August Film Reviews: Horror highlights from fantasy to reality

The ancient walking, talking tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) in A Monster Calls (★★★★★) might be a monster to some children, but Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is twelve and has to deal with some grown-up things in his life. Apart from having bullying classmates, his mother (Felicity Jones) is very ill. His father (Toby Kebbell) has moved on with his life and the only person left to care for him as him is his unapproachable grandmother (Sigourney Weaver)

Conor’s only ally seems to be the gnarly old tree, sympathising that Conor is “too old to be a kid, too young to be a man”. It is the wonderfully animated monstrous tree that emerges from the dark to guide Conor as he faces difficulties and disappointments that no child should have to face. Directed by J A Bayona, this visually spectacular drama shows that life has many grey areas as we navigate our way past obstacles, and the brilliant performances will make sure that there won’t be any dry eyes by the end of this fantastic film.

A real-life horror story is the one told by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk who have directed a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth which brought climate change to our attention a decade ago.

In An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (★★★½), their cameras follow Al Gore as he continues to travel the world to try to educate people and influence international policies. He shows how the science is not going to go away and how disasters are increasing, and he trains people to pass on his message.

This “recovering politician” still has a considerable amount of influence and we see him successfully brokering a deal to stop India from building hundreds of coal-fired power plants and use renewable solar power instead. But, although Gore may be achieving incredible things, there are still many leaders (including his own president) who don’t care about climate change. I’m not sure if sceptics will be swayed by this documentary or it will just be preaching to the converted.

Damien Power’s first feature film Killing Ground (★★★★) is a brutal horror film and comes with a warning that it isn’t for the faint-hearted. There are echoes of Wolf Creek as loved-up couple Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) set up their tent at an idyllic bush location next to the water. There is already a family tent at the same spot but it is only through flashbacks that we find out what happened to the four occupants.

The film is beautifully paced. Writer/director Power takes his time establishing the characters. Even though local feral pig hunters German (Aaron Pederson) and Chook (Aaron Glennane) announce their predatory intentions early on, it is not until Sam and Ian discover a small child wandering in the bush that the tension really ramps up. Even though the really sickening violence is not shown, there enough hints to put the audience on edge as the two psychopaths with high powered rifles stalk their prey. This is an excellent horror film that is certain to deter people camping in remote locations.

Don’t miss the Q&A at Luna Leederville with Aaron Pederson on Friday 11 August at 6.45pm.

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