Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
This independently produced and digitally shot psychological thriller directed by Cristobal Araus Lobos (and described by its producer Robert Rowe as very much a collaborative achievement), is reminiscent of the gritty psychodramas that exploited the primordial settings of backwoods New Zealand during the mid-80s.
Two escaped convicts traverse uniquely rugged New Zealand landscapes, where the earth and water boil chaotically and steam fills the air. They are heading for promised freedom at a remote and disused psychiatric hospital. Belmont, the older and more reserved of the two, plans to phone his beloved wife Sussie and reunite with her there. His immature and violently aggressive younger partner Ramsey is sceptical (Belmont’s wife never visited him) and constantly badgers him about his wife’s fidelity.
Upon arrival at their destination Belmont discovers that Sussie cannot meet them for another five days. As the pair settle into their long wait the empty hallways and ghostly silence of the abandoned psychiatric hospital put them on edge. The tension soon leads to bitter conflict as the memories of past crimes begin to haunt them. The slow burn of mental and emotional disintegration erupts in a shockingly brutal climax. — MM
The filmmakers cite the early thrillers of Polanski as inspiration and they use their atmospheric settings most effectively to externalise the tension, claustrophobia and instability of their protagonists. Actors Dave Perrett and Dane Giraud further justify the Polanski comparison with strongly credible performances, two ugly mugshots sprung to threatening life.
The Festival was inundated with New Zealand digital features this year. Most cheerfully exploit the new technology to essentially frivolous ends with wildly hit-and-miss results. This grim tale from the fabled dark heartland of the New Zealand psyche was not at all typical. It reveals an authentically cinematic imagination at work, extending what, for better or worse, is a solid local tradition. It is worth noting that Andrew Bancroft’s lurid Home Kill on this year’s Homegrown programme walks similar terrain, while two other films on the same programme – Paul Swadel’s Like an Angel and Adam Stevens’ Beautiful – are also Kiwi tough guy psychodramas. — BG