Shudder, er, Shutter Island

Shutter Island is director Martin Scorsese’s new baby, and I finally caught it, late in the season, after being enticed by its Gothic whodunit trailer.

The island is an asylum for the violent criminally insane, back in 1954, with the impact of World War II and the Cold War adding undercurrents to what begins as an investigation into an escape and quickly develops into a far deeper, and more complex, mystery.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the investigating Federal Marshall who brings a whole baggage train of issues to the case as he faces off against the head psychologist played by Ben Kingsley.

The acting is uniformly superb, and I’m pleased to be able to vanquish thoughts of the execrable Titanic (just drown, won’t you?) while watching him work.

And Scorsese works up some delightful atmosphere with his bedlam visions.

But the movie falls sadly short of the mark that it could’ve and should’ve reached, and a damn sight sooner than its almost 140-minute running time.


There were a few warning signs that things were going pear-shaped from the get-go: unnecessary info dumps and a strange meeting between two cops, an overwrought score that thankfully settled down as the story progressed, and then the unnecessary expositions mounting up as the increasingly obvious (and slightly dubious) conceit was unveiled. I kept hoping for a further twist in the tail to unravel the conceit, but it wasn’t to be. There was, however, a very enjoyable and rather pointed, I mean poignant, closing scene.

And poor Max Von Sydow was wasted — he’s right up there with Christopher Lee on the list of actors who deserve chunkier roles, in my book — and an entire subplot told in flashback seemed all but irrelevant to the story in hand.

Good, but not great.

Among the trailers was the new ‘reimagining’ of a Nightmare on Elm Street: it looks tasty.

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Australian vampire movies

With Daybreakers about to hit the big screens, here’s a quick round-up of other Australian vampire movies:

Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, 1974. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Stars Barry Crocker, Barry Humphreys and Donald Pleasance.
: Barry, reprising his role from The Adventures of (1972), must save Dame Edna Everage from European Count von Plasma.

Bloodlust, 1992. Directed by Jon Hewitt and Richard Wolstencroft. Stars Jane Stuart Wallace, Kelly Chapman and Robert James O’Neill. Windhover Productions. [Videorecording: VHS]
: A low-budget vampire heist flick with cult appeal (banned in the UK) in which quasi vampires encounter gangsters and religious extremists on the streets of Melbourne.

Outback Vampires, 1987. Directed by Colin Eggleston. Stars Richard Morgan, Angela Kennedy and Brett Climo. Somserset Films. [Videorecording: VHS].
: A quasi-comic take along the lines of Rocky Horror Picture Show in which three travellers find themselves hosted by vampires in an isolated mansion near a decrepit outback town.

Queen of the Damned, 2002. Directed by Michael Rymer. Stars Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend. Los Angeles: Warner. [Videorecording: DVD].
: An American movie adapting two Anne Rice books, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. Shot in Victoria (substituting for the US and UK) with numerous Australians in the supporting cast. (My account of being an extra on the film is here.)

Thirst, 1979, directed by Roy Hardy. Stars Chantal Contouri and Shirley Cameron. FG Films. [Videorecording: DVD, Umbrella].
: The descendant of Elizabeth Bathory is seduced by a blood-drinking cult using brainwashing techniques, causing hallucinatory footage.

This list of movies is taken from a survey I made of Australian vampire stories published before 2007. It’s comprehensive but not complete. Additions are welcome.