Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cassandra (1986)

Cassandra is an Australian horror film that incorporates a number of elements from genres, but I guess it could be most easily described as a supernatural slasher. I have mixed feelings on Australian cinema, but there have been a few stone cold classics when it comes to horror so I was cautiously optimistic with Cassandra.

Cassandra is a shy, awkward teenager who is plagued by recurring dreams in which a woman commits suicide while a demon-voiced child goads her on. When she tells her parents about the dreams, they become decidedly shifty (her parents being the least natural liars in the world), so Cassandra begins to suspect that there is more to the dreams than her parents are letting on. When Cassandra has a vision of her father's mistress being murdered, things get progressively hairier as Cassandra gets closer to uncovering the disturbing secret behind her family's past.

This movie isn't amazing, but I liked it for the most part. The opening dream sequence showcases the movie's strongest points - quick, clever editing and some nice surreal imagery. It's surprisingly creepy, and at it's best the movie really succeeds in creating a tense atmosphere. I didn't realise while watching that it was directed by Colin Eggleston, who was also responsible for Long Weekend, but in retrospect I can see a similarity in style. The soundtrack is great for the most part - though there is one piece that consists of a high-pitched, sustained note that is overused in the "stalking" scenes. The performances are up and down; Tegan Charles is great as Cassandra (it's surprising that this was her only movie), but some of the supporting actors are pretty hammy, especially Cassandra's mother and her friend Robert. The soap-opera style subplots probably don't help the melodramatic performances though, to be fair. There isn't much gore, and when it appears it's fairly shoddily executed - but this doesn't hamper the film too badly because it doesn't rely too heavily on violence.

I can see why people would dislike Cassandra though. There's something about it that's actually kind of depressing, and I'm not entirely sure what. It's a pretty drab looking film, even though it's filmed with a reasonable amount of flair... But this isn't something that really bothered me personally. I think my biggest problem with Cassandra is that it gets sillier as it goes on: the first 30 minutes are great, and suggest the potential for something truly original, but the movie becomes more and more standard as it goes along, eventually settling into the slasher mould with a slight supernatural bent. It also relies on obvious twists a little too much, again dragging it further into predictable slasher territory. The slow mid-section probably won't endear the movie to those on the fence either.

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed Cassandra. It's definitely head and shoulders above 99% of slasher movies out there, I just wish the makers had decided to follow the more surreal aspects of the film rather than just go with the easy option. Even so, it's definitely worth a watch, for it's great atmosphere if nothing else. 

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