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(OUT)BACK FROM THE DEAD
The Furies (18)
Director: Tony D'Aquino
Screenplay: Tony D'Aquino
Starring: Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson
Review: RJ Bland
Australia has produced a number of violent genre features since the turn of the century. Greg McLean's 'Wolf Creek' kicked off the trend back in 2005 and since then we've has a little clutch of gore heavy movies including 'Boar' (2017), 'Wyrmwood' (2014), 'Charlie's Farm (2014)' and 'Killing Ground' (2016) – the latter probably being the pick of the bunch. During the previews for last year's Frightfest film festival, UK audiences were made aware of another upcoming Aussie flick that looked liked it had the potential to pack a similar punch; Tom D'Aquino's The 'Furies'. It actually played at Frightfest Film Festival last year but has recently been released on VOD (available on Amazon Prime and Shudder).
'The Furies' wastes little time in offering up its concept and getting into the thick of the action. The opening scene sees a woman running away from a masked assailant through barren looking woodland. I know, it's not the most original opening, right? Well, things get interesting when a second masked assailant appears and instead of helping his fellow killer out, he fights and eventually kills him, before scooping up the terrified woman onto his shoulder and carrying her off to apparent safety. 'What on earth is going on there?' you're asking at that point. Well, we're then introduced to a couple of bickering friends in the city who are promptly abducted and wake up in...yep, the exact same barren woodland that we saw in the opening scene. We follow one of the women, Kayla (played by Airlie Dodds), as she tries to work out what the hell is going on. She quickly realises that she's part of a twisted game – something akin to an ultra gruesome version of The Hunger Games. On top of that, she keeps having weird hallucinations/memory glitches where she can see through the eyes of one of the masked maniacs that are running amok. What's going on?!
This really is quite a nasty little film. Within the horror genre, there are hundreds upon hundreds of films that have served up death scenes gory and horrid enough to make you wince. It's a wonder that film-makers can still find new ways of abusing/dismembering the human body on screen, but this film adds a couple more to the collection. Faces are hacked off and split open and arms ripped out of sockets. It's like Adam Green's Hatchet, but without the comforting absurdity and humour. However, on screen ultra violence on its own does not make a good movie and unfortunately not enough of the other elements really come together for this The Furies to hit its mark.
That's not to say there aren't things to like about it. The abandoned gold mine setting feels like something from another planet at times. In fact, the set up feels a little like Nimrod Antal's Predators in a way and there's something really striking about the stark and washed out landscape. It's not like anything we've really seen in the genre. Director Tony D'Aquino does a solid job too and whilst the film doesn't succeed on every level, there is enough there from a film-making point of view for this to act as something of a calling card for his obvious talents. Kudos for the special effects too, they're delightfully grim. Apparently over 100 litres of fake blood were used during filming, which isn't surprising once you've seen it!
However, the problems become apparent as we get into the second act. Interesting concepts and setups are all well and good but at some point you have to focus on plot and character. Viewers ultimately need to care about (or be interested in) the people they are watching. They also need a story that isn't afraid to change course or go up a gear as things progress. However D'Aquino's script is filled with characters who are rather thinly sketched at best. Airlie Dodds gives a decent enough job as the risk averse lead forced into proactivity – but everyone else is white noise. It also feels that the film peaks in terms of tension and action about 20 minutes in and from that point on it's an uphill task to sustain and build upon it. When you hit the ground running, it's not always easy to maintain that speed ultimately and the effect is a story that loses some it's appeal and energy the longer it plays out. The ending is also frustratingly conventional and raises a few more questions that you will never get answers to.
Tony D'Aquino's debut feature is a bloodsoaked slasher that makes the most of it's Lake George setting and will no doubt appease gorehounds looking for something a little different. However it suffers from poorly drawn characters and a lack of new ideas and innovation in the second half.
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