There has been a steadily growing stream of low-budget Australian sci-fi over recent years, helping to complement our strong horror output. With streaming finally making some decent headway, that looks set to continue. That is the path that Infini (2015) has taken, with a streaming focused release, coupled with a few select cinema screenings, helping to get the film out there.
Infini takes a relatively old fashioned approach to the genre. Back story is conveyed via text onscreen, which actually functions quite well. Much better than if they had tried to flesh out the timeline more, which would have just stretched the budget too thin you suspect. The text states that in the 23rd century poverty is overwhelming, with the poor forced out of necessity to take low paying jobs and exceptionally dangerous jobs. Many are subjected to slipstreaming, which is a highly dangerous form of transport, that more or less looks like teleporting. This is all simple, but well constructed worldbuilding that allows the film to jump more or less straight into the action of the plot, after a brief moment lingering on the main character’s family life. The story that follows is a nice mishmash of common sci-fi elements, themes and sub-genres. There’s an isolated planet in deepest darkest (coldest) space, a rescue team and a crazy person. It’s very survival horror, with more than a dash of influence from zombie films too. The script does get a little scrappy in the final act when it tries to ramp up the delirium of the characters and the situation, but that is sort of saved by the unlikely element of sound design. The cacophony of voices in the heads of the characters does a much better job of conveying the descent into chaos that is taking place.
Visually, the filmmakers have done a really good job here. Nothing ever looks cheap and they manage to render a slick looking dystopian vision really well. It’s apparent that they’ve used a fair few ‘household’ style items (corrugated iron seems to feature a fair bit), which they manage to combine into sets that well and truly serve the purpose of the film, which is especially true on the isolated planet. Likewise the CGI is really good in the film, mainly because they don’t use that much, focusing more on practical effects. But when they do throw in a bit of CGI, generally to flesh out an expansive background, there are none of those distinctive cheap looking effects so common in sci-fi. Actually I barely even noticed the CGI at all, which is about the biggest compliment you can pay it. On the acting front, the film is populated with a relatively diverse cast and a bunch of Aussie character actors. Daniel MacPherson, best known for appearing on a fair few soapies out here is in the lead role and does it well. He has enough gravitas, at least in a genre sense, to buy into him as a hero. There is the odd patchy performance, but they thankfully never take you out of the film for too long.
Verdict: If old fashioned sci-fi is your thing, then the creative throwback style of Infini will be to your taste. There are patchy moments, but the loving manner in which traditional genre tropes are combined makes this a nice ride. If you’re still on the fence, it also contains the phrase “primordial ooze”, so 10,000 bonus points for that. Stubby of Reschs
I have written in brief about this film before on the site. This review was intended to be the first in a series of monthly posts on Australian horror films. That didn’t work out for a number of reasons, so I thought I would share this full review here. Enjoy.
Us Australians, we know animals that can kill you. Last week, I found a deadly redback spider living above the desk I am writing at right now. We have crocodiles, box jellyfish, innumerable deadly species of snakes, spiders, even generally placid chaps such as octopus or even frickin shells come packing a deadly dose of venom in Australia. People have even been killed by native tourist magnets such as kangaroos and cassowaries. It’s not all bad though. This proliferation of murderous beasts means there is plenty of fodder for rad horror films.
If you ask an Australian which deadly local they fear the most, nine times out of ten, the answer will be sharks. All of the above mentioned animals are pretty easy to avoid really. However given the incredible quality of our beaches, we are lovers of swimming in the ocean. And once you are in the ocean, you are in a shark’s domain. Every year there are, I would guess, three to five instances of people getting taken whilst swimming or surfing on our beaches. So sharks scare us a lot. Which part of what makes The Reef (2010) so freaking successful as a horror film.
The masterstroke of The Reef is that rather than CGI, the film relies on genuine shark footage and some of the finest editing you are ever likely to see in a horror film to have you swearing off a dip in the ocean forever. There are a couple of special effects shots and they actually don’t work well at all. What does work well are the seamless shots of real sharks edited against the shots of the actors. Or occasionally the shots are composites of some description, where you will see an actor treading water, their arm of leg coming into the frame, as the giant shark approaches.
Like director Andrew Traucki’s first film Black Water, The Reef is (loosely) based on a true story. The film sees a boat capsize, leaving the five people on board to choose between swimming for a nearby island or taking their chances staying with the boat. In the end, four of them opt to swim for it. And then the shark shows up and delightful carnage ensues. There are some definite dramatic failings in this early section of the film. Some of the dialogue feels a little forced, as does a rekindled romance. Also, the fact they even end up in the predicament in the first place relies on some woefully inept sailing by supposed professionals. But once the shark shows up and that masterful editing and slick shooting starts flying about, you will forget all about the earlier dramatic flaws.
If you intend on watching the film, do your absolute best to do so in HD. The blu-ray copy I watched was almost popping off the screen it looked so sharp. The incredible blue of the vast ocean expanses are a stark contrast to the chilling goings on in the water. Along with the editing, another stylistic choice that ramps up the tension is the repeated use of underwater point of view shots. As the main character looks out, you can sense the audience straining to see in the blue murk for a glimpse of the massive shark that is stalking them.
Of course you cannot talk about a shark film without discussing Jaws (1975). The standard approach is to state how the film is no patch on Spielberg’s masterpiece or if you want to praise one element of the film in question, mention how it nears the brilliance of that aspect of Jaws. The Reef is nowhere near as good a film as Jaws, which is close to Spielberg’s finest film. But The Reef is scarier. This film will make you genuinely fearful about going in the ocean and it definitely had that effect on me the first time I watched it. If you haven’t seen it, get on it.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny