A Night of Horror International Film Festival: Films Not To Miss
The 15th Edition of A NIGHT OF HORROR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is less than a week away and promises Australian horror fans four days of independent and international horror films. This year, it’s taking place at Dendy Cinemas Newtown, Sydney, from September 28th until October 1st. If you are in Sydney, the festival has some awesome horror films of 2023 that you might otherwise miss: when ANOH says that it is dedicated to independent genre films and filmmakers, they mean it.
So here are three films (debut features for all the directors) screening at A Night of Horror International Film Festival.
After seeing The Moor, it instantly went into my top 5 films of 2023. This UK horror film from director Chris Cronin slides seamlessly between crime drama, occult scares and folk horror, revitalising each of these subgenres along the way. The Moor is tense and spooky right from the second it hits the screen, but its killer opener still won’t prepare you for where it is going to take you.
When Claire (Sophia La Porta) was a child, her friend Danny was kidnapped and murdered- but his body was never found. 25 years later, Danny’s father, Bill (David Edward-Robertson), asks her to help him search the never-ending expanse of the moor where the other bodies were found. They hope finding Danny will bring his spirit to rest and keep his killer locked up, but there are other things on the moor that are much more restless than the dead children.
Existing on a steady diet of horror films means I do not scare easily, so it is exciting when it happens! I’m sure many readers know the feeling; it makes you a bit giddy. The Moor has some indelible, new takes on classic “commune with the dead” seance-style scenes that are pure creepiness. The film also goes back to the roots of ‘folk horror’, giving us a dark, unknowable ‘something’ out in nature that (finally, THANKFULLY) has nothing to do with a cult.
And with equally beautiful and unsettling landscapes, matched with a haunting soundscape, The Moor is officially…scary as hell. Look, all I’m saying is, be scared of mist, be scared of mud, and be scared of sheep.
The Moor screens at ANOH on Sunday, October 1st.
Saving Grace is a prime example of ANOH’s commitment to showcasing the latest genre films from Australia. Co-directors Gareth Carr & David Sullivan give us a polished piece of cinema for a debut feature, serving up a visually stunning appreciation for the Australian landscape with a dark underbelly of a story
Sarah (Kirsty McKenzie) is an in-home carer who needs a fresh start after her previous client passes away. She takes a job at a location accessible only by boat, looking after bed-bound and unresponsive Grace (Carole Sharkey-Waters). The only other person residing there is the handyman Albert (Gary Boulter), who does not seem entirely trustworthy. Tormented by nightmares and strange things that go bump in the night, Sarah begins to feel like she and Grace may not be alone in the house.
Saving Grace would be the perfect film for bringing to the festival a friend who “doesn’t like horror movies” as it is very much a psychological thriller more than a straight-up horror film. If mind games are more your style, then Saving Grace has all the high stakes, sharp twists and entrapment you could want. The film is quite slow to start, I will admit, but is worth sticking with as once some groundwork has been laid, it pulls it out from under you.
I was worried that it would be a film that centred on the ‘old person as scary’ trope, which I find kind of exploitative, but thankfully Saving Grace does not lean too heavily into it. As a mostly character driven film, it relies more on its main cast of 3, which turns out to be a great thing. McKenzie is absolutely magnetic as Sarah, and Boulter steals the show as he gives us two convincing sides to one character.
Saving Grace screens at ANOH on Saturday, September the 30th and includes a Q&A with writers/directors Gareth Carr & David Sullivan and actor Gary Boulter.
Witches are a genre staple, and films bring us ever-evolving categories of them. But have we had nazi witches before? I’m not sure, but we do now! With Mother Superior, writer-director Marie Alice Wolfszahnn zealously embraces the classic occult iconography that we know well but adds her own touch of the phantasmagorical.
It is 1975, and Sigrun (Isabella Händler) begins a job as a nurse for the eccentric Baroness Heidenreich (Inge Maux) at her secluded estate. Whilst her employer is interested in the “purity” of her new carer’s bloodline, Sigrun is also there to find answers about her heritage. As she searches the manor for records of her birthparents, she witnesses secret rituals and is slowly pulled into the baroness’s particular brand of occultism.
Mother Superior is a period piece with such authenticity that it visually whisks you away to 1970s Austria and the lingering political climate. But there is also a touch of Victorian Gothic, giving the film a cautionary fairytale vibe. However, Wolfszahnn ingeniously pairs all this with a superb experimental score of Electronica and Big Beat.
Mother Superior questions, ‘Can you be both a feminist and a nazi?’ Obviously, the answer is no, but it continues asking us in one way or another. It does not try to change our minds per se, but intellectually, it keeps you on your toes. Mother Superior is a little bit of everything mixed into one that only just manages to miss muddy territory. Still, by being so, the film is a unique and intriguing viewing experience that I would recommend.
Mother Superior screens at A Night of Horror International Film Festival on Friday, September 29th.