It’s a huge thrill to once again be invited to programme Freak Me Out at Sydney Film Festival. As the title of this sidebar states in no uncertain terms Freak Me Out is home to the strange, weird, confronting and “highly unusual” side of contemporary cinema. In the FMO gallery you can find everything from mind-bending thrillers to beautifully bizarre art house offerings and blood-drenched tales of horror and fantasy. If outré entertainment isn’t normally your thing Freak Me Out is especially pleased to encourage you to take a gambol in this neck of the woods and discover wonderfully offbeat delights.
Selecting the FMO programme is, for all the right reasons, never an easy task. With around two dozen very strong titles competing for places FMO 2016 was the most competitive year yet. I’m very pleased to say it’s also right up there with the best FMO’s from years gone by. FMO opens this year with Tyler MacIntyre’s terrific horror-comedy Patchwork, which has been slaying ‘em in the aisles and winning prizes at film festivals all over the world. It’s a highly inventive and highly amusing female spin on the Frankenstein story in which three young women with apparently nothing in common suddenly find themselves stitched together in one body. The clever trick is that all three minds are also encased in the patchwork. Made in the spirit of ‘80s favourites Re-Animator (and Bride of Re-Animator!), Patchwork is rollicking good fun and certainly doesn’t scrimp on the splatter.
It’s with great excitement FMO 2016 presents its very first Australian feature. Get on down to Event Cinemas on Saturday the 11th for the world premiere of Red Christmas, a rockin’ good family-reunion-at-Christmas-goes-wrong item written and directed by that Double the Fist guy Craig Anderson. At last! Australia finally has a fine entry in the distinguished “Christmas Horror” sub-genre that includes favourites like Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night and the immortal Elves … They’re not working for Santa anymore. But that’s not all … Red Christmas stars legendary scream queen Dee Wallace who delivers a fabulous performance as matriarch of her troubled clan.
The Australian connection continues with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy. Horror hounds will remember Sean’s outstanding debut The Loved Ones (2009). The wait for his second feature has been well worth it. Set in a remote Texas farmhouse and featuring a cracking central performance by Ethan Embry as an artist and dedicated husband and father with a liking for heavy metal music, The Devil’s Candy delivers top-notch terror and powerful emotion. SFF is delighted to welcome Sean Byrne to present The Devil's Candy on Wed. 15 and Sat. 18 June.
From Texas to … Tehran, would you believe? Yes, the Iranian capital during the last days of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War is the setting for Under the Shadow, directed by Babak Anvari. A hit at Sundance and SXSW, Under the Shadow finds a mother and daughter terrorized by “something” in their war-damaged apartment. Powerful themes of motherhood and women’s rights in post-revolutionary Iran combine with supremely executed scares in this top-shelf attraction.
A vital component of FMO are films that elegantly and artfully Freak You Out. Two outstanding titles fit that description this year. From first-time feature director Nicolas Pesce comes the stunning black-and-white nightmare psychodrama The Eyes of My Mother. Portuguese actress Kika Magalhães is unforgettable as Francisca, a young woman living with her disturbing memories in a timeless, dateless American Gothic farmhouse situated in the same cinematic neighbourhood as Touch of Evil and The Night of the Hunter. French filmmaker Lucile Hadžihalilovic (Innocence, 2004) makes a triumphant return to the director’s chair with Evolution, a sublime mystery set in a seaside town populated solely by women and young boys. That’s just the beginning of a mesmerizing tale that takes us to unpredictable and provocative destinations. It won the Special Jury Prize and cinematography award at San Sebastian Film Festival. If you’ve enjoyed previous FMO titles such as Goodnight Mommy be sure to makes dates with The Eyes of My Mother and Evolution.
Finally, you are invited to witness civilized society party itself to death in High-Rise. Directed by Freak Me Out favourite Ben Wheatley (Kill List, 2011), this adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel takes place in London apartment block that’s lush and luxurious until a major social meltdown occurs. Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons top the bill in a metaphor-rich extravaganza of decadence, debauchery and brutalist architecture gone horribly wrong. I am extremely proud to say that the premiere screening of High-Rise will take place at Blacktown Drive-In on Friday 10 June. FMO loves the drive-in and would love to see you under the stars in front of the giant screen to watch this spectacular social apocalypse from the comfort of your motor vehicle.
To all the loyal Freak Me Out viewers who’ve supported this strand so strongly over many years, a huge thank you! For those tipping toes in these offbeat waters for the first time, FMO welcomes you with open arms to our salons on George St, Dendy Newtown and Blacktown.