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Storm Warning

Year: 2007
Production Co: Screen Australia
Director: Jamie Blanks
Writer: Everett De Roche
Cast: Nadia Farés, Robert Taylor, David Lyons, Matthew Wilkinson, John Brunpton

The man Tim Roth played in Michael Haneke's Funny Games was among the most irritating characters in the history of cinema. If madmen broke into your house of course you'd be scared and try to reason with them, but you wouldn't sit there with a sore leg whimpering like a little bitch while they murdered your young son right in front of you.

I got the same feeling from Aussie screen vet Robert Taylor as Rob in Storm Warning. I realise it was a device to give his girlfriend Pia (Farés) the opportunity to be the hero, but no matter how scary the psychos menacing you and your lady love, no matter whether you're in their scary backwoods house or not, you like to think you'd do better than what he puts up with.

The script identifies him as a barrister, so maybe it was a comment on soft-handed city types versus the extreme elements of rough living in the country. Or maybe it was just a clumsy feminist statement in a slasher horror story.

The pair takes a boat upriver for a romantic weekend getaway and quickly get lost when a storm closes in, going ashore and walking across the rainy, windswept, reedy landscape to try and find somewhere to call for help. They soon come across an empty hovel that turns out to be the home of three murderous psychotics, Jimmy (Lyons), Brett (Wilkinson) and their even scarier father, Poppy (Brumpton).

Pia and Rob are in a bad position to being with before they see the dead body on the road and the barn full of marijuana crops, but when the family comes home to find them inside the house it starts a cat and mouse game. The two brothers refuse to let Rob and Pia leave and the sexual insinuations and threats evolve into violent imprisonment and abuse, the promise of even more horrible treatment when their as-yet-unseen father wakes up.

It's well staged and shot – the Australian version of a backwoods, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -style homestead is particularly well designed (down to the grainy bestiality porn the boys watch on TV).

And while the gore and frights are effective enough, there are a few too many contrivances for you to believe in the whole thing too much. Where Pia suddenly got her expertise building traps is never explained, but it's enough for gorehounds that it gets Brett in a spectacularly nasty fashion – the real point of the movie. The fact that she has to do it all while Rob lies on the floor out cold to make her the heroine feels a bit too cack-handed, but as always it's nice to a film from my native land that's not a guilt-inducing drama about mental illness or farmers.

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