Reviewbr> “If he was an alligator I would have wasted him, arsehole!” - Luke
Luke wakes up in his flat (apartment) worse for wear and with no memory of what looks to have been a hell of a drinking binge the night before. He finds the message “See You In Hell” drawn on the hallway wall, but hey Wellington flats can get esoteric at the best of times. Luke gradually realises his four flatmates are missing, but puts it down to their plans for a break from it all. Helping out is Luke's friend Nick the Prick who drives our out of work musician to further binge drinking and bong consumption. It's about this time that Luke's paranoia takes a steep climb in issues, and that's not going to be help by hard man “Mean Dude” who is after Nick's flatmate Dan.
With flashes of memory surfacing from Luke's missed night, strange occurrences happening in the house, and the feeling of someone watching him, Luke is deteriorating at a rapid rate. There's a hint of satanic overtures going down which isn't helping the situation. Will Luke build up the courage to see what's going down at the mysterious number 30 or will he finally be driven insane by Nick?
Flatmates Wanted is to date Gary Davis' only feature length movie. The fierce independent shocker was filmed on a budget of only $1,500 using a lot of Kiwi ingenuity to overcome the lack of finance to fund regular things like lighting. For mine the lack of budget is a positive advantage for the movie as Davis was forced to get up close and personal with it, delivering a psychological tour de force about a fragmented mind. Sure those with their horror-dars up and running will see the shock twist coming over the distant hills, but I still managed to be shocked by the actual disclosure. Very brutal, yet in keeping with the grunge tone of the rest of the movie, and you got to love the final few scenes post disclosure. Luke Hutching nails the requirement there, such a manic look of pleasure.
For those up on their pop iconology then Davis has you covered, Flatmates Wanted is simply swimming in references to keep you entertained. Equally the Writer/Director is not stinting in his pursuit of horror references in the movie. At least two scenes called to mind Raimi's use of track cam in The Evil Dead (1981), one of which at least precludes a “cat leaping through the window” moment, there's a direct reference to The Exorcist's (1973) rats in the ceiling moment, and problematically, considering the nature of Flatmates Wanted, a firm nod at Scream (1996). While Davis might be wearing his dark genre credentials on his sleeve one has to wonder why his movie needed constant references to classic movies. Anyways it does give you a chance to play “spot the reference” if so inclined.
Considering there's almost no budget here, Director Davis manages to inject interest and tension into Flatmates Wanted, especially in the second block of the movie. There's more filters being used than you can poke a stick at, and the angles are constantly changing for some effective off kilter action. The end result is a sort of surreal exploration of Luke's world as it gradually disintegrates around him in a shower of paranoia and memory of what might have happened on a lost night. There's a reason Luke is constantly referencing The Blair Witch Project (1999) and it has a lot to do with Rustin Parr's cellar. Actually there's a tad too much BWP kit around the flat for most people to feel comfortable with. Anyway at no time do you think you are dealing with the real world, you are well aware that in you in one of Luke's fantasy dreamscapes. Fuelled by alcohol and drugs, our Luke has a few roos bounding around the top paddock.
I quite liked Davis' insertion of the “found footage” style camera work into the movie, though at one stage one of my fellow viewers wanted to know who was shooting a scene, considering Luke is home alone at the time and the scene is very much found footage black and white. So yeah, quite possibly a use of the style when it's not appropriate, and no it doesn't add anything to individual scenes to suddenly clearly switch cameras when there isn't even a hint of mockumentary about the place. But Davis does effective use a flatmate's camera to compliment his search for an answer to what went down on Luke's night off from memory, and equally bowls a bouncer with a real cool recording made on an eight track tape.
Davis does manage to hit his horror straps, ladling on a think mixture of tension and atmosphere, to have the audience pinned to their seats. In particular the scenes where Luke goes into the ceiling to investigate some noises, and when he's climbing the stairs in number 30, we're fairly well up there on the scare factor. Without the budget Davis can't deliver on the shock tactics, but he does get good use out of his soundscape, all about ammbiant noise, and also people suddenly appearing behind Luke. You will be jumping at the odd scene here and there as Davis delivers a shock or two during the movie.
One aspects of the movie that I did find irritating was the “Nick the Prick” character, who provides the odious comic relief for the evening. Nick is quite frankly worse than having to deal with Shelley from Friday the 13th Part III (1982). I'm not quite sure if someone found Nick's schlock to be uproariously funny, but the rest of us were hoping he might meet a nasty end, right after his introduction.
I was rocking along to Davis' beat with Flatmates Wanted and grooved to the low budget scares and tactics used to undermine Audience feel good factors. Okay so I saw the ending coming over the horizon, but I still got a shock when I realised a certain BWP concept had been used when we hit the twist. I'm left amazed that Downunder Directors can regularly turn in fright filled features on next to no budgets that more than out perform the movies coming out of Boredwood costing many tens of millions. There's a lesson for the Studios right there. Mark down the name Gary Davis, the dude is going to unleash with a decent budget behind him.