon becomes very obvious that Traucki was also very excited about being able to work with such a talented Australian cast. “Luke was pretty keen to be involved,” he says as we talk about the film’s star Australian actor Luke Mitchell who over the past few years has been working in the U.S. on shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Blindspot. “He wanted to come home for a bit. His mother lives on the Gold Coast and we were filming in Brisbane. I think Jess (McNamee) wanted to come home for a bit as well because she is L.A. based.
“They were both motivated by the script as well,” he says still focussing on the stars. “But they also did both want to come home, and they had seen my previous work. So that is how we got them in the end, but it is never an easy road with casting.”
The hard-work that has gone into Black Water: Abyss is obvious and this is the kind of horror-thriller that will keep its audience on the edge of their seat… while they make a mental note to never set foot in the water again.
Black Water: Abyss opened in Phuket cinemas on August 12th.