Cassandra (Tessa Humphries) had that dream again last night, except it was more of a nightmare where she saw a young woman in a house in the Australian Outback apparently taking a shotgun and blowing her brains out. There was more to it, as a little girl stands by a pond near the house and Cassandra thinks this might be her and she's remembering something - though even more disturbingly she also sees a little boy with her, who follows the woman into the house and goads her into taking her own life with a growled "Do it!" Who are these people? As far as she knows, her parents are still alive and she has no brother...
Director Colin Eggleston made a splash on the Australian movie scene with his first "legit" feature, Long Weekend, a sinister revenge of nature horror which followed two characters for the majority of its running time. By the point he released Cassandra, his profile had slipped somewhat, and it went largely unnoticed, receiving a muted distribution in his native land when it should have been given a far bigger push. Or so the film's fans would have you believe, for there were a few who caught this on home video or on television and found it made an impression with its eerie atmosphere and convoluted plot.
There were probably more who remained less than bowled over, of course, but for all the way the film was neglected, there were stretches here which were fairly accomplished, creating the form of a modern Gothic with its twisting tale of a family brought down by its own corrupt heart, only set in the blazing sunshine of Australia for a novel visual appeal. Well, apart from those scenes set in the middle of the night where Eggleston staged his cat and mouse sequences as the killer stalked his potential victims; yes, this was a slasher movie with pretensions, or at least you could regard it so, meaning it had arrived too late for that subgenre's heyday and too early for its later revival.
On the other hand, the sequences where characters were chased around by the mysterious figure were extended so long that they stopped appearing as suspense and more as dragging out a plot which could have had a bit more attention paid to it. Or that's how it seemed for the most part before the big revelations arrived, but before that Cassandra continues to see visions, this time while awake - and they are visions of people being menaced and even murdered. Some have described this as an Aussie version of The Eyes of Laura Mars, but it's more valid than that, less intent on its surface gloss and more on staging its setpieces, all designed to unsettle rather than resemble the movie equivalent of a magazine colour supplement.
That was not to point out that this was a shoddy piece of work, far from it, Eggleston knew his way around an arresting image and those were well to the fore here. It was just that his narrative, on examination once you had the full story (or as much of it as he was willing to convey), wilted under the cold stare of logic, so those twists were largely there for effect instead of carrying off a reasonable storyline. Still, it wouldn't be the first horror movie with a preposterous plot, and those can be the most fun - except all indications were that you were meant to take this very seriously, so there were no laughs, intentional or otherwise. Barry Humphries' daughter took the title role, and Long Weekend star Briony Behets was the mother, while erstwhile Hammer star Shane Briant was the photographer father conducting an affair with his model. It got complicated from there on in, with long lost relatives and family secrets, but mainly it was the visual style accompanied with bursts of violence (great decapitation!) which kept you watching, if not convinced. Music by Trevor Lucas and Ian Mason.