28th Jun2019

EIFF 2019: ‘The Furies’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson, Ebony Vagulans, Helana Sawires, Harriet Davies, Kaitlyn Boye, Jessica Baker, Danielle Horvat | Written and Directed by Tony D’Aquino

furies-poster

This supremely gory outback slasher is an efficient, smartly paced horror flick that puts a series of inventive twists on some familiar genre ideas. As such, it represents a significant debut for Australian writer-director Tony D’Aquino and marks him out as a serious horror talent to watch.

After a brief prologue, giving a hint of what’s in store, the film opens with teenage best friends Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), having an argument after spraying “Fuck the Patriarchy” in an underpass. After Maddie storms off, both girls are kidnapped by masked men and Kayla wakes up in a box in the outback with “Beauty 6” written on it.

She quickly discovers that she’s not alone, and that as well as other “Beauties”, there are also six masked men (“Beasts”) trying to kill them, as well as an electronic perimeter that makes it impossible to leave the prescribed area. To make matters worse, Kayla is an epileptic and when she has one of her fits, she finds herself mysteriously able to see through the eyes of one of the killers. Could that be connected to her hazy memory of being on an operating table before waking up in the box?

D’Aquino hits the ground running and keeps things moving at a decent pace, ensuring that not a second of his already lean-and-mean 82 minute running time is wasted. He also knows his way around a stalk-and-slash suspense sequence, serving up plenty of tension at regular intervals.

A large part of the fun in The Furies comes from the inventive twists that D’Aquino finds for several different genre ideas. For one thing, rather than have one lumbering killer in a mask (as in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a clear influence here), The Furies has six of them, each with a different mask (human flesh, owl, pig, etc) and a different weapon. Similarly, the overt ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme is given an extra edge in two key respects (both of which would be unfair to reveal here), while the film also finds intriguing ways to comment on ideas of voyeurism and technology., not to mention getting a couple of crowd-pleasing digs in at the patriarchy, as the opening suggests.

However, the film’s key appeal, especially for genre fans, is its selection of genuinely shocking gore moments, achieved with some impressive effects work for such an obviously low budget. One horrifically gruesome sequence in particular has to be up there for horror scene of the year – it’s certainly the moment everyone will be talking about afterwards.

Suffice it to say that the kills are nicely handled throughout, with D’Aquino also finding an excuse to plumb another plot point for nasty gore moments later on. On top of that he ensures that the terror in the film doesn’t just come from the masked maniacs, but from other, less expected directions as well. To that end, he fully exploits his initially simple-looking premise, with increasingly rewarding results.

As for the performances, Airlie Dodds is excellent in the lead role (she has one great moment in particular that deserves to be seen with an appreciative audience) and there’s strong support from Linda Ngo and Taylor Ferguson as two of Kayla’s fellow Beauties.

On top of that, Garry Richards’ sun-drenched cinematography makes terrific use of the film’s sparse locations (and how refreshing it is to see a horror film set entirely during daylight hours), while the film is further heightened by a suitably atmospheric score from Kirsten Axelholm and Kenneth Lampl that keeps the pulse pounding right to the end.

**** 4/5

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