Aussie talent adds strength to a tropical thriller

Maisie and Dylan are trapped trying to figure out their escape.
Landfall
Oz International Film Festival
Director/ Writer: Travis Bain
Starring:  Kristen Condon, Tony Bonner, Shawn Brack, Andy Bramble,  Daryl Heath, Anthony Ring, Rob Stanfield, Bailey Stevenson and  Vernon Wells.
Rating:  ★★★★

FILM REVIEW
By JAMES WF ROBERTS

It is almost a cliché to say it but the single-location “trapped” style of thriller can be a low-budget film maker’s dream, or their curse.

If done correctly, the limited movement, the claustrophobia, the intensity – everything that makes a trapped-by-the-elements thriller/noir film – can be an electrifying and intense  experience.

If done badly, as so many low-budget horror films are these days, it can be uncomfortable and boring for the audience.

Set in Cairns, Landfall opens with our 20-something protagonists, Dylan (Rob Stanfield) and Maisie (Kristen Condon), all but ready to evacuate as a furious cyclone approaches.

Just as they’re about to leave,  an ambulance parks just outside their house. Three mysterious men in paramedic uniforms stumble out of the van and make their way to the couple’s door.

The creepy intruders  introduce themselves as Beatles members Paul (Daryl Heath), George (Andy Bramble) and Ringo (Bailey Stevenson), with the imposing leader, Paul, claiming they’re looking for someone who goes by the name of Gordo.  The couple suspect something isn’t quite right: Ringo is badly injured (gunshot wound in the leg), while Paul is carrying an Icebox tightly bound with biohazard tape.

Legendary Australian actor Tony Bonner plays the too-helpful, good-hearted neighbour who suspects something is amiss.

Tension escalates with the arrival of the hard-nosed detective  Wexler (played by another Aussie acting legend, Vernon Wells ).

The movie changes mood many times,  giving darkness and depth to the characters.  Landfall’s masterstroke is writer-director Travis Bain’s punchy dialogue. He has given his characters unique voices and enough colour that you can tell them apart.  

Bain’s tight and twisting script moves at a brisk pace. There is some Tarrantino-like byplay between Paul and Wexler, with Paul moaning about the Shawshank Redemption and Wexler correcting Paul’s grammar – done both for comedic effect, and to add weight to the the malice these men feel for each other.

It is really hard to find a standout performance in this movie, as everyone does a remarkable job of not overplaying their characters. Bain keeps a tight leash, as do his players.

However, Kristen Condon’s performance as Maisie has to be noted. She is not a ditzy girl trapped in a room with a monster character. There is a lot of depth to her character, and that is a welcome thing in this genre.  

Landfall opened the Oz International Film Festival on Friday. The festival runs until November 30 at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda. Landfall also played at Monster Fest yesterday at Cinema Nova in Carlton..