2015 / Directors. Cameron & Colin Cairnes.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Disclaimer: Scare Campaign had its world premiere at Monsterfest on November 26, 2015. The following review is of the cut which screened on this night. It does not reflect any subsequent cuts that the filmmakers may undertake prior to the official theatrical release in 2016.
The Cairnes brothers announced themselves to the world with their cheeky little 2012 gore-fest 100 BLOODY ACRES. It was a tidy film with an insanely effective production design and a wacky script to boot. They proved themselves to be an exciting new voice of Australian cinema and the anticipation for their follow up was huge.
With a much darker story and complex script, they return with their brand new assault-on-the-senses; SCARE CAMPAIGN. Set in an abandoned lunatic asylum the film chronicles the production of a reality TV series called 'Scare Campaign'. Much like the actual TV series SCARE TACTICS from the early 2000s, which the Cairnes brothers must have taken cues from, the concept of the show features elaborate practical jokes being played on unsuspecting “stooges”. The gags are horrific in their nature and push the perceptions of reasonable entertainment and viewer expectations to their limits. Of course when the show takes things too far in an effort to maintain ratings, things take a gnarly turn for the worse and a brutal onslaught of terror begins.
To elaborate on the storyline would give away too much and deprive you from experiencing the film's often clever and intricate narrative. Cameron and Colin Cairnes clearly had a specific direction they wanted to take and there are moments of greatness laced throughout this unexpected nasty. They have distanced themselves from 100 BLOODY ACRES effectively and demonstrated their ability to flex widely within 'genre' filmmaking.
The assembled cast is impressive and boasts a billing of seasons players including Ian Meadows, Cassandra Magrath, Jason Geary, Olivia DeJonge, Josh Quong Tart, Meegan Warner, John Brumpton, and Sigrid Thornton.. They all add weight to the film and deliver solid turns. But I need to draw particular attention to Patrick Harvey and Steve Mouzakis; two performers I am enamoured with. I have been a fan of Harvey for years and when he stepped away from his prominent role on NEIGHBOURS I continued to watch his theatre work with great enthusiasm. It's wonderful to see him back on the screen and I hope that this is a sign of things to come. Mouzakis, on the other hand, is still relatively new to me. He has been a familiar face for several years but it was his performance in last year's incredible THE SUICIDE THEORY that captured my attention. We awarded that movie with the “Best Australian Film” at last year's FAKESHEMP.NET AWARDS and his screen presence is destined for global recognition (it's only a matter of time).
The film plays out like a classic slasher film and creeps its way into the torture-porn sphere thanks to some amazing make-up and special effects from Australia's wizard of gore, Justin Dix. He delivers blood by the bucket-load and throws some truly outrageous and creative kills at the audience with the glee of a child pinging on red cordial. The film's strengths lie within his creations and he ought to be applauded.
Where the film falters, as far as I'm concerned, is in its drama. By all means the horror plays out nicely and the final act features some truly terrifying moments, however the drama that ought to have bolstered the horror is less restrained. A film such as this demands a high level of suspended disbelief and for a faux reality TV concept like 'Scare Campaign' to be convincing the environment around it requires a strong heightened reality. Unfortunately the realistic settings of the old sanitarium, as stunning as they are, hinder the concept by being too large in scope for what should be a tightly contained story. It would seem that the excitement for their concept and the accessibility to such a profound facility may have clouded some creative judgements.... but I digress....
Nevertheless SCARE CAMPAIGN is a brand new Aussie horror film that slops on the gore and delivers creative, original and terrifying new boogeymen that will be sure to plague people's nightmares. Horror fans will lap it up.