Cruel & Unusual has a somewhat misleading title, I’d thought this was going to be some underground blood-and-guts revenge tale. Nope. This is a ghost story, about a man caught in an afterlife purgatory after apparently murdering his wife. And it’s a meditative analysts on how we as humans treat ourselves, see ourselves, and treat each other based on the limited information we know about one another (sometimes due to a person’s inability to communicate) and the limited events we can experience with one another. The story is broken down through smaller stories of murder, suicide, misunderstandings, and forgiveness, with anger as its catalyst – yet it’s a beautiful film – far beyond the prettiness of the technical cinematography. The story does not roll out for us in any kind of straight-forward fashion, in fact, it sort of starts out in its own purgatory – but the plot brilliantly develops in front of the audience and winds up in a completely unexpected place, taking its highly imaginative dream-logic journey along with its mostly unwitting characters, who are often acting as the unwinding plot’s accomplice.
On the flipside of this artistic coin, we have Stress Position, a film with a lot to say and even more to think about, in a horrifying story (but is it horror? – not really) about two insecure and highly egotistical film artists who make a bet with each other to see which one could last a week in a prison environment under constant torture. They torture each other while torturing themselves – sometimes humorously, too. They’ve also set up a safeguard contract between them outlining the rules, the lines that they must not take this game beyond… but of course, rules are meant to be broken and lines are meant to be crossed. Ego trumps rules. Self-consciousness trumps ego. Thankfully for us, the audience, so that we’re not just witness to 79 minutes of millennial-generation torture games (and some of it can strongly inspire one to turn their eyes away from the action – but you shouldn’t), filmmakers AJ Bond and Amy Belling cleverly counterpoint this with the behind-the-camera story – in other words, who are the people filming all of this as it’s happening? This gives needed relief from the prison cell, which is also cleverly constructed in a cheap but effective THX-1138 sort of way. This is an achievement of minimalistic filmmaking and hard-hitting sledgehammer insight in the minds of artists.
Neither of these film are going to be for everyone, and that’s exactly what’s great about them. Both are fairly cheap, relying on fantastically executed stories, not just on the aesthetic technicalities of better video technology. These movies aren’t horror films, nor science-fiction fantasy, nor horror-nouveau – they are more like psychological genre pictures, sometimes confusing themselves with outright verite. They’re nouvelle-genre. They twist the idea of genre, seemingly unintentionally as it appears that genre is locked inside the constrains of neo-neorealism, yet as if to say this is now the new wave of cheap genre filmmaking – story first, human themes a high priory – and the rest will be incidental.
The filmmakers will be attending the opening week screenings for both films.
Fri 23 May at 10:30pm
Weds 28 May, 6.30pm
Friday 30 May, 10.30pm
Friday 6 June, 10.30pm
Sat 24 May, 10.15pm
Weds 28 May, 8.30pm
Sat 31 May, 10.15pm
Sat 7 June, 10.30pm