The movie Angst (2000) isn’t a horror movie, it’s a movie about horror fans – and a tribute to those often isolated souls. Those fans who just want to connect in that crazy, horrible, violent, terrible, bloody… life and death genre!
It is about the foetus in every hard-core horror fans mind – the script you always wanted to write – in utero. Even if you only know the plot. Angst is about the culture of the horror fan – but it’s not necessarily a hard-core movie. In fact it is rather gentle. It is also a kind of celebration, little did it know, of a bygone era. Or is it a prophecy fulfilled? About the end, in particular, of the VHS videotape age – long may it reign!
Angst is also about cunnilingus, whether you enjoy it or not. More women apparently enjoy it than men, but I may be misinformed. “Lick me,” as Linda Blair said dressed as an ice-cream cone in The Exorcist send-up Repossessed (1990).
Written by Anthony O’Connor, Angst was released in 2000 just before the DVD era began and replaced tape as the dominant form of home entertainment.
The film is also set, well some of it, in a small video shop in Sydney’s inner city Kings Cross, the type of shop that was put out of business by the Blockbuster or Video Ezy franchises.
Angst is not a horror movie. It is a distant cousin and yet horror is central to the film. There is a poster of Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) in one of the film’s earlier scenes, when a character played by Sam Lewis holes up in his Kings Cross place and smokes bongs while lamenting his last relationship.
He is the romantic Quentin Tarantino character – Tarantino apparently worked in a video shop while working on his scripts (Kevin Smith too) – who works in the small video store while also working on what maybe his first screenplay, which is zombie oriented.
Angst which, of course, is another word for anxiety, is essentially a behind the scenes look at a horror devotee’s life. Even I used the Evil Dead quote on my phone message recorder: “Why do you disturb our sleep, awaken us from our ancient slumber?” Much to many people’s horror and dismay! It can be isolating being a horror fan!! Especially before the internet. It can make you feel like an odd bod at times. But isn’t that just part of the pleasure of being a horror fan!? At any time you could just pick up a chainsaw and…
Directed by Daniel Nettheim who went on to recently direct episodes of the New Zealand shot Ash vs Evil Dead series. Loved that one! The film was also produced by Jonathon Green who would go on to co-writing Redd Inc. aka Inhuman Resources (2012) with O’Connor.
Both well directed and well written, Angst begins with a deceptive opening credit sequence about breaking up, with some deft dialogue in a Kings Cross pub and our hero explaining he’s become “an emotional zombie”. And there we have our zombie movie with the horror fan as zombie.
It then moves to the Videoboy video shop where Lewis works. It’s devoid of people as they’re going to the “Behemoth Video Store” instead. It’s near the turn of the millennium and already people are internet dating.
“I could be dick deep in a veritable harem if I wanted to monkey boy,” our hero Lewis tells a departing co-worker who has a sexual liaison lined up.
In walks a Goth girl into the shop wanting to hire The Crow, which Lewis tells her is: “The archetypal movie that represents your subculture.”
Our rude and ignorant hero calls himself a writer since he is tapping out a screenplay in the empty shop about Kings Cross being overrun by zombies called Dead Wrong.
“You’re just another smirking wannabe clone,” the Goth departs.
While Angst implies the word fear but on a lower level, is the true story of horror between the watching of each horror movie? Sam’s Angst about no sex and women happens around the interaction between his two housemates, one an ex-girlfriend and another his best friend played by actor Justin Smith. Sam thinks himself “a dud root” while later he explains why he’s such a success at performing oral sex on women. “I give head well..,” he says, going into a long explanation why.
I love the dialogue, some of it may seem, dare I say, quirky but that’s life between bongs on horror movie nights and chatting in share-houses.
Justin is a Westie, or someone from the western suburbs and beyond of Sydney, who works in a Cross sex shop. He hopes to have a career in stand-up comedy.
Evil Dead (1981), Suspiria (1977), The Beyond (1981) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), which Sam describes as “one of the defining films of our time” are the tapes used for one horror movie marathon and there’s actual clips from Evil Dead and The Beyond, which is quite surprising, for a small Aussie film. Someone had some contacts or someone respected this film during its production!
Anyway the housemates, I’m guessing they’re housemates, drink and cone on… Yes, it’s a subculture and one captured well here. And our self-absorbed writer hero just can’t “get a root”. I know how he feels sometimes! He’s also hiding a trauma about his last relationship… briefly stalking his former flame… for whom love among the fluffy toys in her bedroom at her parent’s home led to an emotional block for poor Sam.
Angst is low key and because it has no big names and because of strong competition that year, it didn’t get any AFI (Australian Film Institute) now AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) award nominations. It did, however, receive attention for its music and sound in a couple of other competitions.
“I love horror movies, scary ones are best,” says a young druggie teen the 20-something housemates adopt after he fails to rob the sex shop.
He says this after a stoned Jessica Napier says: “I reckon horror plays a pivotal role in modern society. It’s a cathartic outlet for the dark, violent side of the soul… good horror gives us … the fear… of the unknown, the untangible. Fear is the purest of pure emotions. It’s so simple and uncompromising. Kicks love’s idealistic love all over the shop.” Well said!
The kernel of Angst is the mateship and friendship and experience of watching a horror and sharing this experience – even on the other side of the world. While horror may be catharsis for inner turmoil and violence, this movie is the catharsis of a bad relationship or sexual experience. Something which is difficult to share if you are single and stoned and watching a horror movie… There’s something ingenious about the film’s point of view… especially in the end…Will Sam end up with the Goth? Ending his era of almost self-imposed celibacy?
“I’m afraid of being like one of those lonely men you see wandering around the Cross… ending up like one of them alone,” says Sam to the Goth girl.
“Do you want to be alone and be done wondering what could have been? Or do you want to smile when you remember what was?,” she says.
Such is the script, which in the film is being tapped out in the video store by our hero… in the end does life imitate art or art imitate life? Again, the horror fan has horror movies as that circuit breaker, something to keep life in perspective as we live day to day. Horror in the world is our background and horror movies are like the white noise that helps us sleep at night.
Angst is an idyllic snapshot of Kings Cross and of young adults on the cusp of some form of settling down, or at least starting out – a place where the bad is comic and benign… it is not a horror movie.
It’s amazing the film was made, but the source material is good and the results because of that can’t go wrong… and it doesn’t. It’s not your typical feel good movie, but what can you not like about a film where the worst thing that happens is that: “He’s stolen my video!”
It would be a decade before O’Connor would be credited for having one of his screenplays produced. Written with Jonathon Green – Redd Inc. aka Inhuman Resources aka Heat Hunt (2012) – is another kind of end of an era movie too. That of prosthetic special effects being surpassed by computer effects. Set, nominally, in the United States because of the accents, although obviously shot in Australia because of the accents…. It is the film that 1970s and 80s special effects legend Tom Savini (1946-) emerged from retirement to work his magic once again. He hasn’t done effects since this film although there is mention of him doing effects for a remake of the Italian cult classic Nightmare City (1979). It could be bull.
Redd Inc. is a clever horror and certainly an original one in some ways.
It tells of a serial killer called the Head Hunter, who kills CEOs of organisations – I’m sure it’s a pleasure to kill those overpaid… well, say no more!
The Head Hunter is apparently caught in the act and sent to the prison hospital where possible experiments are being performed on his brain by the resident doctor. He escapes… kidnaps all the people who put him there, witnesses and detectives etc and chains them in an office setting sitting in front of computer screens… in a kind of set-up like the Saw movies.
Actor Nicholas Hope (1958-) is the Head Hunter and “regional manager” of the “office”, where indiscretions such as trying to escape are punished with strikes carved into the foreheads of the “workers”. Five strikes and you could have you head lopped off.
Hope is a great actor and it’s good to see him put through the paces as a man who is totally – well, almost totally – insane. The actor is well known for his performance in the Aussie classic Bad Boy Bubby (1993) for which he won the now AACTA award for Best Actor in 1994. I must admit the first time I saw Bad Boy Bubby I didn’t enjoy it but now… it’s a bit of a classic. Like The Devil’s Rejects (2005) might have turned off some viewers the first time around.
Here Hope plays Thomas Reddmann, Redd for short to his workers in Redd Inc.
The mixture of computer gore special effects such as the slashes on the foreheads which are so great they hurt – as well as Savini’s prosthetic make-up mix well together.
Savini is a well known name to horror fans whose effects go back to working on films with George A. Romero on Martin (1974) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). He also worked on the original Friday the 13th (1980). Let’s not forget Creepshow and his acting role as Sex Machine in From Dusk til Dawn (1996). He also did a good job directing a remake of Night of the Living Dead in 1990.
Redd Inc. is probably a part of his resume which is not well known.
The opening sequence is great and horror fans were invited to send in their own mini-clips for the opening credit montage. A good idea.
Our heroine named Annabelle, still has nightmares about seeing Redd in an elevator with an axe in his hands covered in blood. She pays the bills doing striptease acts in front of internet subscribers. Anyway, she’s captured by Redd and forced to work in the office.
“Would you like the opportunity to right a terrible wrong?,” says Redd in a clue to the ensuing murderous carnage that ensues in the movie, which gives new meaning to being chained to a desk as well as corporate head-hunting.
Why the film’s title was changed from Redd Inc. to what I thought was the less interesting Inhuman Resources I am unsure. It may have hurt its box office but I know nothing about that either. The real box-office of movies are all smoke and mirrors anyway and always have been!
“I run a tight ship here,” says Redd about any insubordination as he slashes the throat of one of his six “employees” with a large blade attached to his arm.
Redd Inc. is a celebration of the horrors those who have suffered at the hands of an employer or manager who is nuts. It enlarges the horror to a degree and in such a way that it can be amusing while still being a pretty darn good horror movie. And it is one that works on limited sets and budget.
“Now, get back to work… and remember, my door’s always open,” says Redd, shutting the door behind himself after his latest act of torture.
Day after day the workers have to transcribe reams of legal material to the computers and are penalised for failing in neatness, punctuality and accuracy with a slash across the forehead.
That the workers earn a furrowed brow albeit a vertical one carved into their heads is not surprising… But is Redd really ALL bad? Wasn’t he making the world a better place before he was caught? Well, he certainly likes to pluck eyeballs from people and suffocate them with plastic bags! He files the eyeballs away with all detritus in a filing cabinet by the way.
There’s some semi-classic one-liners and the film doesn’t pretend to be brilliant with director Daniel Krige not showing off to any large degree… It is definitely not a mundane day at the office and the script is not overwhelmed by the filmmaking. It’s a “nice” balance.
Don’t take out a mortgage while working at Redd’s office as you may not pay it off, or you may hope to escape back home and watch horror movies as an antidote!
What we don’t escape is the twist in the tale I didn’t see coming and the coda which is like something out of Silence of the Lambs. Savini cameos as Peter Bava – the surname taken from great Italian horror directors and father and son Mario and Lamberto Bava.
The ensemble of little known actors in the office work well together and with Hope’s excellent performance – he is a little human after all – Redd Inc. is well worth a look. It’s a shame its writers didn’t come up with something else as original in its wake, even if any plans for a sequel were shelved.
Angst fell through the video cracks as it was released before the DVD boom. It is currently unavailable. Redd Inc. aka Inhuman Resources is more Redd-ill-y available second-hand, whether you like your movies with a bong or a wine, a beer or just with plain water. Or perhaps with a taste of honey!
For an interview with screenwriter Anthony O’Connor PRESS HERE