2014 / Director. Joe Bauer.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
AUSTRALIENS is an outrageous independent DIY feature film, and that fact alone earns it a bonus point on the score board. Filmmaker Joe Bauer wrote it, directed it, edited it, scored it, shot it and was responsible for its special effects (amongst other things, I'm sure). It's difficult for me to comprehend this and I cannot help but serve the guy a heap of admiration before even delving into the movie itself.
It tells the story of five young people who find themselves at the centre of an alien invasion, which seems to be concentrated over Australia. The mother of two of them has been abducted and with flying saucers whizzing around the Brisbane skyline, demolishing the entire city, the five intrepid, albeit unlikely, heroes set about conquering the alien forces and rescuing her. What follows is an offbeat, action-packed adventure with cheesy characters, intentionally hokey FX and a self awareness of its own stupidity.
Joe Bauer set the tone brilliantly with an opening sequence that discloses the film's absurdity from the get-go while reassuring the audience that they're in safe hands in terms of the technical aspects. This prologue demonstrates an amazing level of production design and the visual FX are off the tap. And then moving forward he maintains a steady control over his presentation with a wonderful combination of practical effects, digital effects and make up... It's hard to fathom the just how DIY this film is.
As with most low budget indie films, AUSTRALIENS suffers from a few expected shortcomings. The first point of contention, for me, is the length. The film would benefit greatly from a tighter running time and I imagine this is one of the downfalls of Bauer doing everything himself. I imagine he was so invested and consumed with his work that cutting its length might have seemed impossible. However from an outsider's perspective there is plenty of content that could be trimmed or even excised for the sake of restraint. Nevertheless the film is so entertaining that it can be forgiven.
Secondly I would note that a lot of the gags miss their mark. It's not that they're bad gags, to the contrary... they just fall short of hitting the right beat. The film is so infested with humour that plenty of the jokes and punchlines could have been trimmed without affecting the impact of the comedy. Once again this is probably a consequence of having fingers in every pie, and for that it's easily forgiven.
The performances are solid right across the board, and I would give notable praise to the film's lead actress (and co-writer) Rita Artmann, Paul Adams as the NQR father and Joe Bauer himself as the infected friend (his performance is a clear standout). They commit to the material and present their characters with a clear comprehension of the genre and a full understanding of how far to push the absurdity. With the rest of the cast adding to the cohesion the result is a fabulous sci-fi comedy that pummels the viewer with an outrageous lunacy and eye-popping digital creations, and a definite cult status. It's a hell of a lot of fun and if you can imagine MARS ATTACKS fused with ATTACK THE BLOCK then you will begin to have an understanding of what lies in store.