Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Snapshot (1979)

Best coat or bestest coat?

Okay, I guess the hot streak couldn't last forever. For a while there it seemed like every Australian genre film I picked up was solid gold, or at least gold plated. All the pieces were there for this one too: Produced by Anthony Ginane; written by Chris and Everett De Roche; and directed by Simon Wincer (who also made the interesting but flawed Harlequin) but somehow it didn't work for me. Like most of the other films from this team, it was made with international markets in mind, and to capitalise on the recent success of Halloween it was renamed The Day After Halloween in the US. What the hell guys, this film is nothing like Halloween. They don't even celebrate Halloween in Australia.

The movie starts promisingly enough. Emergency vehicles gather outside an office building as firemen attempt to put out a blaze in a small room that, like my bedroom, is plastered with topless photos of Sigrid Thornton. As they spray a smouldering, blackened lump with a fire extinguisher it becomes clear that it's actually the charred remains of a human corpse. Who is it and what exactly happened here? It's a pretty great hook, but we're going to have to go back in time a few months to find out the answer.

Caught between her domineering mother and creepy ex-boyfriend, a naive young hairdresser named Angela (a 19-year-old Sigrid Thornton) is convinced by her best friend Madeline (Chantal Contouri , Thirst) to take a modeling job from an eccentric ad photographer named Linsey (Hugh Keays-Byrne, The Man From Hong Kong). During a beach shoot for a cologne ad, she is asked to splash about in the water with her tits out during a freezing Melbourne winter. She objects at first, but when Linsey assures her that her face will not be visible she complies. This scene is scored by a catchy but terrible song by Australian pop act Sherbert, which sadly intones "Angela, you've gone too far this time". Oh man, I love it when movies have theme songs with absurdly literal lyrics.

Unsurprisingly, the photos are published in a glossy magazine with her face (and breasts) clearly visible. You know why print media is dying out? Because they no longer advertise products with two-page spreads of topless women. She is kicked out of home and forced to move in with Linsey and all his bohemian artist friends. Unfortunately her modeling career does not turn out to be as lucrative as she'd hoped, especially since her mother steals all her money, and to make things worse her creepy, mopey ex-boyfriend is stalking her in his Mr Whippy van. Eventually things get out of hand; he appears to sneaking into her room to tear up her dresses and plant a hog's head in her bed. For some reason Angela doesn't call the police and her best friend Madeline is far more interested in hanging out at a nightclub with a painfully bad cabaret performer.

Come to think of it, Madeline is the worst friend in the world. She does try to build Angela's confidence and get her away from her awful mother, which is good, but she she also gets her fired from her hairdressing job by calling her boss a "faggot" and ruins her chances with a mustachioed turtleneck at the disco by jealously crushing his balls. When Madeline's sleazy husband gets Angela drunk and shoots topless photos of her under the guise of a movie deal, Madeline laughs it off the next day, saying he does that with all her friends. Wow, thanks for the concern, asshole. Eventually Madeline tries to make a pass at her, surprising no one, but Angela rebuffs her, cruelly denying us a Chantal Contouri/Sigrid Thornton sex scene.

Eventually the film reaches the fiery finale referred to in the opening scene, but the film fails to build up suspense and the big reveal is something of a let-down. I did like it when the bad guy was stumbling around on fire though, that was pretty sweet. I don't think they do that enough in films these days. The movie concludes with another twist (which includes the use of a Mr Whippy van as a deadly weapon) but it doesn't make a lot of sense.

There was a part in this film where the photographer was sitting on the couch with his friends and watching Patrick. It was a cute touch but kind of a mistake because it reminded me how much better that film was in comparison. Unforunately this film isn't written well enough to take seriously as a thriller and it isn't lurid or trashy enough to get by on pure entertainment value. For a thriller the thrills were pretty scant. It's more of a borer, actually. There were some good performances buried in here: Sigrid Thornton is great as always, Robert Bruning is good as Madeline's sleazy husband Elmer and I liked Hugh Keays-Byrne as the death-obsessed photographer. Unfortunately these, and even a rare supporting role from Sigrid Thornton's breasts, fail to save what is ultimately a mediocre thriller.

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