Acolytes (2008) - Jon Hewitt.


Three truant teenagers stumble upon a man burying a body in a remote forest. Instead of reporting the incident to the police they decide to blackmail him for their own ends....

With a fractured narrative, its bleached washed out palette, overt symbolism and low key relationships between the protagonists this is more thoughtful fare than your typical teen slasher.

The young actors are fine if a little bland, and it occasionally veers towards an episode of Neighbours with their slightly clichéd group dynamic (two boys, one 'indie' girl, you can guess pretty accurately how that will play out) and an almost expected 'past' incident that causes much of the following actions. But it's when it is away from that there's a restrained and powerful overshadowing presence of the killer played by Joel Edgerton that gives the film its edge. With his handlebar moustache and glasses he comes across as an IT middle manager in looks but Edgerton's physicality and menace still comes through. Watching him deal with these three kids, it's fun watching the power shifts as they slowly realise who is the cat and who is the mouse in the situation as he plays and bats them away. The contrast in acting, unfortunately, isn't exactly favourable to the young leads but they're passable.

Shot in an almost indie sensibility this low budget Australian horror was not what I expected. Filming it in the picturesque outback it does feature some lovely cinematography. The plot itself has elements that will be very familiar but Hewitt has weaved them together so that it doesn't resolve itself quite how you would expect. For a moment it threatened turn into something excellent after a very good first half but it doesn't, instead in the second half ramping up the energy if loosing some of the intelligence. It's a competently made and quietly effective psychological thriller. It doesn't rely on excessive gore or limbs being hacked off to provide its shocks instead there are some well worked moments of tension and surprise.

A perfectly decent little genre film.