Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michael Henry
Stars: Damian de Montemas, Sophie Lowe, Simon Stone, Mark Leonard Winter, Kestie Morassi, Ashley Zuckerman.
Blame is another strong local production that should appeal to audiences who love tense dramas. This taut new Australian film is a variation of the home invasion thriller, in the vein of Funny Games, Death And The Maiden and The Strangers, etc, but it lacks the rather nasty, relentlessly sadistic edge of Michael Haneke’s film.
It begins strongly when a group of strangers, dressed in black and wearing balaclavas, burst into the home of music teacher Bernard (Damian de Montemas, from short-lived tv series Cops LAC, etc). They tie him up, and force-feed him an overdose of pills, and then leave him to die. But things do not go according to plan. When the group is forced to return to the scene of the crime to try and locate a crucial piece of evidence left behind they discover Bernard missing. In the frantic pursuit to find him, things begin to go horribly wrong. Dissension begins to tear the group apart and they begin to question their own motives and involvement. As we come to learn more about these individuals, their motivations raise some disturbing questions. It turns out that they blame Bernard for the recent suicide of a young female student whom he allegedly seduced, and they want to exact a poetic vengeance.
Sophie Lowe (from Beautiful Kate, etc) brings a frightening intensity to her role as Natalie, the manipulative ring leader of the group, who has her own darker motives for seeking vengeance on Bernard. The rest of the group of vigilantes comprises of Nick (Simon Stone), the group’s most strident advocate for violence, the wimpy Anthony (Ashley Zukerman), and Cate (Kestie Morassi), who comes to learn the truth behind their actions. John (Mark Leonard Winter) seems to lack the stomach for direct confrontation and waits outside.
Blame has a strong moral tone as it looks at guilt, the consequences of revenge, the dynamics of a group driven by hatred and a thirst for retribution, and how malicious gossip and lies can ruin lives. It also looks at how hormonally driven males will do anything to impress a girl, even when they know what they are doing is wrong.
First time writer/director Michael Henry brings plenty of claustrophobic tension to the drama, as most of the action takes place inside the house. The ominous threat of violence that hangs over the film contrasts beautifully with the peaceful rural setting. Filmed in the foothills of Perth, Blame has been beautifully shot by cinematographer Torstein Dyrting (Lockie Leonard, etc). Tamil Rogeon’s moody score also heightens the atmosphere.
This is a solid debut from Henry, who spent nine years developing his idea. The script is tight and Henry slowly builds the claustrophobic tension, especially in the striking opening scenes in which very little dialogue is uttered. There are a few twists before it’s all over that manage to hold the audience’s attention, even when the pace slackens off towards the end. Henry overcomes the limitations of his small budget through clever use of locations, and a small but effective cast.
The performances of the ensemble cast are good, with Lowe a stand out as the vindictive Natalie. De Montemas also brings a suitably fraught quality to his role as the beleaguered and desperate Bernard.
Audiences who were turned off by the vicious undercurrents and confronting nature of the recent Snowtown should find Blame far more accessible and enjoyable.