My notes on the Australian horror film.
Meagan and Jonathan Reid (Jesse McGinn, Robert Hartbun), a good-looking young couple, settle into a new home – a farmhouse on twenty acres of land, far from any neighbours (or emergency services). Their friendly estate agent Deirdre (Rose McKenna) leaves gifts to make them feel welcome, but the bad omens are there from the start. On their first night, their pet cat Nook goes missing – and even before he later turns up in the oven, it’s obvious that someone or something who bears ill will is lurking. In a prologue, a screaming previous victim was done away with and perverted poacher-cum-peeper Cambo (Bruce Denny) and his young sidekick Rex (Connor Gosatti) are on hand to serve as major suspects. Rex is even wearing Nook’s bowtie collar. However, it might be that even the typically eccentric, unpleasant locals are in danger on this property.
A concise, effective, if scarcely innovative watcher/stalker/menace movie from Australia – fitting a little too neatly in the groove of Ils, Cold Creek Manor and White Settlers, with the only really fresh notion sprung as a twist too late in the day for its thematic weight to be explored. In these movies, the threat usually comes from locals who have been figuratively or actually shifted out of their home to make way for too-cleancut incomers from the city – and Cambo and Rex certainly fit the bill (another Australian FrightFest selection, Killing Ground, hinges on a similar clash of blandly decent well-off tourists and enraged, depraved, deprived locals). However, this ultimately looks in another direction, and plays up one of the more nightmarish aspects of new home ownership to deliver a slightly caricatured ‘monster’. The periodic captions announcing the progression of the nights sets up the likelihood that this cycle of violence will continue … perhaps at the expense of further damage to strained credibility.
Even with only three days to play with, this has a plot that depends on the naïve newcomers not taking sensible action – since Straw Dogs, it’s always been a good indication that any attack on a pet will presage an attack on the person. By the time, the couple talk to each other about the bad things they’ve individually experienced, it’s no shock that calling the cops only means irritating a card-playing time-server at the end of a phone line who just advises them to get a new cat. McGinn and Hartburn are good with what they’re given as the pretty bland victims while Denny and Gosatti are creepy yet pathetic as the yokels. At 72 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome but it doesn’t exactly have time to draw suspense strings tight either. Written and directed by Adam Gravely.
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