Monday, December 01, 2008

Mumbai Mon Amour.

Rega lCinema, Mumbai
I first came to Mumbai in 1972 as a young hippie on the soul-seekers trail, I was so poor I slept on the streets but the Mumbaikers always looked after me, even the legless beggars fed me. I love the city so much I've come again and again over the years, its vibrant culture, the awesome Saracen/Gothic architecture, the refreshing sea breeze, sitting on a mat on Chaupatti Beach with my friends looking at the stars, the skyline of Marine Drive, the yummy restaurants and cheerful pubs, the wonders of the sculptured caves of Elephanta, and the many cinemas showing hot shlock movies, (lately I enjoyed "Deathrace" very much, perverse of me considering all the machine-gunning it contained.)

When in a good mood I even adore the ebullient crowds rushing about the Arabian Nights buildings, where even the desperately poor find some succor and can be seen laughing with the joy at being alive in such an industrious metropolis. (Of course, I've seen them wailing piteously too for Mumbai can be very cruel, and right now we all have our hearts broken.)

I was here a week ago and sat in front of the majestic Taj Palace Hotel and all over again was awestruck by it's fabulous architecture, gazing up into the mystique-lit windows, wondering what the life of the rich ensconced within was like, wishing that one day I could afford to stay just one night there. And I walked past Leopold's Cafe on the Colaba Causeway, it was packed to the rafters with yammering tourists, even a crowd on the footpath outside swaying to the music, Indian boys flirting with laughing blond girls, many desperadoes trying to grab a hold of me to sell whatever rubbish they could, not interested I rush on by, for me the cafe is a tourist trap, a place to meet and be seen by any and all , an easy place to find trouble.

Now all of it blown away, the Taj a burned out, blood-soaked mess, the lifestyle of the rich and famous tarnished, they too can't escape the awful realities of this hate-filled world. And Leopold's Cafe shut up and dark with only candles burning for the dead giving any light; as much as it wasn't my scene I still couldn't help but cry for all the pain and horror that had been visited upon it, it was a site of joy which are becoming rarer these days. The terrorists struck here first as a diversion for the unprepared security forces, then running to the backstreets to plant a bomb outside my favorite pub, the Gokul, which would've blown the whole area to smithereens except that it didn't go off, thank nogod, and in passing they shot a couple of hapless locals dead in their shopfronts for bad measure.

Ten were killed at Leopold's, at least two were foreigners, and many injured, (it's hard to get the exact figures), and the freedom of an open society was trampled upon. For some arcane reason, the Indian media/authorities seemed to obfuscate on the massacre at Leopold's, concentrating on the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, maybe because Leopold's and Colaba are a central site for the masses of ordinary tourist activity and They don't want to scare the Christmas visitors off.

The maniac murderers then made it several blocks away to Sivaji Train Terminal and slaughtered 58 innocent souls there, many of them their fellow Muslims, as well as the three top anti-terrorist cops shot dead out the front, caught by surprise without their bullet-proof vests on. They hijacked the dead-cops car and drove to a nearby hospital where they murdered staff who, kind and unwitting, gave them water for their thirst. Continuing on their death-dealing spree they shot dead an old cop out the front of my favorite cinema, the Metro. At another of my beloved cinemas nearby, The Sterling, the management, knowing about the reign of terror in their vicinity, kept the late show audience in the theatre all night, feeding them from the food-court, and only letting them go home in the morning when it was safe. (I bet I would've squawked and thrashed about demanding to be let out declaring, "Terrorists don't scare me!")

The psycopaths then drove to Chaupatti beach where they were stopped by a police-blockade and one of them shot dead, the other captured to spill his guts about his Pakistani origins and beg for mercy, he'd been brain-washed by fundamentalist crackpots. All of these sites attacked, butchered, destroyed, were favorite haunts of mine and I could've been passing thru any one of them except it's not my kismet, not yet anyway, and so my heart is heavy with anguish.

I had arrived back in the city on the last day of the siege at the Taj, I knew it was all happening but I didn't let it put me off, I came regardless, for I love Mumbai so much I wanted to share in her grief and sorrow and, while most tourists fled, I wanted to show the locals that this particular tourist wasn't going to let the murderers cower him, curtail his freedom or lower his estimation of the city and it's free-wheeling nature. I saw saris hanging like ropes out of the Taj windows by which some must have escaped, the magnificent domes charred, the windows smashed. The streets of the city were deserted, the shops shut up, the pubs and clubs darkened, the beaches empty of their crowds, the populace in shock, depressed, then angry. I sat nonchalantly in the Shivaji Raiway Terminal reading a newspaper while a mate went to buy train tickets. A cop walked past and beamed a huge smile upon me, happy to see a tourist not cowed, still enjoying the freedom of the city, in the very area where the biggest slaughter took place.

Where were their leaders, what do they do to earn their privileges and high status, where are all the vast resources going? This terror attack was done so easily, in hindsight the targets so obvious, there's no protection on the streets, at famous landmarks, at soft-spots like Leopold's, the coastline is as open and vulnerable as a poor-man's chest where a thrust of a knife to the heart can be made in a flash.

Now the powers that be are rushing about in a tizz, suddenly there are machine-gun toting guards at every seven paces, the movements of us tourists are restricted and so we suffer doubly, all a bit late, the crazy horses have already bolted. Those in power paid to have forethought and act accordingly, spend too much time navel-gazing and turning up their noses at us peasants on the streets, and only an explosion in Their face snaps them out of their daze, into a flurry of useless restrictions and finger-pointing, all of it to settle back into lassitude and business as usual elitism, till the next horror descends.

Still I love the country, it's all-suffering people and pagan culture, it is an attempt at an open pluralistic democracy, far from perfect but getting there and I pray the society doesn't close down and become a police state, with the life of the ordinary people on the street harried and run down as the ruling class carry on with their careless, limousine cavalcade, only giving a shit about their 5 star lifestyle and not a fig for doing their job to the best of their ability. Mumbai mon amour, I love you so much and cry with you and will always come back to you, no matter what comes your way, I am irrevocably attached, the strings of my heart entangled, I can never undo the connection, all the terrorists in the world be dammed.

P.S.: A week after the attacks, Leopold's Cafe opened for business again and patrons, mostly Indians, sat at their tables as if to defy the hate-fueled madmen but the mood remains dark and sombre. The hotels had withstood incredible damage and remained standing but not so the heads of govt., the non-leadership collapsed and was removed, the populace rightly blaming them for their lazy, brainless attitudes.

Yet the dithering goes on, a week later a huge bomb was found at Sivaji Train Terminus in the baggage claim area where the terrorist had left it amongst the belongings of the dead and injured and only a miracle stopped it from bringing the stunningly beautiful edifice down upon the heads of the common throng. No wonder most tourists fled, it's still dangerous here. Thousands of Mumbaikers march across South Mumbai in protest, shouting slogans, letting off steam, hoping things will change. But with hate as a religion in itself, population pressures, war for dwindling resources, economic collapse, hope for the future is dim, all the gods should be left in the medieval past and humanity care for each other as if its one big family. More likely humanity will turn cannibal and treat each other as larders.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Tree and the Cross.

There is a magnificent tree at the heart of Kings Cross sheltering the Fitzroy Gardens like a giant umbrella under which I've taken refuge many times over the years. A vast entanglement of outreaching branches, chunky fluted trunk and serpentine roots, it stands proud, strong, silent, non-judgemental, all-welcoming like the quintessential nature spirit, guardian angel of my soul's travail.

I'm one of the restless multitudes of the disenfranchised who have quested to Sydney in the hope of making a new start in the pursuit of a happy life. Much of the time I lived on the streets and couldn't help but gravitate to Kings Cross, that sleepless mecca for colourful misfits and anonymous deviants. And it was always that tree that gave me succour, consolation, companionship, when I was alienated, distraught, lost, inebriated out of my senses, I took shelter under it's branches, I slept it off, I found new friends and lovers, I contemplated the twisted pathways that brought me to it's sanctuary and I schemed my way into a possible, brighter future. In summer I rested from the glare in the tree's shade and on stormy days I hugged it close, trying not to get wet while it shook and swayed and writhed like some chained leviathan trying to break free with the help of the wind.

Under it's hypnotic influence I often daydreamed, reminisced, fantasised about what had gone before and what could fantastically be. I dreamed about my great, great, great grandmother, an indigenous Australian, eyes as big as the night, who possibly leaned against a tree like this high on the ridge above Sydney Cove where one day Kings Cross would be built, from where she observed the pillars of smoke from the campfires down below of the strange new invaders, ghosts from the Dreamtime, white colonisers landed from huge-winged sea creatures, who scared her but also made her dangerously curious.

And when a foraging white bushwhacker stumbled upon her in that wilderness he might have seduced her with intrigueing sign language, damper-bread and shiny glass baubles till eventually she would give birth to a mongrel child, a caramel-skinned daughter who in turn would be ravished by more hungry white-skinned ravagers of the land, and so on down the ages, each child of each generation getting paler and more blue-eyed, till I, the deep-future progeny, after wandering the furthest reaches of the Australian landscape, should return, no tribe or country to call my own, washed up at the base of the all-forgiving tree, blanched and drained by dispossession, to haunt the Cross like a Dreamtime ghost of old.

There came the day I was sitting under that tree wishing I was Buddha, desperate for Enlightenment, with the world swirling around me in all its diversity and diversions, the eager-eyed prostitutes and demonic druggies, the existentially challenged and the fulfilled old aged, the cops and tourists, the businessmen and council-workers, the leisure geeks and pleasure seekers, the hoi polloi and the demi-monde, the bustle of it all weighing upon me, me trying not to feel crushed, the wannabe artist pushed asunder into the Underworld.

Next thing I knew, an unremarkable little man in shirt, tie and baggy gray trousers was sitting beside me, eyeballing me dolefully and licking his lips incongruously. Lost in reverie, I took no notice of him till he coughed nervously and spoke up,
"Excuse me, excuse me, you wouldn't be waiting for anyone , would ya?"
I focused upon his pallid, wimpish form, "What?"
"I'm wondering if you want to meet someone?" His eyes widened, hopeful.
"What are you talking about? I'm just trying to get some peace here."
"You look a bit lost, maybe you need a friend. Do you want to come back to my place for a drink?" He licked his lips again and smiled weakly and I flashed what he was after.
"What do you want exactly?"
"Just a bit of company. I'm as lonely as you are. I'll pay you for your time, fifty dollars, just for an hour, easy money, you'll enjoy it."

I was somewhat bemused, even chuffed by his offer, someone actually wanted me. Though a long-time desperado, at that moment I didn't give a damn about money or sex. I was depressed and staring into the void of no-hope, Sydney can be a cruel city, class-ridden for all the myths of egalitarianism, and I felt like I was nailed to the cross and dying by inches. I wondered what it would be like to coldly hand myself over to a stranger with no love, lust, liking or familiarity to provide the comfort zone. Maybe it would take me out of myself, shake up the banality of my existence? Hankering for something new and wildly different I agreed to go with the gnome-like chap, as if for a ride on a ghost train, to see what thrills and chills might be on offer.

He led me to a bedsit off Macleay Street not far from the park, unkempt and drab with no art or style, the pad of an estranged, boring office drone. Without further ado he jumped me and groped me all over like the proverbial blindman trying to ascertain the shape of an elephant. I shrugged him off, "Whoa, easy there fella, what happened to that drink you promised me?"
The little wimp gave me a pained grimace and fumbled about at a side-table. "I don't really have anything to drink but I've got this stuff, this'll relax you, take a whiff."

He held a small brown bottle under my nose, and I grouched, "What the Hell is this shit?" Against my better judgement, without thinking too much about it, I snorted and breathed in it's noxious fumes.
"It's Amyl Nitrate, it'll blow all your inhibitions away, you'll really get off."

My mind's eye exploded into a whirling kaleidoscope as my brain felt like it got shrink-wrapped in poly-urethane plastic, my air-ways clogged up with molten acetate and DDT fly-spray seemed to flood down my gullet till nausea rushed up and launched me into a delirium like a rocket-ship crashing into a grinning deaths-head moon. All the while my would-be paramour clutched at the fly of my jeans, yanking at the belt, trying to tear my pants from me as if they were on fire.

The room spun, I shuddered to the core of my being, the lonesome maniac tore at my guts like a starving cannibal till I had to shove him roughly from me and stumble away from the bed upon which he'd steered me, pulling my jeans up, gathering the denim around my crotch protectively and, tripping over the loosened pants, I staggered to the door.

"Don't go!" he yelled plaintively, "here's the fifty dollars, just lie back, let go, enjoy!"
"What the fuck are you on about? That's the worst shit I've ever had! Forget it, I'm out of here!" I struggled out into the tear-stained streets, a soft rain falling, and breathed in gollups of luscious fresh air, his wail echoing behind me, "Please don't go! I need you! I love you..."

I made it back to the calm, enigmatic presence of the tree in the Fitzroy Gardens and sucked in the glorious oxygen it shed so generously. Its branches, like cool arms, seemed to embrace and soothe me, my heaving respirations quietened, my head cleared, my sight sharpened. The peace of the tree elated me in a way that drugs and sex never would, and I felt courageous, enough to take on the trammels of an unjust world once again, and for a few gorgeous moments tranquility hushed my tempestuous soul, right there in the midst of the hurly-burl of Kings Cross. I'd just been granted a glimpse of hell and, like hitting rock-bottom, the only way for me now was up.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rocking Sydney.

For what it's worth, (zero), I have 7 great passions that I live for, friends, movies, books, travel, knowledge, dance and music, and my love of music is eclectic: techno, hip hop, jazz, blues, world, classical and maybe most exhilarating of all, rock'n'roll. For the last few years there's been lots of moaning about the dearth of music venues in Sydney because they've all been given over to the dubious high of gambling on pokies. But I attended one of the last functioning rock pubs last Friday night and nobody was there, for all that there were 6 bands playing from all over Auz, they got no support, so what's all the bitching about?

My best mate's daughter is married to a hot guitarist and he asked me to come and see what I thought of the band and so on a rainy Friday night I journeyed up the long, lost highway of Parramatta Road to the Lewisham Hotel to check out his three piece band, Red Bee. With some confusion I marched into the backroom to discover a nubile girl dressed as a nun slowly stripping off her habit to reveal skimpy bondage gear all to the whistles of a small posse of horny gronks. I thought I'd stumbled into the wrong place but, no, sleaze rules, stripping and rock have always been sexy bedfellows, whatever it takes to draw a crowd, and still they didn't come.

We first had to endure a real daggy, pedestrian glam rock band, sounding like every other band in the world mulched down into one raucous rock cliche, not one word of the hot blonde mama's croaked songs being decipherable. My mate's band, Red Bee, was up next and I was expecting the same boring daggy rock but I got ecstatically surprised, they played what I'd call funky metal, actually had an original take on it. Dan, the frontman, had exciting show biz presence, sang his kooky songs well, I heard every word, his lead guitar-playing was euphoric and when he did duets with his brother on base, the electric music was transcendant, I got very high, a hot white light lit up my lizard brain, the drumming was headbanging, the trio were tighter than a nun's g-string, Dan danced about the stage like Jagger on acid, this was rock that I live for and I had despaired of ever getting turned on by it again, as these days I'm OVER IT.

But I'm glad to say, there's still hot talent out there practicing hard and zooming around the corner to smack me in my forebrain and make life a joy, for music is the background soundtrack to our lives, even the busker in the Central Tunnel earlier that night provided the ebullient beat for my stroll down Destiny Lane. While I bopped as a teenager in the '60s to many rock bands in Melbourne, it was in Sydney, where I've lived from '77 onwards, that I really drank in electric music as if it were the nectar of the gods. There were so many hot Sydney venues to satisfy one's addiction but they've nearly all gone now, just the Lewisham, the Anandale, the Hopetoun Pubs and the Metro Club on George St. remaining, and I want to take a few minutes to bow my head in fond memory of all the transcendant electric times I've had, where I rolled about on the floor in ecstatic delerium with my rock'n'roll mates and heard the best in rock artistry the world had to offer.

Young people today swagger about with their jeans sagging below their arses and their noses in the air like they invented outre clothes, electric music and krumping wild moves, but us wizened black-garbed oldies got there long ago and latterday youth can only follow in our turbulent wake. I have to admit I gave my soul to rock'n'roll, like a zombie for a religious cult, eschewing money-making, secure career and societal responsibilities, living in the white hot electric moment as if there was no tomorrow, headbanging my way to spinal damage, not even drugs got in the way of me immersing my self in the music, music was the drug! What a fool I was! For now that hard beat, like the pulse of a god, has faded and all I'm left with is a tinny ringing in my ears, (sob sob!)

(Many of my fellow travellors did get into smack/speed, supposedly to pay their dues or live fast and die young, whatever, but I never did hard drugs, not even once, as I had enough handicaps in being a bipolar pothead poof from the gutters of the Olympic Village in West Heidelberg, i.e. the wrong side of the tracks.)

The Hard-Ons
As a child I was impressed by that animated cartoon of an Aesop fable, "The Grasshopper and the Ants" where a jolly grasshopper lazes away the halcyon days of summer enjoying his music while the ants work industriously stashing food for a rainy day. And when the harsh cold of winter sets in he's out in the snow starving whilst the ants are cozy underground feasting it up, tho all ends happily with the ants inviting him in to share their banquet as long as he plays his music for them to help move the celebrations along. Back in the real world, the ants eat the grasshopper, and here I am at the end of days leaning into a cold wind, scratching my arse like I'm being eaten alive, still I have no regrets, I've got my memories of rock'n'roll so exilarating my soul remains nourished, my heart remains warm.

I was one of the teenagers who rocked out at the Ourimbah Festival outside Sydney in '68 to Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Wendy Saddington and Chain etc etc, (I hitched all the way from Melbourne) and then again at Narrarah in '84(?), not far from Ourimbah, with the Pretenders, Talking Heads, Eurythmics, Def Leopard and INXS et al, possibly the best rock festival in Auz ever, and I epileptically flipped as if at a religious revivalist gathering and possibly never came down from my seventh heaven.

But it was the Sydney suburban pub venues that gave me my weekly hit and of all the happening venues my favourite was Sellina's at the Coogee Bay Hotel on the beach. What a rock'n'roll gladiator arena it was, the mosh pit fully thrashing, grappling, smashing, punching, stomping black-eyed, bloody-nosed joy to the Cramps, the Divinyls, Primus, Iggy Pop, Screaming Jay Hawkins, the Butthole Surfers, New Order, Ministry and sooo many more I forget them in my head-spinning brain sloshed memory loss. (Divinyls was my favourite band, I chased them all over Sydney, Chrissie Amphlet is a goddess!)

I hit the ceiling at the Tivoli, now the Metro, to Johnny Lydon and his Public Image on New Year's Eve, (1986?) pogoing on goldtop mushrooms, maybe the best delerium rock tremens I've ever experienced. And it was me who gave Tex Perkins his first goldtop mushroom at the Evil Star Pub on Elizabeth Street so long ago, ('89?), he'd disown me now but we've all got to have one small claim to fame, and we splattered ourselves on his grunge rock tripping off our faces. (I know, I know, I said I didn't get into drugs but there were rare pagan hotspots like the mid-winter's solstice where sacred fungi helped kick the elation to greater heights.)

I can go on and on about my rocky psychosis but will just mention clubs of old that frayed the edges of my soul, the Trade Union Club with Hunters and Collectors, the Graphic Arts Club with Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, The Grand Hotel with Suicide Squad and The Rejex, Bedhogs at the Vulcan in Pyrmont, Rose Tattoo at the Stagedoor Tavern near Central and Cold Chisel doing their first ever Sydney gig at French's Tavern on Oxford Street, (maybe the wildest, grungiest venue in all Sydney rock history, oh fuck, those were the days!) I also got titillated by the Mu Mesons at the Anandale Pub with Go Go dancers up on the bar and at the old Mandolin Cinema in the city with Box the Jesuit and soft porn up on the movie screen behind them.

There was the Boys Next Door (whatever Nick Cave's early band was called?) at Rags on Goulbourn Street when the disco redneck's next door tried to beat up us punks, and the Phoenix Club on Broadway when Nirvana played and Kurt got his stomach pumped, Secret Secret at the Rock Garden on William Street (the old Whiskey A Go Go), Beasts of Bourban at the Paddington RSL, The Slugfuckers at the Landsdowne Pub in Chippendale, and the Cure at the Bondi Tram way back in the early eighties when all of us were young and naive and hoping we could all be rock stars and not just rock-hard arses.

Those were the days when every street corner in Sydney had a rock band banging away on it, one's footsteps fell to a thumping beat while walking the tight-wire of a highly strung guitar, it's wail matching the existential cry, "I'm here, I'm alive, I'm living it to the max!" It was AC/DC with Bon Scott giving a free concert at the Haymarket on New Year's Eve '77 that actually got me sucked into Sydney in the first place, as if it were a quicksand pit, and I never left, such was the rock orgasm they flung me into, and I don't regret a moment of it, for all this city's whiplash cruelty.

I bet when the convicts first arrived here circa 1800 there was some cool soul who twanged away on a banjo or fiddle in a wattle and mud rum-bar down at the cove to lift the hearts of the dispossessed and weary, and his ghost can be heard yet by the campfire deep in my heart, Sydney you rocked me.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Serial Killers and Acolytes.

I love horror flicks, have done so since my parents took me to see "Psycho" at the Preston Drive-In Movies in 1962. Getting your hair stood on end is as good as a roller-coaster ride. I was pissed off when film critics across the spectrum gave the "Hostel" films zero stars, calling them torture porn, when they did for me what they were expected to, made me shit my pants in terror and then flee from the theatre relieved that the lead actor had escaped in the end.

I've been going to opening weekend big-screen horror movie releases all my life, am addicted to having my blood curdled, my adrenalin rushed, my guts dropped and my brain warped, screaming in unison with an enthusiastic audience, as if in group catharsis, it's one of the great pleasures of being a cinephile. One particular cinema was a key site of my childhood adventure fantasies and nightmare horror rides, the Forum in Flinders Street, Melbourne. I was lured into that Arabian Nights palace like a kid following the Pied Piper into Wonderland to be scarified by celluloid creepies such as "The Birds" and "Dinosaurus". It was at the Forum, post "Psycho", that I relished Willian Castle's shock shlock, "Homicidal", where he promised such terror as to need an ambulance at the end of the show to attend to the faint-hearted, with the female serial killer finally revealed as a man in drag, a bit of a mind-blower to my post-puberty sexual angst.

Forty-five years later, in 2008, I again attended the fantastical Forum Cinema for the Melbourne International Film Festival and I'm pleased to say I got my flesh crawled all over again, this time by, surprise, surprise, a new Australian horror flick called "Acolytes" directed by Jon Hewitt. Promoted as a "teen chiller", it's "an urban Gothic tale about three Queensland teenagers who blackmail a local serial killer into dispatching an ex-con they hate." There's not much these days that can scare us, except for war, famine and disease, the old horror stand-bys like aliens, disfigured monsters, vampires and werewolves being mostly unbelievable and worn-out cliches, but the modern plague of serial killers is something that still resonates with terror, and Jon Hewitt's movie hits the chill spot with the concept that the killer(s) can be anyone amongst us, our ordinary next door neighbour in bland, uneventful suburbia.

The refreshing thing about "Acolytes" is it's stark realism, the contrasts of light and dark giving it a tabloid photographic edge, making it more believable, a return to the realism of a classic like "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer", and eschewing the over-blown, fantastic visions of generic killer-flicks like "Nightmare on Elm Street", "The Cell" and "Saw", entertainingly hallucinatory tho they be but not believable. As if Larry Clark and Gus van Sant did a version of "Disturbia", the raw, fresh, untrained acting of the teenagers give "Acolytes" a naturalistic feel, I empathised with their vulnerability and went on their terrifying journey with them instead of distancing myself watching stars do their schtick. "Acolytes" gives a nod to the history of "serial killer chillers", the butterfly symbolism and dungeon of "Silence of the Lambs", the terror-run thru the forest of "Kiss the Girls" and the innocent tourists as victims of "Wolf Creek", "Hostel" and "Touristas", but arriving at a unique take on what is itself getting to be a much worked over genre, getting squeezed dry of ideas, ( to name a few of the latest,"Taking Lives", "Untraceable" and best of them all, "Funny Games".)

"Acolytes" is unique because it's very Australian in it's setting and larrikan characters. The movie opens with a glorious pan of a Queensland landscape, then juxtaposes it with a zoom into the uniformity of an urban housing estate, suggesting the theme of nature vs. nurture that lies behind much psychological hand-wringing on the subject of serial killers. The high-school teenagers, their hated ex-con foe and the killer himself are all laconic, irreverant, hard-arsed suburbanites you could meet in any Aussie pub or milk bar. And the plot has a few twists and surprises that lift it out of the hum-drum to give you the willies when thought out, the nice, normal family being vicious, cold killers just one of the nasty implications.

Joel Edgerton is soooo scary playing an Ivan Milat-like killer with moustache and aviator sun-glasses but even more ordinary and unprepossessing in his looks, cold, distant but almost handsome in his white collar and tie, a family man who holds down a job, supports a wife and kid and lives in a nice white, antiseptic house in suburbia, the type of killer that will never be caught, because he has no history of deviance, does'nt have the signifying mask or disfigured face like Jason or Freddy Kreuger and does'nt dress weird like the Joker. All those people gone missing while hitching on the north coast of N.S.W. were possibly picked up by this type of killer. And the idea that young, wayward impressionables can be groomed to carry on a tradition of killing strangers as if it's some kind of callous philosophical school of existentialism had me shivering in horror. The nightmare that suburbia can become, of boring, restless lives that seek out murder to spice up the banality as depicted in "Acolytes" scared the shit out of me.

I only hope that "Acolytes" can get the audience it's made for, teenage thrill-seekers, as quirky originals like this deserve support by the Australian movie-going public, too many good Aussie thrillers get ignored and thus fail at the box office because big, splashy junk-food Hollywood fare offers a slicker thrill. Shlock like "Scream 3" compared to "Acolytes" is a bit like a Big Mac as opposed to a lamb roast, which one is more satisfying? "Acolytes" in my mind is more scary because it depicts the reality of killers in our midst more naturalistically. And Jon Hewitt is to be congratulated for pulling off a tough artistic assignment, creating unique Aussie cinematic horror in the wake of "Wolf Creek".

Maybe the movie's distributors should emulate William Castle's outrageous publicity campaigns to get teenage bums on seats by declaring nobody is allowed to enter or leave the cinema for the last revealing, terrifying seven minutes, there will be guards on the doors looking like Ivan Milat and, at risk of heart attack, the audience will be forced to watch unprotected the denouement of "Acolytes" in all it's terrifying, gory glory.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.