Tag Archives: Australian horror movies

Deja View

Girl at the Window

by Hope Madden

Rear Window was first, but an awful lot started with Hitchcock. In 1985, Tom Holland’s Fright Night reconsidered the concept – a voyeur certain he spies villainy through a neighbor’s window – with less visual panache, more nostalgic supernatural horror. Then D.J. Caruso essentially remade Fright Night in 2007 with Disturbia, Craig Gillespie did remake it in 2011, and last year, Joe Wright did Hitch’s original pulpy homage with The Woman in the Window.

Can director Mark Hartley do anything new or interesting with his spin, Girl at the Window? Even the title feels borrowed.

Hartley’s take is more specifically horror than the films it apes – not supernatural, just horror. It’s a bit low rent and borrows quite liberally from better films. Still, it does take some fine turns.

Ella Newton stars as Amy, a troubled teen who’s moved with her mom (Radha Mitchell) to a small town after a tragedy. The goal is to start fresh, but immediately Amy becomes suspicious of her next-door neighbor’s late-night trips. When a dormant serial killer seems to return, Amy decides it’s definitely the guy next door. But her own trauma may be clouding her judgment.

Mitchell’s solid as always, and the supporting cast delivers believable, often quite endearing turns. Newton makes for a fun central character, although there are times when Amy’s choices are idiotic and beyond forgiveness. Worse still, her tragic backstory, heavy-handed as it is, goes nowhere.

Hartley is best known for fascinating documentaries on genre filmmaking. His narrative work is less impressive, unfortunately. His 2013 reboot of Richard Franklin’s 1978 horror flick Patrick (an inexplicable favorite of mine, if I’m honest) felt safe, tame, updated without soul.

To a degree, those same flaws plague Girl at the Window. There’s nothing wrong with it and there are moments of fun to be had, but there are also five better riffs on the same tune you should probably watch instead.

Don’t Pet the Animals

Little Monsters

by Hope Madden

“Teddy McGiggles isn’t my real name.”

The fact that there is a character named Teddy McGiggles in writer/director/Aussie Abe Forsythe’s new horror gem Little Monsters—let alone that Teddy (Josh Gad) has to clarify that it is not his given name—tells you a lot about the film.

McGiggles, a beloved and boldly dressed kids’ show host, is just one of the uninfected trapped in the souvenir shop at Pleasant Valley Farm Petting Zoo (now with Mini Golf!).

Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o, glorious as always) has taken her kindergarten class on a field trip. Little Felix’s (the criminally adorable Diesel La Torraca) ne’er do well Uncle Dave (Alexander England) has tagged along as a chaperone, but really he’s just crushing on Lupita.

Who isn’t?!

The petting zoo sits next door to a military testing facility, one thing eats the brains of another and suddenly Miss Caroline is hurdling zombies and convincing her class this is all a game.

Basically, Little Monsters is Cooties meets Life is Beautiful.

Even though the film is being compared to Shaun of the Dead, please go into this with your eyes open. Though it has an incredibly sweet heart and a bus load of insanely cute children, the film is definitely R rated.

Mainly because of Gad, whose character has, shall we say, some bad habits and a pretty ugly catharsis on the playground. It’s pretty funny, but a surprisingly mean kind of funny.

Still, Little Monsters is, in its own bloody, entrail-strewn way, adorable. Honestly. And so very much of that has to do with Nyong’o. Miss Caroline’s indefatigable devotion to her students is genuinely beautiful, and Nyong’o couldn’t be more convincing.

The enormously likable cast and a tight script elevate the film above its slight story and often borrowed ideas. But the pace is quick, the bowels are spilling, and I’ve never enjoyed Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off more.