Details: (MA15+), 89 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: Seeking justice and revenge, five friends violently attack a man in his remote country house. Their plan: the perfect murder. Confident that their victim’s death by his own hand will not be questioned, they overdose him on sleeping pills, but it all goes horribly wrong when their attempt fails and their victim fights for his life. In the aftermath, questions are raised about the true nature of the events leading up to the botched attack. As lies and secrets are revealed, the dynamic of the once-tight group shifts as the friends begin to question each other’s motives. As they move closer to the truth, the weight of their quest for justice drives them to a place of no return.
A realistic revenge fantasy.
This taut, at times exciting and very modest, low budget thriller is all about guilt and revenge. The plot has all the strong attributes of the form; it’s got a time factor, which gives it built-in suspense, and a cast of characters engaged in a dangerous and illegal activity that is well beyond their everyday experience. It also has one strong location that offers up a variety of situations that complicate the action. In a movie like this our sympathies become schizophrenic – we’re split between rooting for the victim, and waiting for them to turn on their tormentors, while at the same we can throw sympathy behind the ‘baddies’, fearing their capture. This technique worked for Hitchcock, Norman Bates and Psycho, and first time director Michael Henry seems to understand it too; he knows where to put the camera to induce a gasp, but more importantly, Blame is underscored with a murky morality that is far more unsettling than say, a flashing knife.
The set-up itself has a particularly nasty and sadistic edge. Bernard (the excellent Damian de Montemas) is a music teacher, who it seems, has a history of indulging in sexual liaisons with his underage pupils. When one girl kills herself (apparently because he broke off the affair), her friends decide to get pay back. Still dressed in their funeral ‘best’, the quartet of friends descend on Bernard’s isolated country home; led by hot head John (Mark Leonard Winter), they dose their victim with pills to make it look like a suicide. From here it all goes horribly wrong. The drugs don’t work, and Bernard’s pleas for mercy begin to take their psychological toll on the group of would-be murderers; especially Cate (Kestie Morassi in another fine performance). Meanwhile, a postie, Rodney (Greg McNeill), keeps turning up with a parcel that may or not be of some significance...
The cast work this material pretty well; Sophie Lowe, as Natalie, the dead girl’s best friend, is burdened with a treacherously difficult part which she negotiates with tremendous skill. Henry deviously uses Lowe’s ‘blank’ beauty in a way that’s ironic and powerful. What’s good about the film is that it all seems so casual; the characters are messy creatures who don’t know what they’re doing. There’s none of the overcooked mannerisms of high budget thrillers; even the lighting suggests a wholesome drama. This ‘realistic’ surface gives the movies psychological violence considerable kick; in other words, no matter how outrageous the action, it seems truthful.
Still, for all of its incidental pleasures and grasp of the form, there is something a little ‘off’ about Blame. Perhaps it’s the characters (not the actors), who on reflection so neatly fit into behaviour patterns – the would-be psycho; the guilty conscience; the weakling, etc. This isn’t unforgivable, but since the rest of the movie is so skilful, it means the film relies more on directorial skill and clever plotting than it does on getting inside the savage ethical dilemma it actually presents.
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