I read a lot of rave reviews for this at the time, and asked for the DVD on my Christmas list. I had to take Ollie out early today, as the cooker repair man was coming after 12. So when he had inspected the oven, I settled down to watch this selection from the films that I received.
This is an Australian film, ‘based on real events’ in the city of Perth, in 1987.
The scene is set early on, when a teenage girl is offered a lift by a couple in their car. They seem innocent, and normal enough; just a housewife, Evie, and her husband, John. But we soon discover that their motives are anything but innocent, when we see the man burying the girl’s body in the forest, as his wife cleans up the evidence of what happened in a locked room in the house. And that all comes before the opening credits. Later, we focus on a girl, Vicky, who is unhappy at home. Her parents have split up, and her independent mother has gone off to live alone, leaving Vicky with her wealthy surgeon father. We see her with her boyfriend helping her cheat on her homework, then at the two nights a week she is supposed to stay with her mother.
But her mother refuses to let her leave the house to go to a party, so the girl slips out through the bedroom window, determined to walk to the party, or catch a cab from the main road some way off. Meanwhile, Evie and John are out searching for their next victim, and by coincidence, they happen to live very close to where Vicky’s mother has rented her house…
The couple stop and offer to sell drugs to the girl, and say they will give her a lift. The supposed drugs are at their house, and they just pop inside for a drink while John is getting the stash. But Vicky’s drink is drugged, and that evening becomes a nightmare for her. One that will last a few days.
There is a back story about Evie’s relationship with the weak and controlling John. She has lost the custody of her children by another man, and John provides for her, though he controls every aspect of her life at the same time. This involves her joining him in the abduction and sexual abuse of teenage girls. Girls who are eventually killed when the pair tire of them. From scenes between the couple, we are left in no doubt that they have done this many times before, in the same area.
Vicky’s mother goes to the police to report her missing child, but they are not really interested. They try to convince her that her daughter has just run away because she is unhappy, or perhaps left the area with a new boyfriend. Back at John’s house, Vicky is becoming aware just how strange the relationship is between the couple, and tries to get Evie on her side, to no avail. I cannot really say more without spoiling the plot, but the latter half of the film focuses on what happens to Vicky, and her attempts to get away from the serial killers.
This is a disturbing story, and the film doesn’t pull any punches. Although it stops short (just) of showing any actions that are too unsettling, it is emotionally draining to watch, and an incredibly tense experience, especially the second half. Superb performances from Emma Booth as Evie, and young Ashleigh Cummings as Vicky, leave the acting laurels firmly with the female actors. Add a nicely-balanced turn from Susie Porter as Vicky’s mum, and we have some great acting from female leads on offer.
First time film-maker Ben Young shows a few nice touches. A muted colour suits the mood of the film, and ultra-slow slow motion sequences are used to portray normal life going on in the neighbourhood surrounding the house where terrible things are happening. Period feel is convincing, and the soundtrack is used to good effect too.
So, not a feel-good film, by any means. But one that rewards the viewer with its serious treatment of a harrowing subject.