6WH: Week 3 - Ozploitation!

Last year, I had the good fortune of watching Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!. I love these types of documentaries about a narrow spectrum of movies. Making-of documentaries about a single film tend to get a bit repetitive, but in a movie like Not Quite Hollywood, you can cover dozens of interesting films (in this case, the film covers tons of obscure films from Australia's exploitation film industry). Unfortunately, not a ton of these films are available on DVD/Netflix, but I was able to find several for this week's Halloween movie marathon:
  • Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (trailer)
  • Howling III: The Marsupials (trailer)
  • Long Weekend (trailer)
  • Patrick: Richard Franklin's slow-burning tale of a nurse assigned to take care of a comatose patient named Patrick is quite the interesting film. The central performance here is from Robert Thompson as the titular Patrick. He spends the entire film in a stationary position, laying down on the bed, staring blankly and unblinkingly forward. It's a seemingly simple and repetitive performance, but the more I think about it, the more I'm impressed by it. Thompson can't react to anything that's going on around him. He can't blink, he can't focus his eyes on movement, he can't flinch. This sort of passive performance has to be harder than it looks, and it's strangely effective at establishing tension in the film. You just keep waiting for something to happen...
    Patrick
    Of course, that's not the only thing this film has going for it. Director Richard Franklin freely admits to his aping of Hitchcock's style, and while I don't think this film really approaches the hights of Hitchcock's best, it's well above the average horror film in terms of photography and framing. The characterizations are surprisingly well done and and the manifestations of Patrick's power ramp up in a well planned progression. I'm sure there are some people who would find the film slow and poorly paced, but I found myself engaged throughout the entire film and never got bored. All in all, it's an effective film and well worth a watch. ***
  • Next of Kin (trailer)
  • Razorback (trailer)
  • Dark Forces (trailer)
  • Thirst: I'm not entirely sure what to make of this film. A wealthy woman is kidnapped and informed that she comes from a long line of vampires. The kidnappers claim to be superior to the human race due to the fact that they drink blood. They "farm" humans for their blood, and they're attempting to condition our heroine to drink blood, and thus fulfill her family's destiny. Or something. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The centerpiece of the film is a half-hour long dream sequence, thrusting our heroine from one horror set-piece to another. Actually, I'm not sure if the entire film isn't a series of dream sequences. There's a certain unreliability to what we're watching, and added to the lack of coherent story, I don't think it works particularly well. There are a few standout sequences, such as the shower scene or the woman drowning in a vat of blood, but ultimately I'm not sure it was done in service of anything worthwhile. If you're a huge fan of cults or vampires, it might be worth a watch, but it didn't do too much fore me... **
  • Wolf Creek (trailer)
  • The Survivor (trailer)
  • Rogue (trailer)
  • Road Games: When I was in high school, I drove across the US with my brother and uncle. One of the interesting things about such trips is that you actually tend to see the same people over and over again. You might pass someone in the morning, stop for lunch, then pass the same car again later in the day. You might see the same folks at the camp site every night, and so on. Apparently this phenomenon is even more pronounced in Australia, where there are only a handful of roads that take you across the continent. Writer Everett De Roche and Director Richard Franklin, both big Hitchcock fans, looked at that phenomenon and somehow came up with the idea of creating a sorta moving Rear Window. Instead of setting it in an apartment complex, they set it on the road, which allowed them to show the same set of recurring characters over and over again while instilling a certain kinetic energy into the story. Of course, the film doesn't entirely live up to , but it's still a rather effective thriller.

    The story concerns a truck driver who notices a strange green van that's picking up hitchhikers in conjunction with a series of disappearances. The truck driver is played by Stacy Keach, and he's a surprisingly well established character. He seems to be a big fan of poetry, constantly quoting his favorites and playing games with the hitchhikers that he picks up. When he says that he's a man who drives trucks, not a truck driver, you almost believe him. He picks up Jamie Lee Curtis at one point, and she seems hellbent on discovering what's going on with the green van.
    The first murder sequence
    I think I knew I was in for a good movie here when I saw the first murder sequence. At first, I thought I was going to be seeing kinda standard slasher fare, but Franklin immediately defied those expectations with a gorgeously photographed and well orchestrated horror sequence. The film is nearly bloodless, but it almost doesn't feel like it. There are only a handful of attacks, and they tend to rely on implied violence rather than gory detail. When I was planning out this week's movies, I didn't realize that this film and Patrick were done by the same director, but I'm glad I've discovered Richard Franklin and look forward to perhaps seeing more of his work in the future... ***
The one film I wanted to see but didn't get to here was Howling III: The Marsupials, which looks like an incredibly cheesy, low-budget blast. It's actually available on Netflix Watch Instantly, but I just ran out of time. In any case, I'm hoping enough other films will be available for another week of Ozploitation next year, as I really enjoyed these movies (I'm even glad I watched Thirst, even though it's not quite my thing)...