Five (2009)

Director Amit Tripuraneni
Writers D.F.Mamea, Anita Crisinel
Starring : Richard Thompson, Anita Crisinel, Marjan Gorgani, Andy Sophocleous , Amit Tripuraneni, Tahi Mapp-Borren
Genre Revenant
Tagline Sometimes your friends aren't the people you think they are.

Director Amit Tripuraneni had previously made the professional looking Memories of Tomorrow on a wing and a pray, with Five he still has a shoestring budget (reportedly $12,500 NZD) and is still punching well before his independent boxing weight. Five looks to have a much larger budget while maintaining a Blair Witch style authenticity. Tripuraneni shots the majority of his movie with hand-held cameras and shows the Directors of Blair Witch and Cloverfield how to make that technique work for you. Five is one hell of a complex opponent let's see if we can't wrestle it to the mat and get the decision.

Talk us through it

In the remote hinterland of New Zealand five friends are having a final hiking expedition before they move on with their lives. They are all former flatmates, one assumes in Auckland, and the hiking adventure is an annual event. Haunting the expedition is the memory of the recently deceased Emily who drowned in mysterious circumstances, at least one member of the five knows a lot more about this as the death wasn't accidental.

As night descends tensions in the group come to the surface as it becomes apparent they may not be alone in their cabin in the woods. Are they being stalked or is there a more supernatural explanation? Will anyone survive the weekend and will the truth about Emily's death come out? Director Tripuraneni is giving us more questions than answers, it's up to us to figure it all out.

Ready to take a hike into the New Zealand bush?


Going into Five I was warned that Director Amit Tripuraneni had made a movie that is totally inaccessible and that requires the audience to decipher what appears on the screen. Absolutely nothing is explained, you have to determine what is real, what is a dream, and where each scene fits in terms of plot timeline. For the majority of the movie's running time I had Five pinned to the mat, but then the final scene made me question the assumptions I had built up during the course of the rest film. Damn you Amit Tripuraneni and your cipher of a movie! Was everything a dream, was the final scene also therefore a dream, is there further layers of meaning that I failed to unravel?

Tripuraneni opens his movie with what should be a shock scene, but isn't. The Director is already putting the audience on notice that Five isn't going to be easy to tie down. A women is being drowned in what looks to be a cold isolate river. As she isn't exactly struggling and Tripuraneni films in an almost whimsical fashion you are left wondering what the hell he is trying to get across with this scene. Just when you think the Director has got his establishment shoot underway we learn this is a nightmare another woman is having in the back of a car via a sudden cut. At one stage I actually thought the chick in the car was having a premonition of her own death but Tripuraneni doesn't make it that easy to fathom out. And just in case you think this is as complex as it gets Tripuraneni revisits the woman waking in the car late in Five's running time to make a whole bunch of other scenes even more confusing. We are in the waking nightmare or more probably are dealing with a whole dream within a dream situation? Whatever the situation the Director isn't exactly going out of his way to keep us up with the play book.

Once Tripuraneni gets us out into the woods the real fun and games begin. Just don't believe everything you are seeing cause it may or may not be someone hitting the nightmare beat. The Director establishes the isolated location our hikers find themselves in via some area shots of the rugged New Zealand bush, there's going to be no calling the cavalry in regardless of what happens. Having set the scene Tripuraneni adds the green by close focus on the cabin the five friends are hanging out in and a sort of claustrophobic feel sets in with all shots framed by thick impenetrable bush. I wasn't sure if the cabin windows and door being painted red had any sort of motif or meaning to it. Surprisingly Tripuraneni does induce a feeling of uncomfortable unease in his audience, and that's even before what could be a revenant makes her presence felt. The Director manages to convey his atmosphere via POV shots from the surrounding bush, a slamming window, and the feeling that at any moment the five leads may find themselves on the set of Deliverence. Wonderful achievement and showing that you don't need the multi million dollar budgets that people like Sam Raimi squander on their scary movies. Actually considering we are talking female revenant I wouldn't have been surprised to discover a video tape played a part, guess kiwi spectres aren't as high tech as their Japanese counterparts.

Tripuraneni is able to establish his unease via a brooding atmosphere that reflects New Zealanders unease with their broding landscape.

The dream sequences are well constructed and add to the overall surreal nature of what we are viewing. Perhaps the only weakness is some slightly different pacing between differing parts of the movie caused by the transition to waking or apparently waking. Tripuraneni is making his audience work hard to keep up with the nuances but for mine a serious horror movie shouldn't be flashing things in neon lights to keep the lowest common denominator up with the play. Not surprisingly as differing characters experiencing some taxing moments in dreamland their paranoia and slightly masked fear increases. Simply great use of atmosphere to keep not only certain characters but also the audience on the edge of their seats.

Tripuraneni manages to get his group dynamic jive on, and friends and neighbours it's a ripper. As things become increasingly hemmed in, maybe some use of weather conditions could have been useful there, new group dynamics and rivalries surface. Belinda and Henry are draw together, a development Zara and Rajit aren't exactly enthused about. And importantly Chris, who has his own demons to confront, begins to remember minor things from Emily's final hours. You get the feeling that if the murder hadn't forced things to a head we would still have had one hell of a bang to go out with.

The script by D.F.Mamea and Anita Crisinel is a fine example of how to conjure up the scares without opening portals to hell, having a hockey masked psycho on tap, or invoking curses, gypsy or otherwise. The writing is down home believable with enough meat on the bone to not simply have carbon cut-out characters on the screen. Full marks also for showing a gay person who doesn't get portrayed with every archetype ever dreamed up by a substandard Boredwood script writer trying to make those gay people fun times.

Tripuraneni has managed to assemble an impressive cast that is pretty much unknown outside New Zealand. Richard Thompson (Henry) is consummate in his role and handles the changing complexities of his character like a seasoned Oscar winner. Anita Crisinel (Belinda) sort of holds her own, at times she simply disappears into the background. Marjan Gorgani (Zara) hits it feisty and adds plenty of colour. Andy Sophocleous (Chris) was the pick of the cast for mine and delivered on a multi textured role. Amit Tripuraneni (Rajit) simply played it as irritating, would imagine that was the requirement. And Tahi Mapp-Borren (Emily) sure has the revenant thing down, all in the eyes and one heck of an evil look.

There's no T&A going down in the kiwi bush as this might threaten endangered species. Besides you just never can tell when Peter Jackson might jump up out of nowhere.

Drew McMillan, Jamie Newman, and Spencer Powell supplied a soundtrack that ranged from threatening, through urban sophistication, to fun times at the local dairy. Good stuff and once again enforcing my belief that the kiwis are all over the composing caper.

Summary Execution

I grappled with Five throughout and whenever I thought I had it sussed Director Tripuraneni threw another curved ball my way. The movie kept me on my toes from whoa to go and still has me wondering about some aspects. I had a hell of a lot of fun and am ready to go another round with the Director's next outing. If anyone knows of "An Idiots Guide to Five" then scream out, it's that sort of a movie.

Five was made for an estimated $12,500 and to date has not received a cinema release this side of the ditch, where we all apparently love us some half arsed yank comedies. As the saying goes the DVD is available at all good movie stores though you may have to hunt around a bit to score a copy. Guess one of the Kiwi online DVD places will have it for sale, scream out if finding it hard to source a copy.

The movie isn't recommended to those who think Sam Raimi's flick Drag Me to Hell is the best horror movie thus far this century. Sorry it's slightly more inaccessible that the cardboard stuff you would apparently be used to. If after a movie that will tax you and make you think then dial in and see if you can work it out. Drop me a line if you do and I'll high five you, figuratively speaking of course.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Go grab yourself a copy right now folks, either rent or buy it's worth the investment.