Canberra horror film The Furies delivers inventive and fun gore


4 stars

In Greco-Roman mythology, a Fury was a vengeful goddess who forced retribution upon the wrong-doer.

Knowing that, you can guess where the filmmakers might be going when their film pits a handful of women against a handful of bad guys and they call their film The Furies.

 Taylor Ferguson and Airlie Dodds in The Furies. Picture: Supplied

Taylor Ferguson and Airlie Dodds in The Furies. Picture: Supplied

In The Furies, Airlie Dodds' character Kayla is abducted one night after a fight with her best friend Maddie (Ebony Vauglans). Kayla wakes up in a box placed in a remote bush locations. "Beauty 6" is stencilled on the side of Kayla's box - the implication being there might be a "beast" out there to match.

In the stark and ghostly eucalypt forest setting, she comes across other women who have experienced the same abduction, including Linda Ngo's Rose and Taylor Ferguson's Sheena, and her pal Maddie.

But also showing up periodically are the aforementioned beasts, hideously deformed or surgically augmented male figures, tied in a lethal way to the women by some unseen game-master who has engineered a humans-hunting-each-other-for-sport scenario.

Characters slowly meet various gruesome ends, in ways that Ozploitation enthusiasts will enjoy. This is genre cinema, the fairly recent marketing term for what used to be known as horror. It isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you don't mind a bit of gore with your cinema popcorn, then The Furies is a fun-fair thrill ride.

And that's not just me supporting local production - although it gives you them feels in your wallet knowing your movie-ticket dollars go toward a film shot in the Canberra region, funded locally, and where monies returned to investors will in all likelihood be pumped into future local filmmaking.

Cinematographer Gary Richards shoots familiar landscapes in a stark and atmospheric way. Most cinema horror takes place at night or in the darkness of a house or other confined spaces, but here we have a film with broad daylight throughout, the gum trees a disorienting backdrop that might give the film an edge overseas.

The film's meagre budget of $1.5 million is inventively invested, because this film feels far more expensive, not least due to the impressive prosthetics and special effects from artist Larry van Duynhoven and his team, who work in the physical effects and gore of films of old, from the days before CGI.

For the beasts in the film, a team of actors wear what appears to be skin suits, one with apparently the face of a pig, another stitched together Frankenstein style, to create a unique set of "bad guys". The work is as good as anything out of Hollywood, or that is turned out in any episode of my favourite gore make-up reality series Face Off.

The gore, when delivered, is inventive and fun, in the spirit of American independent schlock studio Troma. Audiences will cheer at some of the on-screen deaths, including exploding heads, an axe to the neck, and an act of auto-enucleation that would do Homer or Aeschylus proud.

Lead actress Airlie Dodds is a star on the ascent, recently appearing in Heath Davis's Book Week and the ABC series Harrow and here she is consistent and makes Kayla one of the more memorable scream queen heroes of recent years - which is good because the film nicely sets up any number of possible sequel ideas.

The writing occasionally jars, notably the wooden opening scenes between Kayla and Maddie which are fortunately quickly forgotten once the film's pace picks up and the screams start. But writer-director Tony D'Aquino obvious love for the genre and sense of invention is contagious.

This story Canberra horror film delivers first appeared on The Canberra Times.