13th Gantry Row (1998)

Director Catherine Millar
Writers Tony Morphett
Starring Rebecca Gibney, John Adam, Doris Younane, Nicholas Hammond, Mark Gerber
Genre Haunting
Tagline Evil has a new address

Gantry is a made for TV movie that transcends it's medium to deliver quite an outstandingly good movie for those not wanting a high level of gore in their horror diets. Primarily a haunted house epic, the movie also dials into some possession and Psycho themes as it unfolds. The DVD has been released but you may have to hunt around the bargain bins to locate a copy.

Talk us through it

Julie and Peter buy into an inner city apartment that they really can't afford, but who cares with those harbour views. They are both highly successful in their own fields and you can readily believe there would be no issue about getting the purchase money. Our yuppie couple set about renovating an absolute charmer of a place full of character and secret nooks and crannies.

Peter maybe should have taken note of that sudden gust of wind and the face he saw in a mirror before making the investment. But then he doesn't look like the type to check out The Amityville Horror and other helpful home purchase guides. He starts having nightmares about a murder that took place in the 1800s in Sydney Town, right about where the new house is located.

Things escalate when the plaster falls off a wall in the lounge room and they discover behind the terminal surface floor to ceiling metal plates. Naturally they remove the metal plates, not heeding my advice being shouted at the television, and discover to their joy that behind the metal is some pretty funky wallpaper.

Then things get real bizarre. A stain seems to be growing upwards from the floorboards, and it's taking a climbing human shape. Peter starts to experience all sorts of mood swings in the house, and finally outside it. A gripping movie ensues which will keep you glued to the DVD.


"Have you been talking behind my back?" - Paul

Director Millar is on fire with the movie and effectively uses the budget constraints to their full potential. The movie opens with a flashback to 1800s Sydney on a wet and cold looking evening. Some dude is on his way home but gets into a slight bit of bother with the local resident Psycho. Millar then uses single frames, warped camera views, and some striking angles to show the chaotic nature of the Psycho fleeing the scene of the crime, with a local Copper in pursuit only moments later. Loved the bit where the Psycho runs his cutthroat razor over some metal fencing in a sort of heavy Freddy Kruger fashion. We then jump to a sunny day in the present as Paul and Julie along with Real Estate Agent Penny are checking out the apartment that the Psycho fled too in the past.

Millar goes from wide panoramic views of the local environs, including the Harbour Bridge, to framed shots using windows, doors, and even on one occasion an effective use of a keyhole. This serves notice that the main action front will be confined, and for the rest of the movie all scenes are shoot in confined spaces. The Director is not adverse to using camera angles from overheard, or to play with perceptions, and get things tilted to add interest to scenes that involve major league talking.

At one stage Millar goes so far as to turn the scene through a static 360 degrees, which I hadn't seen before, and it certain makes for an effective cheap gimmick.

What really had me humming away to the beat of this movie was the slow buildup and then delivery. There's indications that the Supernatural might be getting restless, then there's absolute get out of dodge things happening, before the whole haunting part of the movie hits warp overdrive with a very simple wall effect over the couple's bed. Interestingly Millar doesn't fall into the trap of a lot of haunted house movies, and has Julie getting out of the house without pausing once things go all Amityville on us. There wasn't going to be anything like 28 days of supernatural shennigans effecting that decision.

Post Julie leaving the house we move into the possession and ultimately Psycho phases of the movie. Once again Millar handles this aspect well, and builds solidly from a "is he or isn't he" framework to having the audience experience some concerns over Paul's likely second job. He starts showing weird mannerisms in the house, eventually doesn't need the house to get down and dirty, before throwing his hands up like he just don't care. I was digging this aspect of the movie and the cellar confrontation between Paul and Julie was just dripping in tension.

Millar closes her movie with an ambiguous ending full of all sorts of diabolical possibilities, depending on your consumption of horror fare.

There was one part of the movie that didn't work for me, the scene involving Mr. Hob. This character comes out of nowhere, goes into an almost surreal interaction with Julie, before disappearing for the rest of the movie. Penny didn't send him, so what are we meant to take from this character, besides being a plot device to remove the metal plates form Gantry Row. I have my theories but there's not enough shown on screen to back them up.

Gantry perhaps relies more on interpersonal relationships and the effects the trip into the Supernatural might have on those than an all pronged attack in viciousness we can expect from most horror movies.

Rebecca Gibney (Julie) delivers like the pro she is, although to some degree I think she may have been miscast in a horror flick, it's not Gibney's normal speed. John Adam (Paul) is either wooden or presenting the stoic Merchant banker depending on your viewpoint. I took the later option and was behind Adam's performance in this movie. Doris Younane (Penny) is always a delight, and goes full frontal as the perky Real Estate agent in Gantry Row.

It's Ladies night on the T&A front with John Adam happily dropping his shirt or smoothing around in a towel as required. The dude must hit the gym twice a day, as the boy is smoking on the body front. Guys get uhmm nothing as Rebecca doesn't show the girls at the best of times.

Gore is minimal in this movie, though there is a solid use of violence as required by plot development.

Chris Neal delivers a pretty forceful score that will have you taking notice during the movie. We get quick piano in some scenes, a bit of choir as required, and some maudlin violins to round out. I was grooving to the whole thing, and it added the necessary spice to Millar's visuals.

Summary Execution

I had five dollars left over from a recent DVD purchase and it was burning a hole in my pocket, so picked up the R4 release of this movie since the price tag was $4.90. I wasn't expecting much, wasn't aware of it being an Australian horror flick, hence it's been hanging around my review pile for quite some time. When I did finally throw it on the player I was simply blown away by how good it turned out to be. Fun times doesn't even come into it, I was on the phone organizing a Mardi Gras on the strength of the movie.

13 Gantry Row won a Distinction at the Australian Cinematographers Society in 1999, whatever that's about. Since it was a TV release there are clearly no Box Office figures available. I couldn't find any additional trivia about the movie, so sorry this section of the review is as bare as Mother Hubbarbs cupboard.

Full recommendation on this outstanding ghost story that delivers more than it promises. If you don't mind slow builds, and more character driven horror epics, then this is one to note for future viewing. If on the other hand you are into action and gore then you should by pass the movie. The apartment on Gantry Row charmed me; go spend a night there.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  I would hit this one on half price tuesday at my local cinema. Full price might be pushing things slightly to far, but deserves more than a purchase or rental.