Reviewbr> "It seems the last picnic here left quite a mess" - Miss Appleyard
Five inmates and two prison guards leave the beaten track for the infamous Hanging Rock in order for the inmates to do some public service in the form of cleaning up the park. Naturally, this being a horror fillum and all, things don't go quite as simply as Miss Appleyard might have wanted. In 1912 four private school girls inexplicable disappeared from Hanging Rock with no clues left as to their fate, we're about to find out what really happened to them in a Romero sort of way.
Miranda, an inmate not the missing colonial school girl of the same name, quickly deduces something is very wrong at Picnic Rock with the inmates being meat to some sort of grinder. When the missing school girls re-appear its dying time with no prisoners being taken, (sometimes I crack myself up). Can Miranda save the day, oh and the typical horror chick Edith, as colonial school girl zombies threaten to overwhelm all she doesn't hold dear. One of the more bizarre shorts I've seen in a while ensues.
Surprisingly I've been following this short for a number of years, reporting on developments as they emerged at various horror sites. Naturally this meant that I didn't get around to reviewing the movie till now as I suck like a geriatric trying to eat mushed potatoes through a straw. With a name like Hanging at Picnic Rock and the claim that the fillum is a sequel to Peter Weir's famous feature length you simply have to be interested. Does the movie live up to whatever expectations I might have had however? Disappointingly there's no cameo by John Jarrett, you can't always get what you want but with this short you just might get what you need.
Director Clint Cure, great name sounds like a porno star, for sure is heavily influenced by the movies of John Carpenter. There's a whole Big Trouble in Little China feel to proceedings all wrapped up in a horror blanket of goodness. Our central character Miranda, the living inmate as opposed to the zombie school girl, even gets her Snake Plissken on in what I feel is a huge nod to Escape From New York. If you are trying to emulate JC then you'll do alright in my alternative reality friends and neighbours, Director Cure ramps up the feeling and goes a long way to making the audience forget just how cheap this movie looks. Clearly besides an ode to JC there's a whole Troma thing going down, which makes for some enjoyable time in front of the screen for those of us able to by-pass what looks like a single figure budget.
Naturally given the whole "Picnic" thing Clint Cure has to go some way to making at least nominal connections with the earlier movie. We're talking at least one common location, and you don't have to go far to fall over the character names that Cure uses to harken back to the older release. Peter Jetnikoff, taking time out of composing John Carpenter like heavy ominous flourishes for the soundtrack, also includes the pan flutes that were used stylishly by Peter Weir to give an otherworldly feel to his journey into the strange. However that's about as far as Cure goes, while Weir was having a summer tea party affair with the dark genre, Cure bounds into the darkness without concern. I'm actually amused at the thought of the wine and cheese set empowered by Picnic at Hanging Rock settling in to catch zombie mayhem in Hanging at Picnic Rock. So yes Cure does pointedly nod toward Weir's movie, it forms the background of the short after all, but he's on a completely different trajectory with what's going down on screen.
Of course given the budget there are going to be some problems with the short that I can't really paper over. Not all the acting is up to Oscar levels, though a few of the cast can be pleased with their efforts. And the special effects don't approach anything like a professional standard, though to be honest there's a sort of Monty Python-ish charm to proceedings that reminded me of some of the send ups of Sam Peckinpah movies the Python team did over the years. Maybe there's a Peter Jackson influence to this aspect of the short, with arms being pulled out, eye gouging, and gut munching much to the fore. So if you're movie diet simply consists of Boredwood mainstream horror than you might be disappointed in the amateur hour gore effects here. Speaking of which, it took three people to come up with this stuff? - what the flock we're they all doing cause it certainly wasn't working on the splatter effects!
Guess I should also make mention of some surprisingly poor visuals in the first minute or so, seems like the camera(s) had some problems or the rendering to digital form didn't go according to plan. There's a period at the start of the short where you are left wondering what went wrong with the quality, but on the bright side of the zombie makeup kit it only lasts for approx a minute or so. Interestingly, and I might be reading slightly too much into this, the opening shot - a long range view of a van driving up an outback road put me in mind of the opening to George A Romero's Night of the Living Dead, coincidence or not, you make a call there.
One of the real strengths of Hanging at Picnic Rock is surprisingly the script, "A bunch of demon possessed private school girls who have made a picnic out of your work gang" - Miranda, that takes a very tongue in cheek approach to the subject matter. Horror tropes, references to Picnic at Hanging Rock, and of course Director/Writer Cure doing his best to channel JC, the script had it all and you will be jiving to beat here.
So I finally got around to reviewing Hanging at Picnic Rock and have to admit the short grows on me with each viewing. Definitely in the cheap bucket, but hey you get enthusiastic amateurs going at it like banshees after a terrorists attack on a major city, and who doesn't like them some zombie gut munching in their movie diet. Worth a look friends and neighbours, I've seen a lot worse from major Studios. So yeah recommendation coming at you, and guess what, if we haven't flocked it up too badly the movie should appear somewhere below there for your viewing pleasure.
Seems Clint Cure, love that name, hasn't been resting on his laurels or letting any moss grow on zombies, there's a second movie being worked on right at the moment. I'm going to be all over that like that rash you picked up that one time in the Cross, hell yeah! You can check it out right here.
[Editor's Note: Seems we suck at hosting movies, we couldn't find a copy on youtube, and the demonic rodents ate our homework. If you follow the link above you can still catch the movie on the Director's very own blog.]