SFFF Day 1 Report – Home is Where the Horror Is

saskatoon_fantastic_film_festivalThe last days of autumn are leaving Saskatoon and the sharp, cold grip of winter is in the air. It makes for a slightly uncomfortable walk to and from the Broadway Theatre, but perhaps that’s a fitting atmosphere for the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s program of highly honoured films. Those looking for name recognition in its stars or those resistant to reading subtitles are missing out on some of the best genre films of the last year or two. Day 1 of SFFF may prove to have been its strongest, with a brilliant collection of award-winning horror films. Domestic spaces loom prominently in this first block of films, suggesting little safe territory moving forward into the Festival.

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Van Diemen’s Land (Jonathan auf der Heide, 2009)

“A grey, horribly-beautiful vision of Hell.” – Simon Foster, SBS.

Drafthouse Films LogoNow called Tasmania, Van Diemen’s Land was originally a feared and dreaded penal settlement, a final stop at the edge of the world for those convicts unwanted by the British Empire. In 1822, eight convicts escaped the brutal Macquarie Harbour penal station and were forced into the brutal Tasmanian wilderness when their plan went awry. With little food and equipment, these Irish, English, and Scottish fugitives battled harsh conditions and aching hunger in a merciless and unforgiving land – a land where God wields an axe. Director Jonathan auf der Heide and actor Oscar Redding create a grimly poetic retelling of Alexander Pearce’s infamous escape from Macquarie Harbour and the unthinkable acts he committed during his 113 days at large.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan auf der Heide, co-writer and lead actor Oscar Redding, and cinematographer Ellery Ryan
  • A Journey Up River: Making Van Diemen’s Land
  • Three additional featurettes: The Battle of the Beards, Subtleties of the Slate, and From Bailbo to Van Diemen’s Land
  • Hell’s Gates, Jonathan auf der Heide’s 2008 short film
  • Two Devils, Jonathan auf der Heide and Gregory Erdstein’s 2014 short film
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Original storyboards
  • A 24 page booklet featuring production photos and a new essay by film scholar Roderick Heath

Deluxe Edition – Package Includes:

  • Van Diemen’s Land on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2½ hours of bonus material
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film on 1080p, 720p and mobile/tablet formats
  • 27″ x 40″ Movie Poster

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Road Games (Richard Franklin, 1981)


AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddStacey Keach is Pat Quid, an eccentric trucker who plays games to keep his sanity on long hauls through the desolate Outback.  With his pet dingo keeping him company, Quid creates imaginary lives for the people he sees on the road – families, hitchhikers, cyclists.  A mysterious green van picking up young female hitchhikers arouses the trucker’s suspicions, leading Quid to the conclusion that its driver may be a maniac killer butchering women across Australia.  A free-spirited hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) joins Quid in his game of detective, but when the killer raises their stakes, the game becomes personal and fun turns to fear.

Director Richard Franklin packs plenty of wry humor and Hitchcockian suspense into this psychological shocker that was nominated for four Australian Film Institute Awards and remains one of the most surprising thrillers of the 1980s.

Special Features:

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Ghosts… of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat, 1988)

“A brilliantly and authentically shocking film … nothing I have seen compares with Ghosts in the power of its ideas and the intensity of their treatment.” – THE AUSTRALIAN

“Combining structural daring with thumping emotional power, this film is the best news from Australian Cinema since the hey-day of the Aussie New Wave.” – Harlan Kennedy, FILM COMMENT

Drafthouse Films LogoCentral Industrial Prison, a new generation of maximum security prison painted in play school colors, is located in the middle of the desert.  It’s been locked down – confinement of all prisoners to their cells – following an outbreak of violence.  The film reveals the truth of the system told through a flashback.  Unseen but omnipotent, the prison’s administration deliberately provokes and manipulates inmates and officers alike until inmates exact their bloody revenge against their perceived oppressors.  With expert direction by John Hillcoat and a maniacal performance by Nick Cave (who also provides the film’s haunting soundtrack), Ghosts… of the Civil Dead is a “masterpiece on the order of Goya” (Brian Case, Time Out UK) with “echoes of Stanley Kubrick at his most uncompromising” (Derek Malcolm, The Guardian UK).

Ghosts… of the Civil Dead goes beyond traditional prison themes of good and evil to draw a frightening allegorical portrait of the nature and organization of our society, made most disturbing by the fact that it is all true.  Presented here, for the first time to North American audiences, is the most extraordinary collection of extras gathered for an Australian film – a complete history from inception to release as told by key cast, crew, and musicians, providing compelling insight into the film and the people who made it.

Special Features:

Central Industrial Edition – Package Includes:

  • Ghosts… of the Civil Dead on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2 hours of bonus material
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film Available on Street Date
  • Instant Download of Nick Cave’s 13-track Ghosts… of the Civil Dead Soundtrack
  • 27″ x 40″ Poster
  • Jack Henry Abbott’s book In the Belly of the Beast

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Frontline (Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, and Rob Sitch, 1994-1997)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Frontline.

criterion logoBased at an unspecified commercial network, the Australian television series Frontline goes behind the scenes of the ratings-obsessed world of commercial current affairs.  Covering everything from the use of hidden cameras, foot-in-the-door bullying interview techniques, and checkbook journalism, the comedy’s three seasons takes a satirical look at the egos, the dubious practices, and the occasional hypocrisy of a medium that purports to objectively present the news.  By rejecting the three-wall, laugh-tracked sitcom format and utilizing a realist camera-style and cameos by actual Australian political and media personalities, Frontline was a TV phenomenon at the time of its airing and remains as hilarious and as topical now as it was when it debuted nearly twenty years ago.

Disc Features:

  • All three thirteen-episode seasons, digitally restored with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Select episode introductions featuring original cast members and creators
  • Behind the Frontline, John Tabbagh’s hour-long documentary on the making of Frontline, recorded in 1995 during the show’s second season
  • Promotional spots
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring an interview with Frontline guest star Harry Shearer

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The Man From Hong Kong (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1975)

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“This movie f*****g kicks ass!” – Quentin Tarantino

Fast! Fierce! Fantastic! Nothing can stop … The Man From Hong Kong.  From maverick action film director Brian Trenchard-Smith comes this spy-flick spoof starring kung fu extraordinaire Jimmy Wang Yu!  Super cop Fang Sing Leng is an ass-kicking, bed-hopping Hong Kong James Bond with an axe to grind.  He arrives in Sydney with a mission: To bring down a mob boss (George Lazenby), woo some ladies and show the Aussies how they make a man in Hong Kong!  No wonder it smashed box office records around the globe!  Bursting with foot-to-the-floor, hi-octane car carnage and equally spectacular martial arts mayhem, The Man From Hong Kong (a.k.a The Dragon Files) is a pure, unadulterated 1970s thrill-ride from the first kick to the last crash.  This Aussie classic is finally available in North America, and not a moment too soon!

Special Features:

Sky High Edition – Package includes:

  • The Man From Hong Kong on Blu-ray or Standard DVD with over 4 hours of bonus material
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film
  • Instant Download of the 16-track The Man From Hong Kong Soundtrack including Noel Quinlan’s 14 track Original Score and 2 versions of “Sky High” by Jigsaw
  • 27″ x 40″ Theatrical Poster autographed by Trenchard-Smith
  • Henchman-styled temporary dragon tattoos

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