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an early film from rolf de heer (bad boy bubby, the tracker), it is also one of the most impressive pieces of visual art to be created in australia, and far superior to the majority of horror coming from the rest of the world. a tale of the human condition in the lonely mental wastelands of the australian outback, de heer succeeds in making us feel the insanity and discordance which lurks beneath the surface of country australian life for anybody who can no longer keep themselves sane through nature, sports or trips to the pub. far superior to picnic at hanging rock, this is a film that will truly creep you out and leave you thinking about what lurks outside. america has its backwoods, and australia has its outback.
I'm not sure what to make of this film, or who to recommend it to. All
I can say is I liked it, it was amazingly well made, and it definitely
held my interest throughout the duration of its run time.
Visually, film has amazing composition. The cinematography and directing is striking. The audio is quite striking as well, like during the dog attack the sound of digiridoos (spelling?) blends with the dog's growling.
The film reminded me there are still many things in nature we do not completely understand yet. Some things seem to defy scientific explanation. Having just finished viewing this film for the first time, I could probably write a dozen pages about this film and how I interpret it. Someone else could do the same and our ideas might be quite different.
For one, this film is about is how every once in a while, whether you live in the city or the country, sometimes everybody's biggest problems can come to the surface all at once. In this film, the s--- hits the fan for several different people in the same place, but in different ways. There are no flat, one-dimensional characters here.
I don't want to muddle peoples' impressions of this film with comparisons to other movies. There is definitely some "X-Files" type stuff going on, and parts of it reminded me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But in general this film is quite unique, and is virtually unknown in the United States.
There is no DVD available in NTSC Region 1, and the copy I watched was a dusty old VHS tape issued by HBO, I recently found it in the Sci-Fi section of the old, cluttered video store I work at. The cover looked interesting. Usually when I find a film made in certain foreign countries, I assume a lot of people there must have liked it if it a US distributor picked it up. Of course that is not always true, and thousands of great foreign films never get released here, while plenty of crap finds its way here thanks to the money hungry corporations monopolizing the distribution networks. But I've always had good luck with films from Australia, such as Chopper, Razorback, and The Last Wave.
I really hope this film gets a DVD release over here. I would love to view it with better picture quality. I am also curious to know if this film was big hit in Australia
Eddie Cleary an ex-con has just been released from prison and ends up
working for his older brother on a farm in the outback. However some
weird occurrences involving flashing lights, electrical cuts and
evaporating water begins to put a strain on Eddie with his brother and
I can say it was unconventional, but I'm at a lost to what director Rolf de Heer (the man behind the 1993 cult 'Bad Boy Bubby') was trying to imply with this visually ambitious, but messily plotted head-trip. It's frustrating, because there was potential within its considerably off-kilter framework, but in the end the mysterious air that was established fades and the drama infectiously takes hold. The story throws around a lot of weird things (strange lights, possessions, power shorts), but nothing is truly expanded on that we're wondering if it's all hallucinations, supernatural or otherworldly interference. In the end it's kind of hinted, but not entirely fulfilling with the outcome making the eventual build-up feel pointless. There's even a sub-plot involving an opera loving police officer that goes onto to be redundant to the bigger picture and ends rather kooky. The material is uneven and a little heavy handed with the narrative moving back and forth from present time to the past (going back 5 days to eventually finish on the present day at hand). It looks like it tries for a psychological front and it doesn't always work, but it's intentions stay enthralling (with a glimpse into an unstable mind that's on the verge of insanity in an isolated backdrop, which can mess with your mind) and there's an amusing range of characters and scenarios.
Atmosphere and imagery is impressive, and the boundless Australian outback landscape demonstrates a mystifyingly haunting and hypnotic strangle hold. Richard Michalak's free-flowing camera-work is filled with provocative angles and adds to the unusually trippy nature. So does Roman Kronen & Graham Tardif's spectrally bellowing music score. The performances fair-up well enough. Steven Vidler as Eddie is ably solid. Celine Griffin, Ritchie Singer, Vince Gil, Max Cullen, Terry Camilleri and Saturday Rosenberg were tailored to their parts.
Chaotically drawn up, but remains interesting and well-made.
It was late one night and in effort to keep myself entertained, I
decided to see what was on the On Demand menu. Zipping through the
titles, I came across an obscure 1988 film called "Encounter at Raven's
Gate". The plot description didn't say much, just something about
aliens and the Australian Outback. Well, having seen the movie, I'm not
sure I could even say that. The film begins with a police officer
checking out an abandoned, seemly trashed house in the middle of no
where who all of sudden gets jumped by a mysterious government
scientist, who commandeers the officer into searching for the occupants
of the house. From there, the film jumps back five days prior to Eddie
Clearly, an ex-con working at his older brother's ranch and who seems
to have a fancy for his brother's wife, Rachel. Naturally, this causes
a little tension between Eddie and his brother, Richard. But they won't
have time to dwell on that too long, for strange things are in the air.
Soon birds start falling from the sky, water begins mysteriously drying
up, strange radio problems start popping up, strange lights amid people
disappearing, and most of all people and animals start acting more
viciously all of a sudden.
One particular case of this is a police officer who holds a grudge against Eddie for some reason or another who murders the woman he's in love with but who's banging Eddie because she wouldn't go to the opera with him! What is the cause of all this? Is it due to aliens? Demons? Inter-dimensional beings? Some unknown natural phenomenon or cosmic event? Ultimately the movie never says, leaving the viewer in a frustrating state of what the hell just happened? In a way, though, this could be justified as trying to establish a truthful interpretation of the strange and unexplainable since most, if not all, of what is reported as unknown (UFOs, ghosts, strange creatures in the night, etc.) is, well, unknown. Despite the confusing state of things, the actors take their roles seriously which helps keeps the viewing engaged. Steven Vidler gives a solid performance as Eddie, as does Ritchie Singer as Eddie's brother Richard. The two do an excellent job of establishing tension between their two characters over the strange events and Rachel, played by Celine O'Leary. Furthermore, director Rolf de Heer should be credited with establishing a creepy atmosphere. So with all that said, how would I recommend this film? Well, if you're someone who wants a definite answer and conclusion, you probably want to stay away from this one. But if, on the other hand, you're someone who's up for something weird, wacky and a bit of a mind f--k, then check this out. The "X-files" always said "the truth is out there", but I'll be damned if I could find it here!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
INCIDENT AT RAVEN'S GATE is a cult Aussie science fiction film of the
1980s that remains inexplicable from beginning to end. Incomprehensible
is another good word to use to describe the antics seen here. It's a
film which takes the usual level of weirdness seen in Australian cinema
and ups it tenfold. The story is about unusual events taking place on a
rural Australian farm, events which may or may not be caused by aliens,
but if you're looking for anything more definitive than that then
you're likely to be disappointed.
The story is disjointed and surreal. The low budget means that the special effects are more likely to be tacky rather than authentic, but there are nonetheless some memorably weird events and set-pieces here, even if you don't know what's meant by them or what's going on. Expect lots of flashing lights and screaming cast members; readers of the Fortean times will be in their element. The cast aren't really very good and don't have time to do much other than stand around and interact with the bizarre events. It's very weird and not very satisfying.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've got to give a kind of spoiler on the spoiler - I can't EXACTLY
give the ending away, because the director/screenwriter doesn't
completely give the ending away! Nevertheless, it is clear in the end
what the general idea is. If you're a Peter Weir addict, you may like
this film or at least cut it some slack. If not...
As other reviewers have pointed out, the film presents us with a disparate group of people each isolated in their own way in a remote and challenging landscape. All have their own issues, and consequently aren't automatically brought together by the mysterious problems that slowly arise: instead they are confused and divided, unlike the outcome in some other films of this type. That, together with a lot of intentional vaguerie, gives the film dimensions that make it interesting and discussion-worthy to some. However I think most people, certainly those looking for a tight plot that comes together in a definite answer in the end, are going to be frustrated and irritated by the story and its "resolution."
The acting is good, and though I wasn't particularly impressed by the heroic "ex-con judged by his reputation" stereotype, it was played perfectly competently by Steven Vidler, likewise the stressed-out obsessed cop well played by Vincent Gil; the nature of the plot is such that random and uncoordinated behaviour actually contributes to where the story is going - in the end a government conspiracy is vaguely alluded to, but its nature or intent is left deliberately vague (in the NetFlix version *I* saw anyway.)
I wasn't particularly impressed by the "suspense," which is achieved by a lot of jump cuts of frenetic behaviour in dark rooms. Things happen, something else happens, the action shifts... The film eventually ends...
I love the movies of Peter Weir, and Director Rolf de Heer is obviously heavily influenced by the opacity of his countryman's films. Weir, however, is alluding to semi-mystical powers of nature, which has nothing to do with whatever is being encountered at Raven's Gate.
"Encounter at Raven's Gate" had potential to be an intriguing Australian entry in the sci-fi genre, but there are problems. One of the best features could have been the Australian outback scenery. Unfortunately the video quality of the VHS tape is so inferior that you are just trying to figure out what is going on, instead of marvelling at the cinematography. More than half are night scenes and are so dark that the images are the worst transfer I have ever seen. The movie is something about water shortages, growing plants, demonic possession, strange electrical charges, the sky raining dead birds, unexplained animal attacks, and makes little sense. - MERK
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