Today on Subculture we chatted to Video Hoarders host Rob Taylor about the season final of the show which is airing as part of Friday Fright Night.
Way back in 1988, yes that year that Australia ended up calling the Bi-Centennial, a piece of Australian cinematic history was about to arrive. Out of Melbourne came a low budget film that became a cult classic – a comedy set during nuclear destruction – Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. The film re-surfaced a few years ago when it was shown at Australia’s leading cult film festival Monster Fest and tonight it will be shown to an even wider audience as it becomes part of the Friday Fright Night live stream.
To find out a little bit more about this cult classic today I had the pleasure of chatting to the film’s screenwriter/director Ray Boseley who since then has gone on to work on successful television shows including Acropolis Now and Round The Twist.
“I’m just over the moon,” says Boseley when I ask him how he feels about his film being screened right around the world as part of Friday Fright Night. “I put everything I had into making the film some thirty odd years ago and now it is just a joy that it has found this opportunity to be seen by other people and perhaps some people that didn’t have that chance all those years ago to check it out.”
“I was studying film and television at Swinburne, I was in the graduating class of 1984,” explains Boseley as we start to talk about the very beginnings of Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. “We had to do a major production in Year Three and that is when the idea of Smoke ‘Em first came to me. I sort of pitched that as what i wanted to make for my film and fortunately the lecturers there were a lot smarter than me and they immediately told me that it was not realistic to try and achieve it as a student film. So they said no and I had to come up with something else.”
“Then a few years later after working in the industry for awhile Film Victoria had a grant program and I put Smoke ‘Em in,” he says continuing. “By then I had it fully written. It had kind of just been sitting there waiting to record and that was the first chance I had to do it. They actually gave me more money than I thought I needed but it was still quite a tight budget and quite a tight schedule… it was pretty hard work getting Smoke ‘Em onto the screen.”
That hard work included one of the toughest shoots that Boseley has ever experienced in his career. “It is probably the second hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” he says with a laugh. “It was a really big script. It was really ambitious challenge to create the bomb shelter itself and then a separate challenge was the scenes outside in a devastated nuclear wasteland.”
“The there was a large cast and a lot of tricky things to film,” he says continuing. “There was a few little stunts, there was a fight scene that turned into a brawl at the party. It was basically a list of all the trickiest things that you could possibly write to push a crew to their limit on a fairly limited shoot. I think it was about two and a half weeks for the entire shoot and every shot was just complicated – most shots had a couple of dozen people in the frame. All of that makes it very difficult. Then there were some degrees of special make-up and all the costuming, it had to be lit properly and it led to some very tricky stuff.”
Despite all that Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em did all come together and you can watch it tonight on Friday Fright Night… details below.
One of the great initiates that has started up during our pandemic lockdown is that Monster Pictures have re-started their Friday Night Frights but are doing it online. The film screening tonight is the deserved Australian cult classic SheBorg Massacre. We decided that was the perfect excuse to catch up with filmmaker Daniel Armstrong who since directing SheBorg Massacre has also released Tarnation and is currently in post-production for his latest film Nova Star.
“Hopefully it will help kick a few of the lockdown blues in the nuts,” says Armstrong laughing when we begin to talk about SheBorg Massacre being part of Friday Night Frights. “I only found out about a few days ago, but it should be pretty fun… it should be pretty cool. I checked out Cat Sick Blues when it was on the other week, it is a good thing to do when you are a stuck at home, let the internet entertain you.”
As our discussion goes on we start to think back to the early days of when SheBorg Massacre was still in its infancy. “That is going back to far,” he says laughing again. “I think we shot in 2015 so I probably would have written it back in early 2014. What I remember is coming up with a title – originally it was called SheBorg Prison Massacre. I thought ‘that is the best name for a film, I should write that.’ So I remember writing that and then we couldn’t find a prison or something that looked like a prison to shoot in, but we did know a guy that had a farm that looked like a puppy farm. They were actually old chicken coops but we thought it looked like a really dodgy puppy farm.”
“So then I changed the name to Sheborg Puppy Farm Massacre and then we dropped the Puppy Farm part because it offended too many people,” he says continuing. “Then it became SheBorg Massacre. But yeah it started with a title.”
Despite the film being made on a micro-budget the film does actually contain actual stunts. At one point a car is crashed into a tree and at another point actress Whitney Duff is left climbing on the side of a moving van. That led me to ask how Armstrong shot stunts like that while filming on such a low budget. “To drive into the tree we just had an insane person who was willing to drive a car into a tree,” he explains. “So we just did that for real, we actually drove the car into the tree. With the van stunt we actually got a stunt co-ordinator and we got him in for the day and Whitney is actually wired onto that car. She was talked to about how the best way to do it but otherwise the car is actually driving around with her hanging off the side and back of it. She has a harness connected to the back of the car somewhere so in theory she can’t fall off, and she didn’t fall off so I guess it all went well.”
One of the highlights of the film are the amazing performances of Whitney Duff and Daisy Masterman so I just had to ask Armstrong how he went about discovering both of them. “It is the chemistry between Whitney and Daisy that makes the film fun to watch,” admits Armstrong. “They become legitimately good friends during pre-production and that really shows. That energy really helps you enjoy the film.”
“Whitney just auditioned,” he says continuing. “I don’t know where she would have seen the casting call but she just auditioned and I wrote the part for Daisy. I had worked with Daisy on Murderdrome, she had a very, very small part in that but she was extremely funny and I thought we should put her in a bigger part. I always knew that she was going to be Eddie so Daisy came to all the auditions that people came to for the Dylan character which is the character that Whitney plays. Then we kind of just judged on which applicant had the best chemistry with Daisy on the spot.”
To finish up we let Daniel say something special for all of you out there who are going to tune into SheBorg Massacre tonight. “If you all enjoy the film as much as we did making it then we enjoyed making it twice as much as you,” he says. “Hopefully you just enjoy it, I think it is entertaining and I think it is fun. It obviously has its flaws but it does do some really cool stuff. I think it is just entertaining and fun to watch – it has a good heart.”
SheBorg Massacre screens tonight as part of Monster Picture’s Friday Night Frights series.
Actress Felissa Rose is no newcomer to the horror genre. The talented actress has over 100 film credits to her name, with a lot of them centred in a genre that she obviously loves. Brand new horror film A Nun’s Curse does get to see Rose play a psychopathic nun for the first time and when you begin to talk to her about the role you very quickly start to see the passion that she put into playing Sister Monday.
“I am so proud of being involved with this film,” she says to me as we talk about the genius of A Nun’s Curse. “I first met Tommy Faircloth, the amazing writer and director of the film, a few years ago at a horror convention called Days of The Dead in Atlanta. He and I hit it off immediately and become fast friends and it was then that he asked me to do a film of his called Family Possessions. I flew to him and we filmed it and it was a wonderful experience, we got along so well and it was just a great collaboration between us.”
“So we stayed in touch and we became really close,” she says continuing. “Then he told me about A Nun’s Curse and I thought ‘oh man I would do anything with you again’ and now here we have it. Now it is coming out and I am super thrilled.”
That leads me to ask what it is about Faircloth that makes her enjoy working with him so often. “Well first up Tommy is so passionate,” she says. “And he is just so easy going and like I said the word collaborative really comes to mind. As the director, actually especially as the director and the writer you already have a vision and he is incredibly kind in hearing what you have to say when you are creating the character and he just loves to use the space as a wonderful place to work in. He has great vision and I just the love the way his films like ascetically, I love the way he creates characters and he is just really a beautiful soul. He is also as funny as all get-out, so the set is always fantastic.”
As we begin to talk about Sister Monday the nun that Rose plays in the film she bursts out laughing hysterically. “She is bat-shit crazy,” she says laughing so hard that she can barely get the words out. “She is clearly a villain, the poster art is very revealing so I am not giving anything away by saying that both Tony Rosen and Sean Krumbholz who created the look really gave her that devious, dark and villainous exterior. She is sort of one of those characters that I would just have to say that from very deep down, right down to her feet, of who she is is just pure evil. And that is always fun because the characters that I always play I love to play something different… something different to what I have ever done before and certainly Sister Monday was a character that I had never portrayed in any other film so it was just really nice to be able to step into these shoes and create something that was so devious and so deeply evil. She is just so deeply rooted in that awfulness, though I have to say it was fun… it is always fun to play the bad guy.”
As we talk about heroes and villains in films I ask Rose whether she finds it more fun to play the hero or the villain. “I definitely have played my share of villains and victims,” she says laughing. “But I love the monster. And I do love them both equally but you definitely do have a lot of fun playing the bad guy because you get to portray something that you would never really do in life. I would never chase someone with a weapon or you know get really angry and loud so it ends up being very therapeutic because you run the rage of these characters in a way that you would never do in real life and it is just fun to play those colours and sort of get mad and I do enjoy it… it is a lot of fun.”
Felissa Rose is truly memorable as Sister Monday so make sure you check out A Nun’s Curse when it is released on streaming platforms on May 12th.
Few films that you see this year will match the power that comes from new Australian drama Undertow. The feature film debut for director Miranda Nation tells the powerful story of a young woman named Claire in the aftermath of her losing her baby. During this time she finds herself questioning the relationship between her husband, a young teenager called Angie and her husband’s best friend – a retired footballer.
Playing Claire is sensational Australian actress Laura Gordon who I recently had the honour of being to sit down with and talk about the film. “Undertow is a psychological thriller that focuses on the relationship between two women,” says Gordon as she explains the premise of the film. “I play Claire who loses her child during labour at the beginning of the film. Then during the film she develops this dangerous obsession with this young teenager who is pregnant. She becomes very obsessed with this baby that the woman is carrying. Her mental state and the obsession leads to things getting pretty dangerous for the both of them.”
No stranger to playing harrowing roles Gordon says she did have to prepare herself a great deal for this role. “I spent a lot of time with Miranda Nation the director,” she says. “We really went over the script and a lot of the things that Claire was going through at each specific time with a fine tooth comb. I think the script is such a fine blueprint on every job and then there were really specific things that I had to research, the things that my character would go through having a still-born baby. It is something that I have never experienced so I had to delve right into it so I could understand what it is like on a physical, psychological and a mental level. We also did a lot of rehearsals with the other main actors especially with Rob Collins who plays my husband, we did a lot of work on creating a background for our relationship from before the film began.”
“I guess with the mental illness side of things we looked at the things that Claire would specifically be going through,” she says continuing. “We looked at something called Briefly Active Psychosis which is a condition when trauma triggers a mental breakdown and it can happen to someone who has never experienced mental illness in the past, and they can have a full recovery from that kind of situation. So they were the key elements that were thrown into the pot and I kind of went from there.”
From there we begin to talk about what it was about Undertow that made Gordon want to agree to the film after she read the script. “There is something that happens to me when I read a script,” she answers. “And it is not something that I can even articulate, I just feel it in my bones. It is really something a gut level that just draws me in and I felt like that when I read Undertow. I think the fact that we are exploring topics like pregnancy loss and mental illness, and I think what really attracted me to it was the strong relationship with the young woman in the film, Angie played by Olivia DeJonge. There were so many elements that drew me in and then there was working with Miranda. But yeah playing this complicated, damaged and unlikable at times woman who had so many different layers to her was just a real drawcard.”
One of the things that has been talked about with Undertow is the amazing on-screen performances between Gordon and DeJonge and she tells me it was something that the two worked hard to replicate. “I think on the page a relationship like that will demand a certain intimacy or a certain level of connection regardless of whether it is a drama or a thriller. With the relationship between my character and Olivia’s character we meet for the first time on screen. So I didn’t spend that much time rehearsing with her, not compared to the time that I spent rehearsing with Rob because we kind of wanted to keep it fresh and to have that chemistry in front of the camera and I think that worked really well for us. We did have an enormous about of trust that we had to build though and we had to fee a safety between each other in order to be able to go on that journey together.”
The work the two put together is nothing short of amazing and if you haven’t seen Undertow yet then get out and see it this weekend.
Undertow is in cinemas now.
The mockumentary seems to be a long lost art form. For awhile they were a popular choice for filmmakers wanting to experiment a little with comedy. Films like Kenny made a big splash but now filmmaker Julian Shaw has just delivered a very ambitious project indeed. See Use Me is a mockumentary but it doesn’t deliver comedy – instead it is a thriller featuring a known online dominatrix Ceara Lynch.
To find out a little bit more about Use Me I recently caught up with Shaw while he was in Sydney to promote the film. We started off by discussing where the idea for the film originally came from.
“You know where it came from was I was looking to do a documentary series about internet entrepreneurs ,” he explains. “I was pitching to the ABC because they were looking for series and then I accidentally came across Ceara Lynch through a pirated Youtube clip and there was just something about her that intrigued me. I wanted to know more so I went to her website and my mind was kind of blown. I was kind of familiar with the fetishes that she dealt with but there were things I didn’t know about like financial domination… I didn’t really know about the more extreme kind of fetishes. So that intrigued me.”
“Then there was the fact that she had so much charisma,” he says continuing. “She had real star power and I just thought there was something so intelligent about how she constructed this whole persona so I reached out to meet her and asked about doing an episode of this documentary series. So I went to Portland to film and then we both just knew that there was something bigger there… we knew that right away.”
The unusual nature of the film also seems to be causing a little bit of confusion for people who think that the film is real. “The honest truth is that nobody has been absolutely correct,” he says with a bit of a laugh. “Everybody has these really strong opinions on what is real and what is not. Some say that the first half of the film is a documentary and then he turned it into fiction. But it really isn’t like that at all. I mean it is constructed from the very first scene and I knew after about three days that I did not want to make a traditional documentary. I knew that I wanted to do something different because Seara screamed out for it. I mean her whole career blurs the line between reality and fantasy , you know she makes men’s fantasies come to life – she brings them into reality through a roleplay session.”
“So I thought if I do a regular documentary I am kind of missing out on an opportunity here,” he goes on to explain. “I realised there was something richer and weirder that I could do with a blend of truth and fiction that I thought would capture her and her world more accurately then a documentary would. And I’m not just trying to be cute I sincerely mean that. I think this fictionalised movie gets deeper into who she is and her world than a traditional documentary would have. So I knew early on that I was going to do it that way and she was a great subject right from the beginning. But honestly she is just a really well adjusted person who is pretty down to earth. I just didn’t see it working as a documentary because there was no conflict and she is very confident about her life choices. Not that I would want to make a movie about someone who is a victim of the sex industry or anything like that but you do that conflict that is going to drive it and hold people. In the end I just felt this was the better way to go. Take her reality and turn it on its head a little bit… that felt like the right way to go.”
After success overseas Shaw now can’t wait for Australians to get a chance to see Use Me as well. “I know it looks like a very sexy and titillating movie when you look at the poster or the trailer but this is a movie that does have a heart,” he says. “It does have a through line through it and I think that maybe people who are dragged along to against their will and were like ‘oh I didn’t want to see some movie about some fucking dominatrix bitch from the internet’ will watch the movie and become invested in it. I’ve seen people shedding tears in the cinema watching it so there is more to the film than it seems. Yes it is a sexy thrill ride but I think it is an emotional film as well. I just can’t wait for Aussies to watch it because this is where I grew up, this is home.”
Use Me is available on several streaming platforms right now.
Australian filmmaker Storm Ashwood is quickly becoming a director that the world is sitting up and taking notice off. His 2018 horror film The School was an eerie film that Del Toro would have been proud of and now Ashwood returns with the hard-hitting dramatic war thriller Escape And Evasion. In one sense Escape And Evasion is another type of horror as it depicts a soldier’s whose life is in ruin after a brutal covert operation in Burma has left him with PTSD.
When I get the chance to talk to Ashwood he is in a remote area of Thailand and he is overjoyed when I tell him how much I enjoyed the film. “Thank you, thank you,” he says humbly. “The film sort of matured out of two places. The first one came about when I was working on a documentary with a priest who funnily enough looked like Gandolf in Chang Mai who was smuggling refugees from Miramar over the border.”
“A close friend of mine who was ex-military and I got very close to being able to go on one of these jungle runs with this priest,” he explains. “We were going to see exactly what was going on and film it. But sadly the documentary was never finished because that priest was murdered, so it never got finished because I only had a little bit of footage. So, on top of that I also had a story that I had developed with a friends about events that had occurred in Iraq, it was quite tragic and it really showed the struggles of this particular guy trying to fit back into civilian life. Like he would be saying things like ‘I can shoot tanks and fly helicopters but I can’t get a job as a labourer, what is going on?’”
As Ashwood keeps talking to me about this solider it is easy to see the comparisons between him and the soldier that actor Josh McConville plays in Escape And Evasion. “He was having a lot of trouble with his family,” says Ashwood continuing. “Through all of that I was able to put together a story and I just kept hearing these stories. Then I also helped on a script on another documentary about child soldiers in Sierra Leone which was also another horrific story about children who were being abused and put into sex trafficking and drugs and stuff. Then I did a short film about refugees so I thought I would then put all these tales and stories into one script – one feature film. That was the birth of Escape And Evasion.”
One of the things that will stick with you after you watch Escape And Evasion are the harrowing scenes about PTSD and as Ashwood and I chat I soon learn that the amount of soldiers returning back to Australia with the terrible disorder is absolutely alarming. “Statistically they say about twenty per cent,” he answers when I ask what percentage of troops returning to Australia would be suffering from PTSD. “I think that it is more along the line of fifty percent, and it may even be a lot higher than that. I’m thinking about it rationally now because every single solider I have spoken to who has been in service you can see that they have undergone some form of suffering due to the events that they have been through.”
Perhaps the event though that has really shown Ashwood that his film hit its mark has been the reception it has received from military veterans with the film even picking up awards at the Veteran’s Film Awards. “That meant so much,” he says when I mention those awards. “One hundred percent hands down I knew that soldiers wouldn’t be the harshest critics. I know a lot of soldiers and I know some will say things like ‘I walked out of Black Hawk Down because Eric Bana was wearing the something wrong on his uniform for that time.’ They are really tough critics they’ll tell you that an actor has an elbow wrong when holding a gun or that he is looking over the barrel the wrong way so to hear that our film won those awards I was so honoured and so chuffed.”
The award winning Escape And Evasion is in cinemas now.
There is no disputing that director/screenwriter Leigh Whannell is one of the kings of modern day horror. The Australian was the writer behind both the Saw and Insidious franchises while in recent years he has also sat in the director’s chair for films like Insidious: Chapter 3 and the under-appreciated Upgrade.
Now Whannell returns as the director/screenwriter/producer of The Invisible Man – a modern day Blumhouse take on one of Universal Pictures most loved horror characters. And as we chat to Whannell in Melbourne we learn that this is not a task that he took lightly.
“I actually wasn’t thinking about doing an Invisible Man movie at all, says Whannell as we begin to talk about the origins of this film. “I had just finished Upgrade and I had been bitten by the action movie bug and I think I was keen to go and shoot the fifty million dollar version of Upgrade. You know we could crash forty cars instead of one car… i was keen to get my Michael Bay on. Then this idea was suggested to me… the idea of doing The Invisible Man and it was not something that I had given any thought to, but then as soon as it was in my mind it was truly an inception.”
“It wouldn’t leave my brain,” says Whannell with a big smile on his face revealing just how excited he was about the product. “It just kept taking up space rent free. And then I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and that is usually the first sign that I am going to make a film – when it just won’t go away. That’s how it came about and then I just went back to Blumhouse and Universal and said that I was interested in doing this and we were off to the races. It was remarkable just how quickly the pieces all came together.”
As we begin to talk craft I ask Whannell whether or not the fact that the idea of the film was planted in his mind rather than him just thinking it up changed the way he went about writing the original screenplay. “It did in the sense that I was aware of this legacy that was behind me,” he says after pausing to think about the question for a moment. “Other people have made Invisible Man movies and I wanted to avoid repeating them. I didn’t want anybody to be able to say ‘well this is just a retread of so and so.’ And so if anything it was more of an awareness to avoid those other movies- that was the biggest thing – trying to take this character and modernise it and make it very new. In other words I wanted to make it feel like no other Invisible Man movie had ever existed and that this was the first. I can’t tell you how many scenes I came up with that I put on the reject pile because I felt that they had been done before.”
Whannell’s version of The Invisible Man takes on a very different voice to any of the Invisible Man films of the past have. Here Whannell explores the dark topic of domestic violence and depicts in a very dark way that few filmmakers have been brave enough to do in the past. “Really early on I knew that I wanted it to be dark,” he explains. “I knew that I wanted to make something that was really tense and suffocating – not light-hearted at all. I didn’t want anything that was frolicking or fun I wanted to make something that was really relentlessly tense and suffocating to the audience.”
“That was a decision that I made very early on and then I began building out the story,” he explains. “The thematic elements of the movie about a woman being in an abusive relationship that just came out organically. As you start to put the pieces out on the table those things just kind of emerge on their own without you forcing them. It was all really organic and that is how it all fell together.”
With the legacy of the Invisible Man being so entrenched in Hollywood history and certain amount of fandom is also there, and that is something that Whannell is more than aware of. “Any movie whether it has a legacy like The Invisible Man or if it is stand-alone like Upgrade makes me nervous,” he says laughing out loud. “Even just thinking about it now is making me nervous. I think it is because you put so much of yourself into a movie an then you release it to the world and they get to judge it and it is just a scary moment. Eventually the nerves ease off once the movie is out there and you can’t do anything about it. Then you a start to relax but right now I am right in the middle of the white hot centre of nerves because it is just starting to get out there.”
The Invisible Man opens in cinemas today.