Reviewbr> "That's great mom you brought us to a place with killer vegetation" - Danny
Lynn Graham has returned to her native Australia after a particularly messy divorce from her U.S husband of nineteen years. Along for the life rebuild trip are elder son Danny, and the two pre-teens Natalie and Ivan. As luck would have it local real estate agent Bill has found them a house to buy, the worse one in a new subdivision of prime and proper appearance. What Bill doesn't inform them is that thirty years previously a Satanist murdered two young children in the cubby house now under foliage out the back.
It isn't long before Natalie and Ivan discover the cubby and a whole bunch of strange things start to happen. Danny hooks up with the hottie next door, Bronwyn, and gets the skinny on the property via the local fish and chip shop owner Harlow. When all hell breaks loose it's going to up to Danny and Bronwyn to save the kids from the evil cubby house with help from a surprise source. Ready to venture out the back and see what might be hidden in the lantana?
I've got to say that even though all I'd ever heard about Cubby House was just how bad it was I rocked out to the movie. Director Murray Fahey is unapologetic in throwing a 1980s style horror flick my way and I was kicking old folks out of the way as I boarded his groove train. Sure the movie has some problems, but what the heck, this is cheesy good fun that throws some coolness at us. If you don't dig retro fare like Cubby House, then sorry you are in the wrong genre, go catch some gorenography instead.
I should point out that Cubby House is known as Hellion: The Devil's Playground outside of Oz, as firstly that's a much better name and secondly the rest of the world don't know what a "cubby" is. For our foreign readers, it's a playhouse Aussies build in their backyards for their kids to rock out to.
Fahey kicks his movie off in stunning style. We are thirty years in the pass, wonderfully illustrated by a car radio playing a news item about the Vietnam war, it's night, and some dude is rushing home in a fairly frantic fashion. The dude is confronted by a hysterical topless chick when he arrives at his destination, and immediately starts hitting panic mode. Seems he left his two children in the dubious hands of his brother, who has a few Roos bounding around the top paddock. In a surprise development, for anyone who didn't get all the satanic gear everywhere in the house, turns out the brother is a Satanist who has apparently sacrifice the kids to the Lord of Night and Blood. Bummer, guess that parent of the year award is out the window then. Director Fahey has the atmosphere rocking, comes at you with a few scares, and delivers unto the viewer a bloody good opening gambit. I was rocking out immediately over here.
Director Fahey rocks down a film filled with 1980s atmosphere and just lets the fun ride rip
After ensuring we know what we are in for Fahey flashes to the present and one of those juxtaposition scenes that I at least find awesome. The scene is some new sub-division, no doubt the result of the continued A. V. Jennings blitzkrieg through the environment. One of my fellow viewers remarked that the suburb was reminiscent of the one from Poltergeist, Bella Vista? Anyway the suburb is prime and proper, all manicured lawns and people washing the family trickster. We then switch attention to the ugly duckling in this particular suburban pond. The house in question looks to be one of those handy man specials with an urgent need for a team of gardeners. We're not just talking a lick of paint here, demolition came to mind. It's a striking image that had me high fiving the bats in the belfry.
From these not so humble beginnings Director Fahey unleashes one of the better post 1980s retro fests that I've ever run across. We're talking attacking foliage of the Sam Raimi Evil Dead variety, some paranormal happenings circa Poltergeist, a demon appearance that calls to mind The Manitou, and the particular topping on this cream pie, a portal to hell straight out of Evil Dead 2. All constructed around the ubiquitous cubby house down the back of the overgrown garden. It's all pretty much a hoot with the movie never really taking itself seriously at any stage.
I'm not entirely sure if some elements of the movie weren't played with a wink to the Audience, I mean things get pretty weird from a cinematic viewpoint as the film advances. A minor storm of leaves and branches develops around Natalie as she stands just outside the cubby house as the rest of the family are arguing inside. The view here is of the atypical "bad place", demonic winds and changes in personality. In North America the cubby house would have no doubt been built over an Indian burial ground. Our demonic entity, Murzazeal - the Lord of Night and Blood none the less, issues a sort of bragging about the kids being his via Lynn's computer as she does the accounts. Naturally Lynn blames the computer hijinks on Danny and his penchant for playing games on her PC. And in my favourite development, the local fish and chip shop owner Harlow is also our resident fund of arcane knowledge, given out in ominous warnings.
There's also something slightly concerning about the Graham family as well. Lynn never actually listens to anyone else, and Danny tends to go violent at the drop of a hat. The two younger kids were pretty demonic before they got possessed if we had to be honest. Clearly this lot would be an asset to any neighbourhood.
T&A gets a run, though Cubby House shies away from going all Ozploitation on us. Within the first ten minutes you get a set of boobs coming at you, and later in the movie the audience get to perve on Lauren Hewett striping down to her white bra. There was a faint chance of some naughty horizontal action in the cubby house, but a couple of demonic kids put paid to that opportunity.
Surprisingly Fahey is sending some gore our way. We get a beheading, an impaling via fence post, a dude pulled down a street grate, a Sam Raimi style attack of the vine, and a number of other options to keep gorehounds happily howling away to. Add in a rain of cockroaches and other assorted nasties, and Bob's your uncle.
Horror movies do tend to attract strange bedfellows and Cubby House sure goes with an eclectic mixture. Joshua Leonard, taking time out of the Blair Marketing Project, slums it with the locals. Craig McLachlan, reeling from an abortive assault on the U.S industry, throws on a half decent turn as the sleazy real estate agent, and Lauren Hewett turns in her last performance to date. Belinda McClory has certainly been knocking up the local dark genre part of her resume as well.
A movie that calls on an exorcism of a cubby house to save two children according to the insane Brother of the local greasy spoon owner, only Downunder I guess. I certainly had a lot of fun with this movie, and took it as intended, a light hearted retro movie that simply seeks to entertain. The special effects may be dated, but what the hell, who doesn't enjoy a 1980s style horror outing. Surprisingly this one is getting hammered on the imdb, but as usual a lot of the harshness is coming from people who haven't actually seen the movie, surprised the fat ginger hasn't reviewed it from the trailers. Recommended to people who dig 1980s style horror outings that aren't playing for keeps.
You may find it difficult to find a region 4 release of the movie, make that near impossible. I picked up a copy from amazon.com under the International title Hellion: The Devil's Playground.