Cult Movie Review - Suspirira

Cult Movie Review

Suspiria  is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento, and co-written by Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi who reportedly claims the plot was inspired by an experience of her grandmother's.


We follow an American ballet student, Suzy Bannion ( played by Jessica Harper), who is attending a dance academy in Freiburg, Germany. Upon her arrival, Suzy is introduced to Madame Blanc ( played by Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli ). As Suzy settles into her new surroundings, she becomes aware of many strange goings on in relation to the staff, narcolepsy and murder murder murder!


During my uni days in Adelaide, I had some artistic pursuits in relation to graphic design and of course film-making. Along with those interests and passions comes with it a certain beatnik, anti-authoritarian lifestyle and, of course, fellow beatniks. My roommate at the time and I would lay around the apartment talking endlessly about what was wrong with film today and how we would make the best film ever by scouring lost classics and coming up with the best script since Citizen Kane. Together we would shop at 24 hour supermarkets, usually at 1 in the morning, wake for lunch the next day to have yum-cha, endless amounts of coffee and talk talk talk about film.


One such particular time I awoke at 1.30 in the morning with a craving for salt and pepper squid and white wine. Calling my trusted side-kick into line, we ventured down Gouger Street to my favourite Chinese restaurant East Taste Cafe, where the crap house white wine served as the perfect catalyst against their amazing salt-and-pepper squid. Over our hard-earned supper, we again started discussing the ways in which to come up with a fantastic horror film never before pulled together. We had had the self-referential slashers of the Scream trilogy, which sparked a new wave of MTV friendly teen movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and the Urban Legend series, complete with American teenaged television actors and digital blood. What we needed, we thought, scratching our facial hair, is a slasher done with today’s technology but with yesteryear’s gumption for scares, horror and blood!


We got up from our restaurant table with renewed enthusiasm, jumped into our Batmobile and went straight home for our research! Once home, we went through a huge selection of weekly videos rented a day or two before and unleashed Suspiria, the cult Italian slasher classic! What better way to learn how to do the next masterpiece if not for studying the classics before us! Settling down for an early morning of study, we watched the movie with its soft focus, its chunky, orange looking blood, its difficult to follow plot and its ludicrously elaborate death scenes.


The movie’s strengths are in its cinematography, ambience, subtext and elaborate death scenes. We are witness early on to the first murder in the movie: a student, fleeing from the school in terror is shown to be stabbed several times, has a cord wrapped around her neck and is finally hung. As she crashes through a stained-glass ceiling, the smashed glass kills the victim’s friend who is standing beneath!

The movie uses menacing depictions of images of objects and architecture. The director uses rich colours, odd camera angles, shadows, and bright light to invoke a surreal, dreamlike ambience, a bit like a dark version of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Reviewers have commented on the fascist subtext of the film, such as the limitation of personal freedoms.  In this sense, and with the films use of a possible coven of witches, the movie is akin to Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy which deals with the horrors of modern-day living (powerlessness, suspicion, isolation and madness), the most famous of these of course being Rosemary’s Baby.


Whereas Psycho was the first slasher film, taking its audiences into uncharted territory, Suspiria could be argued to be the first art-house slasher film, taking you into a nightmarish world. Where Psycho’s influence still emanates in modern day slasher’s in the need for us to know the slasher’s identity and motive, Suspiria’s  elaborate death scenes may be the reason for the genres evolution above the need for an actual slasher. For example the Final Destination series simply has death itself as the ultimate culprit, with screen time dedicated to increasingly elaborate death scenes over the period of 4 (and counting) movies.


Towards the end of watching Suspiria slowly but surely the mix of salt-and-pepper squid, shared carafe of crap house white wine, being up until 3.30 in the morning and watching an elaborate surrealist horror movie combined into the perfect storm and, looking at each other over growling upset stomaches, my house-mate and I went to our respective rooms to slumber, only to wake the next afternoon to again discuss our plans for the best horror movie ever made over yum-cha, whilst curiously not mentioning Suspiria again. Actually, ever again..................



All in all I give Suspiria 2.5 out of 5 salt-and-pepper squids. I am not a fan of unfounded surrealism a la David Lynch (an oxymoron to be sure). As the Watchowski brothers did with their Superman story (The Matrix) and Christopher Nolan with Inception, I like surrealist imagery and themes to be firmly grounded in reality. For my surrealist horror, I will go to the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series which, I suspect was probably influenced by Suspiria  in the first place.

Check out the film at IMDB, and check out the trailer.


Luke McWilliams October 2010

La Dolce Vita Review

La Dolce Vita (Italian for “the sweet / good life) is a 1960 Italian movie by Federico Fellini. A fun fact is that the gossip-photographer named Papparazzo is responsible for the term paparazzi.


We follow journalist Marcello Rubini’s ( played by Marcello Mastroianni) life in Rome for 7 days, prowling its night-life in various nightclubs and bars. Marcello has numerous encounters with starlets (including the jaw-dropping Sylvia played by Anita Ekberg), models and with his upper class intellectual socialite friends as they all indulge in the excesses of their privileged ‘good’ lives. The group are however paradoxically aware of the shallowness of their materialistic natures. In his quest to find youth, true beauty and true love amongst the ‘new’ Rome, will Marcello lose his soul in the process?


Perhaps it is my love of formula and usual appetite of Hollywood fanfare, but I was waiting to see where this movie was going, where it was taking me. The sum-of-its -parts are very enjoyable, though – like Baaria, despite its length, it does not let up – there are scenes of decadent, indulgent parties, magnificent fashion, very cool cafes accompanied with cigarette smoking, cool suits and people wearing shades, even at night. Once you decide to trust the film, relax, and sit back to watch it, it is a very rewarding experience.


The movie has been interpreted as being divided up into 7 parts, starting with a prologue and ending with an epilogue. I viewed it as being 7 consecutive days and nights, although towards the final act some time may have passed during segments.


The picture looks fantastic, with great camera angles and pans, sucking in the urban beauty of Rome at night contrasting against the gaudy high-class party scenes. Technically, the script is deceptively tight, with the bookends really adding a fantastic punch. There are a lot of self-referential points in regards to the correlation between intellect and happiness, the search for beauty and love amongst a town that could be viewed as a ‘jungle’ or hell. Each section has these themes, and they are mirrored throughout, almost as if this is a collection of short stories a la Paris Je Taime. Each chapter however adds to the overall narrative which becomes increasingly darker while spiralling to its relatively tragic climax.


Whilst Fellini’s usual surrealism is thankfully restrained here, there is a lot of symbolism throughout the film, commenting on the contrast between the ‘modern’ 60’s life being built on the slums of Rome, and its societies’ changing morality faced with a new decadent lifestyle. Also on play are the differing statuses of the sexes. Such themes are mirrored and visited frequently in the television series Mad Men: set in the era after the Second World War, where a whole society is expected to be grateful for the materialistic possessions that they have accrued at war’s end, but who face an existential crisis as a result.

Rating  - 4.5 starlets out of 5. A great morality tale with beautiful imagery.

Check out the film at IMDB, and check out the trailer.

Luke McWilliams October 2010

Baaria Review

Baaria   is an 2009 Sicilian- Italian autobiographical film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, screening throughout Australia with the Lavazza Italian Film Festival.


We are introduced to a young Peppino (played as an adult by Francesco Scianna ) and his friend Nino (played as an adult by Ficarra), in the small Sicilian town of Baarìa (Sicilian slang for Bagheria). Here, we are privy to the life, loves and struggles of the town throughout three generations: starting from the 1920s stretching all the way to the 1980s. We follow the community during the Fascist period, World War II and its political falling out; the clash of Socialism and Communism all against a backdrop of the lives of Barria’s occupants.


The movie looks absolutely lush with its golden earthy hues within the towns architecture and beautiful Sicilian countryside landscape, and obviously has a great budget behind it. A lot of cinematic techniques are employed throughout: from epic looking camera sweeps to the use of CGI from grand architecture, natural landscapes down to very small objects.

The rustic town looks beautiful, however, as one review mentioned, perhaps a little too perfect, as if the film was made with tourism in mind; selling Sicily overseas like a product. This of course is quite unfair: the directors’ choice of presenting an idealic setting as a character within itself, reaches us in a way that we believe and understand that this place and its community is worth fighting for, similarly what Baz Luhraman did with Australia, which of course did have a tie in with Tourism Australia ( a far cry from Lara Bingle to be sure).

It is fascinating to watch the political changes stretching through such a long time in one location, and to also witness the effects such changes have on a relatively small scale, such as the communities’ lives. One needn’t have a grasp on the political ideals however to appreciate the ramifications felt throughout the community.

Like many ‘epics’ there is a lot happening: there are many characters and there are many sub-plots. It is confusing at times keeping track with all the characters, especially as they age and morph into different actors.

Contrary to its long running time, the film does go at a cracking pace. It is as if it is a Martin Scorsese film being edited by Chrisopher Nolan’s editor, Lee Smith. A lot of ground is covered very swiftly, with multiple story threads going on, but too tight editing keeps us a little confused as to what exactly is happening.

It was very amusing to have spotted Monica Belluci’s ‘guest starring role’, and have to wonder if it wasn’t for her past collaborations with the director, such as in Malena, if she would have agreed to such a small, but very impressionable part.


The viewing experience was marred as, whilst watching the movie, I had two ladies behind me speaking in Italian throughout. However, as it was a Sunday afternoon with a beautiful day outside, I obviously was the intruder in this particular movie viewing period. Anyway, the Italian language may have added to it.

Baaria is a solid piece of filmmaking and a very satisfying experience. 3.5 out of 5 buns

Check the movie out at IMDB, see what Margaret and David had to say, and watch the trailer.


Luke McWilliams October 2010

New York I Love You Review

New York I Love You is a 2009 collection of 11 short romantic films from the producer of Paris, je t’aime, Emmanuel Benbihy, and is the second film in the Cities of Love franchise.

The movie stars Bradley Cooper, Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Anton Yelchin, Hayden Christensen, Orlando Bloom, Irrfan Khan, Rachel Bilson, Chris Cooper, Andy García, Christina Ricci, Uğur Yücel, Robin Wright Penn, Julie Christie, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke and James Caan.


New York I Love You  is a collection of 11 stories, each of which takes place within one of New York's five boroughs. The films are presented together, interweaving in parts until finally tying into a common theme of finding love in the Big Apple. Aawwwww.


Unfortunately, comparisons with the superior omnibus Paris, je t’aime are unavoidable. Paris had an ensemble cast of actors of various nationalities including American, British and French. The collection included eighteen short films set in different quadrants of Paris. The 22 directors include Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel and Ethan Coen, Gerard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, and Gus Van Sant.

Whereas Paris  had quite specific, unique and memorable short films, New York’s are all similar and rather forgettable. This may be due to the choice to try and have a narrative through all of the films in an attempt to join them all together (for instance, the transitions between the shorts are directed by the same director; Randy Balsmeyer). This is an unfortunate choice as with a ‘mixed-bag’ as an omnibus should be, there is more of a chance to strike a gem. Ensemble, omnibuses are like a choose your favourite story, however, you have to sit through plenty of other people’s tastes to get to yours.

If it was the aim of the producer to tie all of these short films into a similar narrative however, why not just make a feature? The movie 4 Rooms had four short films from four different directors played out in a hotel, with each short simiarliy linked by a bell-hop character played very off-beat and kooky by Tim Roth. This worked in this construct as each ‘room’ was a different world: different characters, different stories directed by different directors. Once the door to the room was closed, we were again drawn back into the narrative of the bell-hop who kept us grounded throughout the 4 confined stories (I highly recommend watching 4 Rooms if only to watch Quentin Tarantino’s hysterical reimagining of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents short film which was originally written by Roald Dahl).  New York confuses this style, introducing characters and then letting them interweave throughout, melding looks and themes together throughout with an attempt to bring everything at films conclusion. The Three Colours Trilogy did this with a fantastic final crescendo. Here, the producer is overreaching. If the product is a feature, keep it to a director and second unit director. If the product is a collection of short films, keep them separate, and let us enjoy the differences.

New York seems to show that Paris caught the eye of commercial stars wanting to prove their ‘Indie’ acting and directing chops. This, of course, comes across as forced and fake: the cinematic equivalent of a halfway crook – you either are or not an independent  actor / director.

The sliding scale of subjective quality can be set here, choosing the worst and best short, and then sticking everything else in between. The worst short here would have to be Shia Le Belouf’s turn as a crippled, European bell-hop, acting his little heart out, followed by anything with Hayden Christenson where he is trying to act with a French accent starring again across from his Jumper co-star Rachel Bilson. Where Paris introduced international actors to play foreign characters, New York keeps the talent in-house. I know Hayden Christenson is from Vancouver, but a French actor for a French part would have made the section more authentic. It is also odd to see that, for a collection of short stories set in and around New York, none of the stories included involved black characters, actors and / directors.

The best short would be the flirtatious interplay between Orlando Bloom’s score-writer against an unseen female’s voice. Friendly flirting builds up genuine anticipation to the  discovery of who the voice belongs to. Another director may have chosen to cut at this crucial moment, making a point that love is blind, and that it is irrelevant to see the face of the person that you have already fallen for, or, the face is one that is unexpected, playing with themes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately the reveal is oval faced,  wide eyed Christina Rikki. This is akin to Disney studios taking over a Hans Christian Anderson story ( best served in the metaphor that inspired the original Shrek movie- Lord Farquaad sending all the fairy-tale creatures away from his fortress-like-castle), sucking out all the culture, and slapping in populist, standard wide-eyed commercial entertainment.

Of course, like all movies, there is a link to Kevin Bacon here, albeit in a cut short directed by Scarlett Johansson to be found in the DVD extras. Compared to the quality of the other films, I can’t see any reason why this was cut, apart from perhaps the time allowed for the overall film.


French pretension at least comes off as being quite honest and natural. It seems New Yorkers have to work at it. 2.5 bagels out of  5

Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and check out the trailer.

Luke McWilliams October 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine Review

Hot Tub Time Machine is a 2010 American comedy film directed by Steve Pink and produced by MGM/United Artists. The film also features stars from 1980s films such as Chevy Chase, Crispin Glover and William Zabka.
We are introduced to three friends are extremely dissatisfied with their present lives: Adam ( played by John Cusack) has been dumped by another girlfriend, and his video-game-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) lives in his basement. Henpecked Nick (played by Craig Robinson) holds a demeaning dead-end job at a dog spa and has a controlling wife who is having an affair, and Lou (Rob Corddry) who is a divorced party animal who accidentally gases himself in his garage


Visiting Lou in hospital, Adam and Nick take him and Adam’s nephew Jacob to the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, a place they enjoyed in their youth. The resort however is completely run down and deserted. The foursome however get drunk in their hot-tub which transports them back to the year 1986m, where wackiness ensues……………



There is a lot of fun to be had with this movie. The time-travel aspects and the 1986 setting is host to a whole realm of possibilities. This movie has a funny but very sick sense of humour. The jokes consist mostly of gross-out gags and extreme language then anything else. The ongoing gag with the one-armed-man is so sick that it is hysterical, as is the bout of gambling that soon goes north.


The movie reflects middle aged crisis amongst a group of friends who are mystified at how their lives, and their friendships, went so wrong compared to the optimistic future their young selves held. The movie does a good job of being quite poignant as well without being overly cheesy and corny. This is helped by the characters’ awareness of how silly a hot-tub-time-machine, and their collective predicament is.


John Cusack enjoyed a popular career in 80’s teen comedies, but he seems to take a back-seat here, although the ski-lodge setting and the alpha-male ski-instructor bully are direct references to his earlier comedy, Better Off Dead. There are other 80’s stars here serving as cameos: if you didn’t know them however you will miss them.


The 80’s held host to many teen comedies that were a direct result of Animal House which led to Porky's Revenge of the Nerds and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The fusion with science-fiction then gave us My Science Experiment, Weird Science and of course the original Back To The Future.

The star of the show is little known Rob Corrdry, who absolutely gives it his all, like Jackie Mason’s performance in Caddy Shack 2: an A+ effort in a B- movie. With his high energy, Rob pretty much steals the show.


Unfortunately, the movie is pretty much set entirely on an internal sound-set, with set camera angels which gives the outdoor scenes a dark, unnaturally sterilized image, which makes it look lonely, gloomy, empty and, of course, fake.


For a movie set in the 80’s references to the decade are surprisingly few, and when there is some, they seem sparsely staged instead of being all encompassing. Perhaps the decision to have the movie set in a ski-lodge was persuade as opposed to the cost of decking out an 80’s city-scape.



All in all, Hot Tub time machine is very enjoyable, although its audience would be quite limited I would guess. Fans of the 80’s will enjoy it as a nostalgic trip, however, there are plenty of 80’s classic teen comedies available on DVD, and, the Not Another Teen Movie is a more recent, more obvious reference to past 80’s rom-coms. Those not familiar with the 80’s will enjoy it as a gross-out comedy more than anything else.

3 cans of chenolbly out of 5


Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and check out the trailer.




A Room With A View Review

A Room with a View is a 1985 British Drama film directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, who together were Merchant Ivory Productions. Merchant and Ivory are mainly known for their English period piece films. The movie stars Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Rupert Graves.




We meet Miss Lucy Honeychurch (played by  Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (played by Maggie Smith, )on holiday in Italy. Bemoaning the fact that they do not have a room with a view whilst having dinner in the hotel’s dining room, Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and his son, George (played by Julian Sands), gladly offer theirs. With their forward thinking and unrestrained temperament, the men are a clash against the two restrained and very proper Victorian ladies.


During a picnic in a rural barley field however, George embraces and passionately kisses Lucy. Charlotte quickly puts a stop to such shenanigans, and the two ladies promptly return to England. However, this is all too little too late as George has lit a secret desire and romance in Lucy’s heart that cannot be extinguished with English normality’s, and soon wackiness ensues.......



During my school holidays as a young lad, I would spend many days in my father’s university in South Australia, getting up to no good in various art classes playing with clay, watching Perry Mason on a small black-and-white television under his desk or spending time in the library, reading comic-books and watching a lot of films.


Amongst my favourites were The Garbage Pale-Kids, a satire of the popular Cabbage-Patch kids at the time, the live action Masters of the Universe and The Last Star-Fighter. My sister’s favorite was A Room with a View. I watched it a few times and loved it for its brevity, its light-heartedness and beautiful visions of Italy. It would be many years afterwards that I would be actually in Rome, running around the Vatican taking photos and drinking in the sites, but before then,  this was the movie that provided that gateway.


It was also my first introduction to the beautiful Helen Bonham Carter before her image was changed to a  drugged-up goth thanks to the likes Tim Burton and David Fincher, and the excellent and passionate Julian Sands who went on to star in Warlock alongside Richard E Grant and was then lost in a slum of video-nasties. Obviously other actors of the movie went on to bigger and better things as the pedigree of Merchant and Ivory productions often tend to do.


I would say that I saw this film 3 or 4 times back then and I was amazed at how much I remembered of it. I think my repeated viewings of it prompted my dad to finally give me my first of many Elle Macpherson swimsuit calendars.  



Inoffensive and Jane Austin lite, I give this delightful room 4 views out of  5


Check out the film at IMDB.


Luke McWilliams October 2010



The Other Guys Review


The Other Guys is a 2010 action-comedy crime satire directed and co-written by Adam McKay. The movie is the fourth collaboration between Ferrell and McKay: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers.


We are quickly introduced to Detectives Danson ( played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Highsmith ( played by Samuel L. Jackson) who are New York’s supercops that fight the good fight in the streets, leaving all the resulting paperwork for the ‘other guys’ at the office to fill out, such as forensic account Detective Allen Gamble ( played Will Ferrell) and his partner Detective Terry Hoitz ( played by Mark Wahlberg). Allen’s investigation into a scaffolding permit violation soon leads to bigger and better things, and when an opportunity arises for Hoitz to get back onto the streets, he drags his office-bound partner into action, where wackiness ensues.


The Other Guys lampoons the buddy-cop genre (much more successfully than the recent movie Cop Out), with references to mainly the Lethal Weapon series, which is of course the most influential of their kind.  

This movie was surprisingly funny! Unlike other Will Ferrell vehicles as mentioned above, this movie is much more accessible as it is grounded in a genre that we have grown up with since the early 80’s. The ridiculousness of the Buddy-Cop movie is shown through the exploits of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s jock-like super-cops, who introduce the movie with an incredible chase sequence with mass structural damage, letting ‘the other guys’ in the office sort out the paperwork. I remember studying Torts law and thinking what would happen if I applied the test of damages to the damage caused throughout the original Die Hard

The movie has a great cast of actors, who all play their absurdest comedic parts extremely straight. Mark Wahlberg is brilliant, showing his incredulous anger, frustration and impatience. Ferrell hits it again with his wide-eyed naivety, and sweet innocence.

 The jokes are quickly established, and each ‘bit’ plays out repetitively throughout the movie, a bit like an episode of an English skit show such as Little Britain, where you wait for the punch-line / catch-phrase; For example Ferrell’s character attracts ridiculously good looking women throughout, and Michael Keaton’s captain unknowingly references song titles from TLC

The movie is at its best when it is lampooning the buddy-cop genre, pointing out their loop-halls and ridiculousness, all the time referencing them as well: there are plenty of introspective scenes shared by the two complete with saxophone wailing in the background, and even an extravagant, CG assisted binge-drinking-bonding scene . It however becomes surprisingly boring when the movie blossoms into it’s action scenes in the third act, as we have seen it so many times before. A montage of dry, police procedural paperwork would have been more fitting. 

The movie’s main plot involves white-collar corporate embezzlement (specifically the white collar crime known as the Ponzi Scheme), and it is amazing to see the credit sequence at film’s end which shows the break-down of Ceo’s wages compared to their employees, and government bail-outs of large companies. It is shocking to see the statistics, but also surprising that the theme was obviously taken so seriously by the film makers delivering such a ridiculously fun comedy. This is a community-conscience sure-fire way of getting the masses to think more about societies’ more unpleasant goings-on.


The Other Guys is much more accessible than McKay’s previous efforts. A surprisingly funny and ridiculous movie which shows how well comedy works with good actors who are not necessarily known for their comedic skills. I was pleasantly surprised to see the older crowd around me with glasses of champagne laughing along with the ridiculous going-ons..

3.5 wooden guns OUT OF 5

Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and check out the trailer.

Luke McWilliams October 2010

Podcast - 15 October 2010 - The Kids Are Alright, New York I Love You and A Room with a View - plus an interview with Josie Baynes

Join Luke McWilliams, Liam Jennings, Steven Robert and Felix Barbalet as they review

  • The Kids Are Alright
  • New York I Love You
  • A Room With A View

Plus an interview with ACT film maker and winner of the Canberra Short Film Festival's National Schools Category Josie Baynes on her winning entry 'The House'