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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Throwback (2015) - some classy Aussie Sasquatchploitation!

Beware - there be Sasquatchploitation within this Blu-Ray cover.....
This week I had something of a pleasant surprise. No, I'm afraid Helena Bonham-Carter didn't finally decide to ignore my emails of adoration and agree to meet me for a quick coffee and sandwich at the nearest supermarket (yes I'm a classy guy). The surprise actually concerned the subject of a movie I watched a few days ago. Let me explain.

I'm a sucker (steady on) for a good old 'lost mythical monster who attacks overconfident vulnerable lost souls in the land that time forgot' type of adventure story genre - and if it's not a proper genre description, well it blooming well should be. However, if truth be told, there isn't one solitary  molecule within my physical make-up that actually believes in the reality of such creatures. That non-belief may seem something of a controversial statement to make to some people I've met through writing this blog, because there are many otherwise normal people out there that genuinely believe in this stuff. The fact is that I simply do not believe in Bigfoot/Sasquatch, the Yeti or indeed anything of the like. Nor do I believe that we've already been visited by extra-terrestrials or intrepid time travellers. However I do believe that one day Helena Bonham-Carter will on day fall for my cunning ploy and meet me for that Bacon sandwich & coffee any day now......

I also include in my 'list of disbelief' a certain Loch Ness inhabitant that is purported to exist just 100 miles along the road from me. Nessie doesn't exist and it never has, except that is to feed a grateful local economy (and yes, I have indeed bought a toy Nessie on my visits, so sue me). However, I do love the stories of these mythical creatures, I really do. The only problem is that when low-budget productions make films of any monster genre, the one area of concern is the monster itself. Essentially, a movie lives or dies on the quality of its particular creature - and all too often what should be an excellent piece of film making is all too often let down by the glaringly obvious man-in-a-monster-suit running around trying to be all fierce-like.

Guess who?..........
So I was feeling slightly reticent when Australian director, Travis Bain mentioned that I might be interested in watching and reviewing his brand-new Aussie Sasquatchploitation feature Throwback, which has just been released across the UK on Blu-ray and DVD. However, the reticence I had about watching another potentially problematic low budget Indie monster feature was immediately lessened by the nature of his request. To be frank, the term 'Aussie Sasquatchploitation feature' would be more than enough to grab even my notoriously bad attention span. If Sasquatchploitation isn't an actual term then i may well try and patent it myself......but I'm probably too late as usual.

Anyhoo, Travis then went on to further to pander to my materialistic nature by suggesting that it may be better to watch Throwback on DVD or Blu-Ray instead of a super secret online screener. The reason being that it would enable me to see both the rather extensive range of extras that the release contained and to take full advantage of the stunning locations that the film takes place in. "Hmmm, bold claims indeed" I thought to myself. I decided to take up the challenge and test this claim in my own inimitable way. In the process I also get a free Blu-Ray. Boost!

So how's about I throw a little synopsis your way before I go any further? Ok then.

A fabulous retro-style movie poster for Throwback

"Throwback is about two modern-day Australian treasure hunters, Jack (Shawn Brack) and Kent (Anthony Ring), who go searching for the lost gold of the legendary bushranger "Thunderclap" Newman (Andy Bramble) in the remote jungles of Far North Queensland. But instead of riches, they find a different kind of legend: a ferocious Australian monster known as a Yowie, Australia's answer to Bigfoot, and a savage battle for survival ensues. Thrown into the mix is a feisty park ranger named Rhiannon (Melanie Serafin) and a burnt-out ex-homicide detective named McNab (Vernon Wells).

Inspired by classic Technicolor jungle films such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Run for the Sun and The African Queen, as well as '70s bigfoot films such as The Legend of Boggy Creekand Creature from Black Lake, with a healthy dash of Predator thrown in."

So is Throwback actually any good? The answer, apart from a couple of areas which don't work quite as well as others, is a resounding yes. I'll discuss the couple of negatives shortly but suffice to say is that I found this a hugely enjoyable cinematic experience. Hence, this was the surprise I mentioned earlier, yes there may or may not be a man in a monster suit, but it works very well. Very well indeed.

As I watched the first few minutes my immediate words were "Thank f*** that I watched this on a high definition Blu-Ray thingy!" It is a definite full-on visual treat. It could be argued I suppose, that having the backdrop of the jaw-dropping Queensland tropical forest as ones movie canvas means that the end result cant help but look good. I would suggest (and I'm certain so would be the film makers) that it would be disingenuous to say so. Yes, while the area  featuring in the film may well be a stunning part of Australia (That's down under, you know) it still has to be filmed with a fair degree of skill and dedication - and boy does Travis Bain succeed in this regard. Quite simply, the cinematography is astonishingly beautiful from the beginning opening shots which immediately show off the landscape in its breathtaking glory.
Nah, nothing much to see here - well apart from the stunning shot, that is....

As you would expect, the overhead shots are typically lovely, showing off the expanse of unbelievable distance and size of the outdoors in this part of the world. It is when we come to the forest's interior scenes that Travis employs  the camera to its full excellent effect, skillfully combining a sense of impending and increasingly dangerous claustrophobic tension and all nicely wrapped up in ever increasingly beautiful woodland landscape. 

I'm not wanting to be overly hyperbolic or sycophantic , but some of the shots produced in Throwback more than hint at a potentially great filming talent here.

Unusually for an Indie movie the cast performances are consistently solid and convincing, particularly from the two male leads, Shawn Brack (Jack) and Anthony Ring (Kent) as the two friends travelling into the deep forest in search of the mythical treasure that had been seemingly abandoned by a legendary Aussie outlaw. ....but we know the real reason why the outlaw left the loot behind, don't we kids? Oh yes we do. Anthony Ring seems particularly to revel in his role as the decidedly more 'complex' of the two main characters.

Vernon Wells going native
In addition, genre aficionados will be delighted (as I certainly was) to see the legend himself that is Vernon Wells to appear in the proceedings as a particularly eccentric police officer. It must have been something of a coup for Travis to have landed the instantly recognisable face from amongst such movie behemoths as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Commando, Inner Space, and Weird Science , to name but a few.

Perhaps best of all is the role of the of the fabled Yowie itself. As previously mentioned, far too often a good monster film is suddenly let down when the creature itself, or rather a a badly filmed man-in-a-suit appears on screen. Thankfully, the Yowie is filmed skillfully, with only fleeting glimpses of the creature that contrives to provide a convincing and chilling monster. It seems that Travis knows his move making history rather well in taking in the influence of Spielberg and Ridley Scott in 'showing the audience less in order to create more'. 

The regular couple of readers of this blog will no doubt recoil in disbelief when they hear that I've undertaken a reasonable amount of research for this piece - don't worry it won't last. I'm sure I'll be back before too long to my usual flying by the seat of ones pants in a kind of making it up as one goes along sort of way. The thing is that I noticed early on when doing some reading on the filming of Throwback that the filming process had taken an unusually long time - approximately two years in all. 

This lends itself to perhaps one of the minor criticisms of Throwback is that the pacing, particularly in parts of the films middle  section, occasionally falters, not in any majorly destructive way, but just enough to detract slightly from the overall enjoyment. However, after the said research, I'm full of admiration for the dedication and sheer tenacity of Travis and his crew for not only managing to finish the film, but also to limit as much as possible any major detrimental effects on the final product. 

I can't imagine the headaches & chaos for a low budget filming process that the leading actress falling pregnant halfway during filming must have caused, but it must have almost been a deal breaker in terms of even finishing the film. As a consequence large sections of Throwback had to be restructured and rewritten to accommodate the fact that half the actress's scenes hadn't yet been filmed. I'm firmly of the opinion that this contrived to make what could have been a great film merely a very good film and its to Travis' credit that he has never used this as an excuse for any effects the convoluted filming process may have had the final product.

Yowies can't go in the water, right.......right??!!
So considering the filming problems encountered the movie needs to be commended in being constantly entertaining and containing a number of exciting set pieces, a couple of which include the mandatory inclusion of imaginative and amusing ways of killing and dismembering. I would say that while the movie cheerfully delivers in providing a good level of genuine thrills and chills there is a constant feeling that the level of horror could have been increased a little. I would suggest that Throwback is more 'adventure' movie rather than horror movie. This however is but a minor negative consideration in what is mostly a fun-filled roller coaster of an adventure experience.

All in all Throwback is a visually stunning film that, while never taking itself overly seriously, nevertheless succeeds in producing more than enough thrills and chills to satisfy  those of us who love a damn good monster movie - and this is a damn good monster movie. It may not be perfect, however what imperfections there are may well be due more to a combination of the original budgetary constraints and unexpected cast and filming problems than to any lack of talent on the filmmakers part.

I always view with an element of suspicion those who say " blah blah blah is worth the cost of the thing on its own". However in this case I will throw aside any sense of hypocrisy, because the array of extras available here on their own would genuinely be worth the price of the DVD.

DVD Extra Features

Behind the scenes

Disaster for Shawn Brack as he loses out in the Semi-finals
of the Queensland 'Simon Says' championship.
If there was ever a University tutorial masterclass in how to make a series of informative and fascinating series of of 'making of' pieces to accompany a DVD, then this should be included. The clips (all seven of them) not only serve to inform the viewer of the complex logistical task of filming a low-budget film in often challenging conditions, the result also further shows off the frankly stunning environment of the bush (that's an Aussie term for forest, you know) in all its glory. In total the clips on their own add up to oven an hour of genuinely fascinating and illuminating viewing experience.

Alternative Ending

When the movie played to a test audience the reaction to the original ending was, I'm led to believe, less than enthusiastically received. As a consequence Travis filmed a new ending with a bit more bang for your money. I must admit that I like both versions for very different reasons.

This did get me thinking about this 'test screening' malarkey and wondering whether I should employ a similar device when writing my blog articles. Maybe getting somebody to read them first and point out the numerous inaccuracies, omissions, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and overall woolly and rambling narrative might be a good thing. Hmmmm, on the other hand, maybe not - I don't think that anybody has THAT much time on their hands.

Shawn redeems himself in the final of the 
Queensland 'standing still like a statue' competition.
Audio Commentary

Another slice of of informative and entertaining insight into the filming process and the particular challengers faced by the low-budget Indie filmmaker is provided with a nice commentary featuring Travis and actor Shawn Brack (kent). As something of a compulsive nerdy commentary lover, it's refreshing to hear a genuinely enjoyable narration. All too often with some films, what comes across is the obvious feeling from this involved that the commentary is nothing more than a contractual obligation that needs to be simply got out of the way. Not only are there interesting nuggets of information about the numerous challenges they faced in actually putting the film together, there are also some very funny stories of the experience of working with Vernon Wells and dealing with on set pregnancies.

Travis Bain short films 

In addition to the Throwback related extras there is the inclusion of three earlier short films made by Travis Bain. Each of the shorts; Daniel's Jack, Full Moon, Dirty Laundry and Parrot Ice Tours provide a nice snapshot of Travis's maturing directional style.

If that wasn't enough there is still awaiting a veritable plethora of tasty Throwback extra morsels to experience such as Famous Monsters Film Festival Q&A and video blogs , Radio interviews, Deleted scenes , Throwback Trailers and the redoubtable Vernon Wells reading as except from Henry Lawson’s The Hairy Man  - All excellent stuff.

Throwback is currently available now in the UK.

The Facebook page for Throwback can be found at

The official website for Throwback can be checked out RIGHT HERE

This article can also be found via the 5D website There you can find a veritable feast of blog articles, news items, pictures and and other mouth-watering salutations to the gods of the geeks and the nerds. We have now inherited the earth, you know.

There is also a newly launched forum on the website designed for ANYONE involved or interested in the Independent film industry related to genres of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror. Feel free to register and contribute - Everyone is welcome!

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If all that was enough to entice to 5D land, should any of you fine people out there wish to advertise on the 5D website then have a look at the offer below.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

PURGE (2010)

Every now and again a film comes to my attention which serves to remind me that there are filmmakers who are still willing push the boundaries of filming and storytelling. These efforts may not always work, indeed the contemporary Indie movie scene is frankly awash with examples of work that fail to come even close to achieving much in the sense of quality or enjoyment. But you know what, at least they are having a go - and sometimes they succeed.

Earlier this week I was contacted via my website at (brought to your attention by Stuey's Shameless promotion Inc.). -  Please note: there are other Sci-fi, horror & fantasy websites & blogs available.......however they are no where near as good as mine (well somebody has to say it & it may as well be me). The contact came all the way from down-under (now please, clean your mind out), to be precise from an Australian author and filmmaker, David King.

I'll be honest with you straight away, two things leaped out and grabbed my interest from David's request. In fact, if this new fangled truth talking habit of mine is to be fully explored, they did more than grab my interest, they well and truly slapped me around the face with a wet Haddock sort of way. Let me further explain.

David informed me that he was in the process of trying to make more readers and viewers aware of a recently-published sci fi novella Outcast which is in turn based on his own ultra-low budget sci-fi feature film PURGE. He explained that both stories take place in a parallel universe where people are created by genetic engineering companies and programmed for roles in life. Now, I will mention details about the novella later in this piece, because it was the feature film that particularly caught my attention - which it did in the two aforementioned 'haddock slapped in my face sort of way'. 

Firstly there is the story's theme. It was Aldous Huxley's tale of dystopian social control 'Brave New World'  and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 that were the two significant literary obsessions for the then young sci-fi fanboy that I was. Add to that cinematic classics that dealt with the loss of individual freedom of though such as Metropolis, THX 1138 and Logan's Run and you have with each of those gems one of my favourite genre collections. So as you can imagine I was intrigued from the very start.

However, the thing that well and truly sealed the deal of my interest was being informed that the legend of film production Troma, had not only picked up the film for distribution, but that Lloyd Kaufman himself after watching the film said that he loved it and wanted to distribute it. That's only Lloyd blooming Kaufman! And if it's good enough for Mr Toxic Avenger himself, (and with it, a large number of critics and reviewers alike) then it may well be good enough for me.

However, before I bestow upon you my usual words of (ahem) wit and humour about a film that I quite simply loved, let me pass your way a little more of a synopsis type of thing.

"In the 275th Parallel Universe, a genetic engineering revolution has swept the developed world. All members of Western society are artificially created by genetic engineering companies and programmed for their roles in life.

Expressing love or concern for others is forbidden. Expressing any emotion but happiness is a sign of program breakdown. Those whose program break down are called 'Strays' and treated as criminals.

Only Strays who flee underground have a chance of survival......"

Now you may be asking yourself, If it's been critically well received and snapped up by no other than the Troma organisation, just why haven't we heard more about this film? Surely if it's that good then why is it relatively unknown by the general public? The reason I think lies in two distinctly separate parts.

The first reason originates in the format of the film itself. From the outset, I must make it abundantly clear that PURGE is not your run of the mill mainstream sci-fi fare. The film is instead, in the word of the filmmaker himself, "an experimental narrative sci-fi film made on an extremely low budget (less than AUD $30,000). It was never intended as mainstream, bums-on-seats entertainment". Now, I don't wish to come across as an elitist snob (there are many other less than flattering descriptions of me that are far more apt), but I have to admit that its rather nice to have something to watch occasionally that needs a little thought on the part of the viewer. PURGE nicely fits the bill.

For a start it's a clever and well thought out combination of a healthy dose of Utilitarian Sci-fi with an added touch or two of tasty cyberpunk as we follow the story Layla, a BDSM mistress who lives in a reality where an artificially created population have come about through genetic engineering. People simply live without choice each day, the only emotion they are allowed to exhibit is happiness because any other show of emotion is regarded as a genetic programming  malfunction. Of course, the powers that be do not react kindly to those who rebel. Layla, with the help of the mysterious androgynous Peta and the underground resistance movement begins a journey of self-awareness as she begins to question her own place in the world.

Ahh, we've all been there; Girl is fed up with her BDSM life, Girl meets girl/boy, Girl/boy attempts to help BDSM girl to deprogram. 

The plotting is nicely written and contains a wealth of interesting philosophical and psychological themes that constantly ask one to....wait for it & breathe......THINK. I know, frightening eh? Another thing that catches the eye is the way that the movie is filmed, often in in a wonderfully idiosyncratic way that borders on experimental and dare i say it....Avant-garde. It's safe to say that the effect doesn't always work, sometimes serving to detract from the plot, but in the main the style is delightfully creative and innovative.

This may be one reason as to why the film has yet to gain a firmer grasp on the public awareness - because it simply doesn't attempt to appeal to the mainstream Star Wars/Star Trek/Edge of Tomorrow audience. As I've mentioned before, please don't misunderstand this as elitist snobbery on my part, because I firmly regard myself as a fully paid up occasional member of the mainstream science fiction audience. There is a place for all types. I genuinely do believe however that people may have been put off by the terms 'experimental', 'stylised' and 'philosophical' - because while PURGE certainly does have something of an avant-garde feel to it, there is still more than enough there for it to appeal to a wider audience.

The acting, particularly from the two leads of Sarah Breen and Meda Royall are excellent - Royall in particular seems to relish her role as the androgynous and complex character of Peta. Though this is no perfect film, for the supporting cast is less assured in quality in a couple of areas, something that often occurs in micro-budget productions and seems difficult to avoid for many filmmakers . In addition, the occasional set-piece effects don't always provide the authenticity and stylised gravitas that they really should have. The result is an uneven film in parts in terms of conveying the power of what is a powerful tale.

However, these are minor detractions because there are more than enough ideas, plot devices and film trickery to make the majority of PURGE be hugely enjoyable and one can fully understand why Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma organisation decided to pick up the right to distribute it.

Which brings me onto the 2nd reason why the film may have gained critical praise, but not a wider public acclaim. My own theory that while there may be some familiar Tromaesque themes in PURGE, such as overt sexuality, sadistic violence and a strong element of surrealism, it isn't quite the graphic in-your-face-schlock-horror type of fare that is synonymous with the likes of classics such as The Toxic Avenger or The Class of Nuke 'Em High. In other words, both the mainstream Sci-Fi audience and the Troma audience (I'm happily both) may have been expecting something slightly different before seeing this movie.

The bottom line is that PURGE is a well-crafted and fascinating cinematic experience. It may not be perfect but it was far more interesting than a host of other science fiction works out there. It's simply an excellent and tasty slice of philosophical and psychological Cyberpunk!

PURGE can be found at


David has recently commissioned and published the book Outcast, by Marc Saville, who has written a novella based upon the film. As yet I haven't read it (time unfortunately isn't my friend at the moment) so I'll leave you with the synopsis, the link and the news that the book also has had its share of critical praise.

" To fail to assume the role you've been created for is to become a Stray and be treated worse than a criminal...which is what happens to 20-year old Layla Thomas when she becomes violently ill and is forced to flee from her sister's upmarket salon on her first day of work as a BDSM mistress-slave. The story follows her trials and tribulations as she desperately tries to return to her rightful role in society."

Those who have reviewed the novella so far include Canadian sci fi reviewer Bob Milne who was full of praise. His and other reviews can be read on the novella's Amazon site which is 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Extinction movie - World premiere on Weds 25th Feb

It's been my genuine pleasure to have been connected (in a tenuous-basking-in-the-shadows-hanging-on-the-coattails sort of way) to an Independent British adventure movie this past couple of years - Extinction. Since 2013 I've witnessed and helped in what little way I could to promote the film - from its early crowdfunding origins, passing on titbits of info about it taking shape on film, through to finally seeing the finished product last summer in a sneak online preview.

If you care to read the piece either for the first time, or you are a bit on the bonkers side, read it again, you can find it at the link RIGHT HERE .

I could have asked you to simply scroll through the marvellous articles within this blog, but I'm on a graciously good mood today so I thought I would save you the time by providing the link. I must admit, being the self-indulgent individual that I am, I did read the piece myself once again and to be honest I was quite impressed. However, it was the marvellous interview responses from actor Ben Loyd-Holmes that actually caught my eye rather than my own writing - ho, hum.

If you can't be bothered to read the piece, and believe me I would perfectly understand it if you didn't, then here's a brief synopsis of the plot ......

"Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor strive to protect vulnerable and endangered species, but when their guides abandon them they soon realize they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric apex predators."

I won't bore you again with the full length version of my ramblings and musings but the final paragraph I think (If I do say so myself) it nicely sums of what I thought of the movie.

"I would urge you to watch Extinction when it goes on general release and put aside any negative feelings you have for found footage, if I can do that then anyone can. Lets be clear, this is not a horror film per se, but a richly layered exciting adventure that in its final act will leave you gasping for breath. It's a genuine treat".
Well the time has finally arrived for people to get the chance to see the film for themselves because today I received the following press release from the movie's director, Adam Spinks.


The stars of the anticipated new movie EXTINCTION will walk the red carpet this month in London’s Leicester Square alongside VIP guests, celebrities and more.
Fans eager to meet the team behind Britains most anticipated monster movie can head to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square on Wednesday February 25th for what is sure to be the hot ticket in London. Celebrities, stars and VIP’s are expected to arrive on the red carpet from 5.15pm onwards.

EXTINCTION is directed by Adam J Spinks and stars Ben Loyd Holmes (Skyfall, Da Vinci’s Demons, Band Of Brothers) alongside Sarah Mac (Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, Montana), Neil Newbon (Hollyoaks), Daniel Caren (The Hike, Pulling, Essex Boys: Retribution), Ernesto Cantu (World War Z), Ross O’Hennessy (Da Vinci’s Demons), Simon Burbage (Pulp: The Movie, Hollyoaks), Dolores Reynals (There Be Dragons, A Very European Break-Up) and Emma Lillie-Lees.

EXTINCTION will be released in the UK in selected cinemas after February 25th and then will follow soon after on March 2nd on DVD and Blu-Ray. The film is distributed by High Fliers Films.

So my advise will be to you would be to get along to Leicester Square and shout some love at the Extinction team. If you can't manage that then keep an eye out for the limited release details and the DVD/Blu-Ray release in March.

To further wet your cinematic whistle just take a look at the behind-the-scenes clip that accompanied the press release.

The links for finding out even more about this move at the following links:

Twitter: @EXTINCTIONfilm